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« Reporters Without Boarders: 2006 Difficult Year for Cameroonian Press | Main | The World’s Worst Dictators for 2007: Africa Dominates the List »

February 09, 2007


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It has been excruciating to watch the negative scrutiny of Obama by some African American hotshots. This is a sobering take from The Black Commentator:

The Blackness of Obama
By Kimberly Jade Norwood, JD
Guest Commentator

I recently read several articles, written by black authors, questioning Senator Obama’s blackness. The argument appears to be that since Senator Obama is not the descendant of West Africans forcibly brought to this country in chains, he doesn’t get to claim blackness. Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates wrote on February 1 that it doesn’t matter to these writers that Senator Obama actually has Black African blood running through his veins. It does not matter that he identifies with being Black. It doesn’t matter that he is married to a Black woman. It does not matter that he attends a Black church. It does not matter that he lives a culturally black experience. It does not matter that he can’t catch a cab in New York City to save his black ass. It does not matter that he is a proud and vocal champion for change in policies and practices that negatively impact Black America. None of that matters! Apparently the test for blackness now is being a descendant of West African slaves and only West African slaves.

I just want to point out two ironies:

Irony #1: Remember Tiger Woods? When he refused to label himself Black, many in Black America were visibly upset. "How dare he" was the cry heard in the Black community after community. His father is Black so that was enough to demand that he claim his blackness.

Now, we have Obama, who also has a Black father. Indeed, Obama’s father is really Black! You don’t get more authentic than Black African blood! He wants to claim his blackness but some of us are saying no!

We are upset with Tiger for not claiming his blackness, upset with Obama for claiming his. Huh?

Irony #2: Ok, now the test is whether one is a descendant of West African slaves. Excuse me? Are you sure you want that test? If that’s the test then others you have traditionally excluded, like Clarence Thomas, like Ward Connerly, like Condoleezza Rice get in.

Oh no, what we really mean is descendant of West African slaves and you think and live a certain way. Then, and only then, are you really Black.

This is so pathetic that is it laughable. And it is further proof that we don’t need anyone else tearing us down. We do a pretty good job ourselves.

I have a great idea. Black youth are drowning. Between the dangerous lifestyle practices, drop-out rates in high schools and painfully low grade proficiency levels Black youth are facing some very serious challenges that need massive and nationwide attention. Instead of pulling others down why don’t we pull these Black youth up?

Kimberly Jade Norwood, JD, is a Professor of Law & Associate Professor of African and African-American Studies at Washington University School of Law.


If one were to advice Obama, it would be to go pay his respects at the foot of some of the black pillars. Obama's ascendency gives voice to the latent frictions between the African American community and the relatively recent African immigrants. Some dialogue needs to occur. There is an underlying feeling that many native Africans' ancestors were complicit in the transatlantic slave trade.

It is not such an easy association, because the slave trade was controlled by powerful interests, a relatively small class of gangsters against whom ordinary folks had no defence, just like today. In addition, many modern day Africans are also descendants of victims, whose families were decimated. Later on, we were all subjected to colonialism, which was a system that enslaved the entire country rather than the individual.

African Americans should judge Obama by his agenda, and not by the colour of his skin. This is so backward, people should think. If memory serves me well, the majority of Black America embraced Clarence Thomas during his difficult hearings. I urge that they embrace his/our shared Africanness, but scrutinize his politics. That is the sane thing to do.

Obama Cannot Hear Us!
Represent Our Resistance
By Dr. L. Jean Daniels, PhD
BC Columnist

I can only imagine Senator Barack Obama’s handlers whispering in his ears, “Lincoln, Lincoln.” So the “rock star” of the contemporary political scene stood where the icon of presidential rock stars once stood—and Black America did not hear a damn thing.

I cannot imagine Obama arriving to this spot, in the heartland of America, by way of the African Diaspora and hearing the voice of Lincoln screaming, “Go back! Go Back to Africa!” His handlers would have blocked out all the historical resonance.

Obama choose to listen to these handlers and announced his candidacy for president at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. One report described the TV crews, cables, and satellites lining the streets to the Old State Capitol. In the cold weather, people, too, came from across the country to catch a glimpse of the “young” guy who has no “baggage".


Do these people mean that Obama is young enough to be molded to be even more like them? Is the word “baggage” code meaning “guilt, culpability, and/or complicity” for American slavery and the exploitation of Black Americans? Does Obama really mean to them someone who is “clean” and “fresh” because he does not remind us of folks he almost looks like?

“Baggage” could also trigger an image of that other political icon who was once dubbed the first “Black” president—William Jefferson Clinton. There are the Lincoln-Obama comparisons. Where are the Clinton-Obama comparisons?

For some, Clinton’s audacity to blatantly expose the sexual drive of white men is unforgivable. How many presidents committed adultery at the White House? News really sells when there is a sex scandal. But Clinton violated the protocol of secrecy among the boys. Worse, it was the Bill Clinton who, as Sakura Kone, Media Coordinator for Common Ground reminds us, “added fifty-nine more charges for the death penalty.” It was on Clinton’s watch when the mandatory minimum drug sentencing provision was passed, and, as a result, the prisons are swelling with Black, low-level users or street dealers. It was Clinton, the first “Black” president, who, “when he took away welfare", said Kone, told Black Americans that he knew the welfare bill he signed had nothing to do with reforming welfare for the benefit of recipients. He knew it would actually impoverish 1 million children, “but if you re-elect me, I will fix it.” He did not, of course.

That Clinton did not really listen to us. He used us to get our votes. That Clinton, loved by Black Americans, defended by Black Americans while white America proceeded with impeachment hearings against Clinton, that Clinton smiled and winked at Black audiences while he ordered his handlers to uphold the status quo of white rule and dominance.

So now we have Barack Obama, a Black man, but not one who has experienced what it means to be a descendant of the enslaved and to have survived the dehumanizing efforts of white Americans, not one who seems to know this—our history and America’s history.

Obama did not announce his candidacy among Black Americans. He did not announce at the Hampton Convocation Center where 10,000 Blacks did meet to hold the annual State of the Black Union symposium. So he could not hear those voices like that of Rev. Al Sharpton, calling for his “agenda and policy” to be accountable to the “best interests” of Black Americans. We were waiting to hear him acknowledge that he notices how we are suffering from criminal foreign and domestic policies. But it seems Obama hears only the call of his handlers, “Lincoln.”

We have been through this before. People who seem to look like us and talk like us, but who do not have our best interest as part of their agenda because the agenda is a simple one, similar to Lincoln and Bill Clinton: maintain dominance of the business and corporate interests. And that translates: white interests!

There are 9 million uninsured children in America, said Marian Wright Edelman, President and Founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. Do you hear her, Obama? Katrina children are floundering in New Orleans, she said. Do you hear them?

There is no room for us in the American agenda of fortifying an empire. Black interests and social justice cannot be heard in that agenda.

In fact, if Obama made an about face and lent his ears to the voices of Black Americans, if he sincerely expressed disgust at the conditions Blacks face in New Orleans, at the targeting of poor Black youths for the war for oil in Iraq, at the abhorrent incarceration rates of Black men and women, and at the equally dismal education gap between white students and Black students—if Obama said enough is enough, we will effect fundamental change, really, wink, wink, he might find himself at least physically close to Lincoln, in the hear after. There is a history of that violence and hopefully his handlers will tell him that, too. But he will not have anyone to tell him that we have been there and done that—and we go on—anyway and stand on the shoulders of those who stayed strong and in the struggle.

But Obama will not take the risk. He is young and ambitious. I imagine the handlers are saying it is best to play it safe. And Obama will go on listening carefully to the handlers who know best, after all. They know all about power and climbing the political ladder to the top.

I just hope Black Americans know a thing or two now and carefully listen to each other. Unless we hear from Obama and hear that he will stand with us for our human rights, let’s not march behind him, for there is skin among us who ain’t kin.

Dr. Jean Daniels writes a column for The City Capital Hues in Madison Wisconsin and is a Lecturer at Madison Area Technical College, MATC.. Click here to contact Dr. Daniels.


Now, well articulated, important questions that Barak must answer, and why black America looks askance at his Lincoln reenactment.

Barak Obama: Trojan Horse of A Great White Hope


More good Obama stuff from Black America

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