Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 10 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds   

The Outsider's Road Within

By Mumia Abu-Jamal  Posted by Hans Bennett (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   1 comment
Message Hans Bennett
Listen to the radio-essay
[col. writ. 7/12/08] (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal
It should surprise no one that the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama (D.IL), has evoked such fascination; not least because of his presumed outsider status as a man of (at least partial) African descent.
It is this racial inheritance that accounts, to a considerable degree, for the fascination among both Blacks and whites posed by his candidacy.
But, as ever in America, race often hides as much as it reveals. For, if Barack is an outsider to the American body politic because of his blackness, he is too an outsider to much of Black America precisely because of his direct East African heritage, one unleavened and unmitigated by the 500 years of Black bondage, resistance, repression and rebellion that is at the very heart of African-American experience and identity.
Indeed, it is this very outsider stance that allows so many of us, Black and white, to project upon him so much of what has been encapsulated in his ubiquitous campaign of 'hope' and 'change.'
In this sense, Obama is a double-talker, and as such he has had to work out his own way into what being Black in America really means.
His somewhat unique outsider status reminds us of the uniqueness of another great outsider who became the consummate insider -- Napoleon Bonaparte. Consider this; imagine a man born on the Italian-speaking island of Corsica in 1789; by the time he was 30 he was named First Consul (or dictator) of France. In 5 years he was emperor of a vast French empire.
My point isn't to malign Obama as a dictator- in-waiting. It's to show an example of how an outsider (with incredible ambition) becomes the ultimate insider.
When Napoleon was a boy in military school in France, his fellow students ridiculed him and made fun of him - not because of height (as might be expected) -- but because of his Corsican accent, which marked him as an outsider. Napoleon eventually became more French than the French, and today, by virtue of his brilliance, his French nationalism and military exploits in the field during the erection of the empire, he is regarded as one of the greatest Frenchmen who've ever lived.
Obama as a boy in Indonesia was made fun of because of his kinky hair (not to mention his slightly darker complexion) which marked him as an outsider. What does that mean in his formation of a sense of self?
We don't really know, but as Sigmund Freud reminds us, 'the child is father to the man.'
When Obama speaks (especially in his post-primary incarnation) one hears a profound nationalism. He has spoken in the past of an American history that many of us know has never actually existed. It has forced him to denounce a man he once knew, admired and respected (here I speak, of course, of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright) for making whites uncomfortable by speaking ugly truths about American history, at home and abroad.
Is this but the necessary shifts occasioned by the nasty game of politics?
Or is it the road occasioned by one being an outsider, making that transition to the consummate insider?
Time will tell.

Rate It | View Ratings

Hans Bennett Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Hans Bennett is a multi-media journalist mostly focusing on the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners. An archive of his work is available at and he is also co-founder of "Journalists for Mumia," (more...)
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact EditorContact Editor
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author) An interview with Rob Kall

Organizing to Abolish the Prison-Industrial Complex

AUDIO & PRESS RELEASE: New Mumia Crime Scene Photos Unveiled for First Time in the US!

The Assassination of Fred Hampton -- a Book Review

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend