A recent Institute for Policy Studies report titled “State of the Dream 2008” indicates that 40 years after the passing of Dr. Martin Luther King, black people are continuing to lose ground economically, socially and politically. However, Barack Obama’s struggle to rise above persistent attacks on his character and associations is evidence that blacks are losing ground on the ideological front as well, and without putting up much of a fight.
During Obama’s run for president he has had to: hedge on his blackness; denounce words from his pastor, Min. Louis Farrakhan, the Palestinians’ right to exist; and hide the fact that he likes chicken. I am joking about the chicken, and just a little about the Palestinians, but Obama has acquiesced a bit too easily and too quickly on these issues and allowed enemies of black folk to put us on the defensive.
But before we point the finger at Obama, he is not the only one giving up political ground: The rest of us have some explaining to do as well.
There should have been a lot more outrage from our community about the fact that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago felt the need to defend his liberationist theology. He and his church have the right to focus on the needs of black folk first and foremost, especially in light of the fact that black folks are still victimized and oppressed in this community. And they should not have had to apologize for a church covenant that celebrates positive values and uplifting the black community. To focus on your own house is not exclusionary; it’s good common sense.
Mitt Romney was definitely backed by the Church of Latter Day Saints and nobody put pressure on Romney to denounce his church, with its history of doctrinal black inferiority and black exclusion.
The Farrakhan flap is shameless as well. Can’t we decide for ourselves with whom we will and will not associate? Why couldn’t the only black candidate for president just say that he didn’t solicit the Nation of Islam leader’s endorsement and leave it at that? Farrakhan has been accused of being anti-Semitic, but I really doubt that anyone who accuses him of being anti-Semitic can provide evidence that he hates Jews. Now that’s not to say that he is totally blameless, but virulently anti-Semitic? I think not.
And since when can’t black folks decide for themselves who is right and who is wrong in the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis? Who said that support for the oppressed Palestinians is paramount to anti-Semitism?
Let’s face it: We are retreating in the ideological fight for racial justice. Whites are becoming more and more comfortable saying racism doesn’t exist, or that blacks are just whining, or that we are just playing a so-called race card. And more and more blacks tend to agree. Racism does exist, and if any people ever used a so-called “race card”– if there was such a thing — it would be white folks. They used it as a trump card to either hold blacks back, or jump ahead of us.
And let’s stop agreeing with our enemies about how we or others should be able to overcome the obstacle of racism. The point is that the obstacle shouldn’t be there in the first place, to any degree, and not how good you are at hurdling it. Denied opportunity opens the door for all kinds of failure, moral and otherwise.
Some folks even naively proclaim that we have transcended race. Almost as frightening is the fact that more and more black folks mouth this foolishness.
Several years ago, comedian Chris Rock popularized the idea that there were two kinds of black folks: N—–s and the rest of us. I knew it was going to come back to haunt us. I was having an intelligent conversation with a white person about why some of our people struggle more than others, and he sent me a copy of that joke. I was reading someone’s introduction of themselves on an Internet site and they said that they “love black people but hate n—–s.” Enough said!
I don’t know who sounded the retreat, but if we keep backing up and failing to stand up to these attacks, it may become even more difficult than it already is for us to go forward.