100 Days in Review: Struggle’s Retrospective

As the first 100 days of the Obama presidency draws nigh upon its superficial close, I am proactively processing the (in)significance of this arbitrary time marker for myself before the empire’s pundits attempt to convince me that the red punch is kool-aid. Undoubtedly, a Black (i.e. invested in the liberation and holistic being of black people) perspective will remain conspicuously absent while CNN continues to disseminate drivel as serious journalism. Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Soledad O’Brien (and other microphoned jesters masquerading as the informed) will conjecture ad nauseam about the implications of President Obama’s first 100 days in office. However, for the descendants of slaves, 100 days is a grossly inadequate window of time to hold President Obama accountable to. The gravity of 400 years of horrific suffering and systemically engineered genocide is a more fitting timeline to situate President Obama in. This is the timeline that black folk must consider if we desire to critically and accurately assess the meanings and merits of President Obama.

 

That said, there is an overwhelming tendency for black Americans to be enthralled (both meanings are appropriate and applicable here) by an Obama presidency, but few of us (Americans of African descent) have taken the time to consider what a “historic” moment means- and more importantly, what it will mean- once contextualized by the history that informs that moment.

 

For many black folks like my mother, this moment is poetic justice. My mother (a 60 year old black woman born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama) has experienced America’s state-sanctioned and federally approved domestic terrorism firsthand. She knows the dehumanizing reality of Jim Crow and she can still taste the shame in her tears every time white children called her father, boy. She will never forget the soul-numbing screams that arrested her ears and paralyzed my grandmother that Sunday morning when their place of worship, 16th Street Baptist Church, was bombed and her four classmates were murdered in order to protect American values and a status quo power dynamic that has been rigorously enforced with noosed rope and tree limb, police brutality and judicial misconduct (pardon the euphemism) since the Dred Scott decision of 1857.

 

My mother, patient and strong, after raising 3 boys into men while working nights and weekends at the post office for 35 years, never thought she would see the day when a black man would operate the political machinery of slave owners. But alas, that day came on January 20, 2009, when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America. Determined to observe this event firsthand, my mother traveled by train to the nation’s capital, stood hours in a bone-chilling cold, and shed joyous tears as she witnessed the first African American sworn in as president. I stayed at home.  

 

While at home, I grew weary and disgusted with the media’s incessant offensive of agenda setting campaigns that hoped to convince me and my 17 month old daughter that January 20, 2009, serves as an epoch for race relations in America. Unfortunately, I know too many shriveled raisins in the sun to be suckered into the sensationalism of a rating-crazed media cycle. The career triumph of Barack Obama (despite its historical significance) does little to speak to the enduring legacy of hunger, desperation and marginalization suffered by disenfranchised black people. This undeserved and underrepresented faction of the American populace still can’t afford the audacity of hope when they are constantly assaulted by the farce of the American dream.

 

This year, I found celebrations of Dr. King and his legacy to be extremely problematic. As the media attempted to wed Dr. King’s holiday with Obama’s inauguration, Dr. King’s already trivialized and sound bitten dream was further boiled into a homogenized broth of nothingness and left to stew in its own watered-downed juices within the debasing melting pots of politics and culture. I’m still wondering how people justify their comparisons of Dr. King and President Obama. Dr. King opposed and protested against the hypocritical political vehicles that President Obama is determined to drive. The resistance and purpose of The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom should not be lost in the ostentatious hoopla of an inauguration jubilee, especially when the black masses are still vying for economic empowerment and financial autonomy and are still fighting for social/political liberation.   

 

Months removed from a vacuous inauguration ceremony, my mother still advances that President Obama is worth celebrating. She articulated her views to me as we watched the evening news and dined on leftover meatloaf and peas. Although she admonished my skepticism with her quixotic notions of hope, she managed to question her irresponsive president via a 19-inch black and white television in her quaint kitchen, “Why you still givin’ all that money to them banks? Why is you puttin’ all them Wall Street cons in yo’ office fo’? What is you doin’ on Leno when Mr. Moore still got to choose ‘tween his rent and medicines?” After a sigh and sip of tea, she answers herself, “Lawd, have mercy.”

 

Despite her recent concerns and dubious dinner conversation, my mother still believes that President Obama is a political milestone that signifies radical change and brings us closer to actualizing Dr. King’s dream. I guess that after weathering 60 years of oppression and tiring struggle, I’m just glad she found a dream worth holding on to. My personal perspectives on progress (or the dire lack of) don’t grant me that much room for dreaming. My mother often tells me that I find too much credence in Malcolm X’s famed speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” in which he asserts,

 

I’m not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American. Why, if birth made you American, you wouldn’t need any legislation, you wouldn’t need any amendments to the Constitution, you wouldn’t be faced with civil-rights filibustering in Washington D.C… No, I’m not an American. I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism… I’m speaking as the victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.

9 Comments to ‘100 Days in Review: Struggle’s Retrospective’:

  1. Jeff on 26 Apr 2009 at 3:05 pm: 1

    Thought provoking! I’ll post it on
    TransparentVoices.com where opinions are expressed and thoughts are provoked!

    Go Forward!

  2. Z on 26 Apr 2009 at 5:30 pm: 2

    Very interesting read.

    Though I would have to agree with your mothers quote in the final paragraph. Can you please explain why the events in your lifetime don’t offer much room for dreaming?

  3. Slim on 26 Apr 2009 at 5:33 pm: 3

    Great article!

  4. Pierce on 26 Apr 2009 at 6:34 pm: 4

    D! Riveting post, brother. I’m feeling you on several levels.

    1. We should no sooner rely on Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien to provide us with relevant/healthy journalism, than we should expect Ronald McDonald, Mayor McCheese and the Hamburgler for healthy cuisine. CNN’s expose’ on being “Black in America” should have revealed as much to Black people.

    2. Likewise, MLK Day was stripped of it’s value years before 2009. This year’s celebrations, and correlations with Obama’s election did not surprise, alarm or disappoint me. Like any holiday or celebration – there are spiritual, heartfelt and progressive observations of King’s legacy. Then there is the Wal-Mart version.

    However – I feel your mom a little bit. a WIDDLE bit. I have optimism. Positive, progressive steps have been made. For example, I like his policy on Iraq. On Israel and Afghanistan? not so much. But I like his rapport with my boy Chavez (see 3 posts ago for more details). I like that he’s opened a dialogue with Cuba. And I like seeing his Black ass in the white house! I like seeing Michelle’s face in my Grandmother. I like that he went to church with Jeremiah Wright.

    He is in a position to help turn the ancestor’s nightmarish experiences in this country, into a slightly less frightening bad dream for OUR grandchildren. That won’t make us diners (we’d have to burn down the whole house, if we really wanted to become diners) – but it’s enough to make me at least slightly optimistic.

  5. Maya Freelon Asante on 27 Apr 2009 at 11:45 am: 5

    Let’s not forget who Obama has to appeal to in order to keep order. What favors he has to pay back vs. his ‘real’ opinion. It’s hard to tell. This society is funny/demented in private vs. public matters. One major statement Obama made was to boycott U.N. conference on racism. This shows how much power he really has (or other people have to persuade him). Action speaks louder than words. That goes for his relationship with Jeremiah Wright as well.

  6. Toya on 27 Apr 2009 at 12:31 pm: 6

    Amazing article. This really articulated some well needed points I had not yet been able to express myself. Somehow, whenever one critiques anything “the mob” finds progressive, automatically the outspoken are labeled as the pessimist.

    I commend you for pointing out, that we can not spend too much time celebrating what is a historical moment yes, but not a solution to systemic oppression or cultural hegemony.

  7. Mama Nia on 29 Apr 2009 at 10:33 am: 7

    I’ve always appreciated your honesty regarding your reservations about Obama and our complete adoration of him. I will admit that like your mother, I was caught up in the joy of seeing a Black family in the White house. Pictures of Michelle gardening with children and hugging little Black girls warms my heart.
    We need voices like yours to remind us to watch closely, avoid complacency and to hold the brotha accountable. More of us are tuned in for now (even if it is to Anderson Cooper) and he needs to know that we are watching more that the sound bites and the photo ops. Those of us with some critical analysis need to step up and continue to speak.
    So thank you… but don’t steal our joy Bra. We’ve been waiting along time for just a little light, lets figure out how to hang onto it.

  8. Aaron Myers on 5 May 2009 at 8:39 pm: 8

    Hey there
    Enjoyed you blog, and I have read a few of the oterh ones as well. Take a look at my blog: drmyers.wordpress.com.
    I’d love to dialog with you about perhaps placing a link there so my readers could take a look at what you’re doing.
    Again, Keep up the supburb work!
    Thanks,
    Aaron Myers
    Twitter.com/aaronmyers
    Ceoexchange07@gmail.com
    Drmyers.wordperss.com

  9. Key on 8 May 2009 at 5:57 am: 9

    Valid points for an angry black man. A little questionable about your timeline. However, A grand piece of writing you wrote and you are laying it on thick. Kudos baby boy for articulating what many may perhaps be feeling but not capable of putting it on paper as such. I feel your irritation behind the parading of this historical moment and prematurely thinking our First African American President is going to lay out the red carpet of help for blacks and everything will get easier because he is a slave descendant such as you and me. According to some, he is not the average black guy born out of raw beginnings like slavery. Also he is half black and half white but I still race to claim him because if he ever commits a crime, which I highly doubt, he is recorded as black in the judicial system thanks to the one drop rule. Furthermore, if you let some journalists tell it he is not our first black president; supposedly we have had some prior to him but were just afraid to reveal their true lineage before.
    What is more, I too am guilty of being over blissful of the idea that a most unlikely person such as Obama is the President of the United States but I am not at eased. I think he is worth rejoicing over even more so by grandparents because they thought they would in no way witness the results of the limitless works put in by many upfront and behind the scenes activists in the earlier period. Obama being President may perhaps falsely convince many that there is joy at last because he is colored, it is believed he can relate to the underprivileged and the minorities so they anticipate their problems will be paid greater and much deserved attention but only time will tell not 100 days. Obama being in the highest office in the most powerful country no doubt gives far above the ground hopes for the upcoming of black leaders. This is not to say his presidency will mend the various gaps between black and whites that still lives. For example, gaps like economical, educational, political, judicial punishment, employment and many more. In spite of, at least allow for a little while longer the people to praise history being made, believed change is well on its way and apart from the troubles, yes- we too can do it like he did.
    As far as comparing Obama to King, there is no match. King is supreme when it comes to leaders. However, there is some association between King and Obama: King deposited a lot into America and Obama is 1/8 of King’s vision: We can coexist at every level without color being factor.

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Published on April 26, 2009 at 1:16 pm. 9 Comments.
Filed under news/politics,President Obama.