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Obamamania: A Mixed Bag Of Black Pride And Hubris

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I've been on the receiving end of Black defensiveness when it comes to the United States presidential elections when any slight but objective criticism of Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama is viewed as Black treachery. As a matter of fact Black people now behave as mindless zealots who want to yank out the ropes and start the neck-tie party from the nearest sycamore tree if another Black, even in simple, non-threatening conversation, dares to say anything that appears not to be jive with the picture perfect, sanitized version of the Obama screed.

Even among educated Blacks unthinking mindlessness now abounds and they who are better able to analyze, critique, and offer pieces of wisdom to the masses that can lead to positive and progressive approaches to politics, have shamelessly settled for the jaundiced ideology of the herd. But in a way their position and behavior is understandable since their middle class status naturally comes with a certain degree of political ambivalence and vacillation.

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Now poll after poll show that among registered Democratic voters Obama supporters are saying that they will vote for a Republican if Hillary Clinton, his opponent and rival for the party's nomination, somehow gets the nod. Moreover, the behavior that Blacks condemn in other non-Black peoples they are now acting in very much the same way that ignorant street rabble behave in places like Egypt, Turkey and elsewhere.

And the very real prospect of Obama making it to the White House has literally caused the Black community to be plunged into a state akin to messianic rapture that has obliterated and obfuscated any objective discussion of what happens the day after the becomes president. For Blacks without an agenda or a list of demands for their blind, unwavering and unquestioning support there is the very real possibility that "the day" after they will find that they have been left out in the cold – once again, this time by one of their own.

The kind of Black intolerance that has surfaced during this presidential election is instructive and tells us a lot about Blacks approach to Blacks. For example, popular Black talk show host Tavis Smiley has resigned from the popular "Tom Joyner Morning Show" because of the volume of complaints from the radio audience over his challenging of Obama's commitment to Black people. Smiley committed the grievous and unpardonable sin was of criticizing Obama – not on his policies or programs – but on his commitment to Black people.

The popular talk show host and successful author publicly complained that Obama snubbed his February 2008 "State of the Black Union" forum and criticized him for not attending the April 4th 40th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. Of course, even a principled criticism is viewed with immediate hostility and labeled sinful by Obama's supporters so one more Black voice in white-controlled and dominated talk radio had to go.

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In the aftermath, the chorus of angry calls labeled Smiley "ego driven" and said that "Obama does not need to kiss his butt" to get the Black vote. Lost in that formulation is the fact that while 9 out of 10 Blacks have voted for Obama, even if the gets 100% of the Black vote that's not enough for him to win the presidency. As a matter of fact, the Black vote is not the swing vote nor is it really "in play" in the presidential elections for even if Blacks stay home Obama can still win the presidency if his campaign continues in the way that it is going – reaching out to young white voters white middle class Americans.

With just barely 27 million Black Americans in the United States this vote borders on irrelevancy given the fact that the Hispanic population now put around 33 million and the white population of just over 300 million will be the key target populations that Obama will go after. Add to that the fact that Blacks have asked for nothing for their blind support they should expect nothing since Obama is not beholding to any of them – despite their "owning him" – if and when he gets to the White House.

I hasten to add that this essay is in no way written to support Hillary Rodham Clinton whose vitriolic statements about "obliterating Iran" and her ignoring of the Black community make her the wrong candidate for Black people. But just as she is the wrong candidate for Blacks does not make Obama the perfect candidate for them either. Yes, he is the far better choice for a number of reasons. But those reasons have absolutely nothing to do with his embrace of Black people or his commitment to lifting out of poverty, disease and want a race that has been beaten down so badly that it avoids asking the hard, tough questions that are necessary in this time.

So Blacks, long locked out of the rooms of power, desperately want Obama to be president and are prepared to close their eyes to anything that is going to disrupt that possibility, hoping that when he gets to the Oval Office he's not going to "forget us." Therefore, any dissenter is labeled "a race traitor" and evokes an angry, oftentimes irrational response from both the educated and uneducated alike. Those Blacks who have long ago left "the hood" and hitherto Obama's candidacy wanted nothing to do with those "ignorant Black people" have now found common ground and are once again "Black brothers." This pseudo-unity and one of convenience at that will last only until the elections in November 2008.

A sober analysis of the situation is however necessary since I owe it to my fellow Black people who feel empowered through the Obama campaign and his message of change. First off, Blacks have nothing to deal in the political pack of cards but their votes. In the Black community the one major constant is poverty and the limitations that this places on the advancement of Black people. The hope that Obama thus brings is an intoxicating brew that has helped to "numb out" the fact that Obama is still, well, establishment.

Obama supporter Russell Simmons said that there is a bottom-line assessment that Black people need to recognize: The approximately $240 million that Obama raised makes him "a controlled politician" (his words). Listen to how Simmons put it: "About one-fourth of his contributions came from small Internet donations, even though he collected more than any other democratic candidate from Wall Street people. At the end of the day, he is controlled too."

Barack Obama's Kenyan father left three wives, six sons and a daughter. And if one is to judge by Obama's comments then he has no real commitment to his African kin. In 2006 on a well publicized campaign visit to Kenya Obama speaking to adoring slum dwellers in Nairobi said that his elevation to the very top of United States politics did not mean that he would change their lives. "My time in not my own. Don't expect me to come back here very often," he said. And just as he made no commitment to Africa's poor – even symbolically – he's offered only "change" to Blacks in New York, Texas and Florida.

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And sadly it is this powerful word that has created a positive powerful movement while at the same time brought out the worst forms of Black intolerance – not towards whites who have historically oppressed them – but to their own Blacks who dare to float a different point of view from that which prevails in the herd.


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MICHAEL D. ROBERTS is a top Political Strategist and Business, Management and Communications Specialist in New York City's Black community. He is an experienced writer whose specialty is socio-political and economic analysis and local (more...)

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