Breaking Brown

Barack Obama

03/06/12 Black Politics # , , , , , , ,

Is the First Black President Black……. Enough?

Is the First Black President Black……. Enough?

It Hurts to See Obama Sitting in Rosa Parks' Seat.

You should read “Still Waiting For Our First Black President” if for no other reason than to shake yourself free of the notion that the black electorate is reacting unanimously to Obama’s first term.

Although I rattle the cages, black Obama supporters are reluctant to engage in conversations about whether Obama is rooted in values that have come to be associated with American blackness. I was thinking about this when I read a comment by “houlyn” in The Washington Post’s comments section:

I’m a liberal and this article bothers me. Anytime someone says, he’s not black enough, she’s too white, he’s not proud enough of being Asian, she speaks Spanish and isn’t American enough… I get really upset.

If the writer wanted to accuse Obama of pandering and then not delivering, that is fair game. A white candidate could pander and not deliver as well. Using Obama’s race to say that the President should be loyal to his people is racist. Obama represents all of America. The inequality blacks face needs to be addressed, and maybe with tailored policies, but there are poor white, asian, hispanic, native american… people as well. Also, tailored policies meant to help specific groups can be racist too, because who is to say that all black people are the same? Obama has to strike a difficult balance and right now he is probably thinking that a stronger economy will help all.

To which I responded:

It bothers you because you’ve been trained, for lack of a better word, to allow it to bother you. You think, thanks to a slew of black protectionist writers, that anytime anyone questions Obama’s “blackness” we’re questioning his pigment or his white mother. Not at all. What we’re questioning are his values. We (African Americans) are assessing whether his values are in line with our own. Whether Obama is anchored in the African-American traditions of fairness, equality etc. There is a bit more to being black than skin color. There are cultural values. And this is a cultural conversation.

This conversation really shouldn’t be disregarded because it makes anyone uncomfortable. What’s uncomfortable is that blacks are being forced to ask the question “is Obama black?” or whatever, when no other demographic would ever or has ever been placed in such a precarious situation.

George W. Bush took care of the right wing. Lieberman looks out for Israel. Get my drift? Blacks tend to be the only ones left standing alone at the prom, after the one who brung us to the ball developed a wondering eye and decided to fish in more promising waters.  We’re hurt, and somewhat embarrassed. And it really doesn’t much matter to us how some liberal white chick is “bothered” by the framing of the conversation. Sorry.

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02/06/12 Opinion # , , ,

All Black People Don’t Do What?

All Black People Don’t Do What?

Two charges I need to answer in reference to this post I wrote for Yourblackworld:

1.) “Black people are not all the same!”

No, we’re not all monolithic… blah, blah, blah. But Barack Obama, the same man who has doubled down on George W. Bush’s policies, has an 85% approval rating among blacks. That’s not a blanket statement or a generalization. That’s a fact, one we should own up to.

It’s cute for us to cry, “not everyone feels that way!”, but it’s close enough to everyone when you consider that a good portion of the 12% of blacks who aren’t on board with Obama were ideologically opposed from the start, i.e. black Republicans and Libertarians.

But black liberals have largely abandoned their core principles in order to shore up the brown man in the White House. There’s no escaping that.

2) “The title of the post was so mean!”

Really. Get over yourselves. Part of being mature, and dealing with 21st century media, is getting past the title to the body of work. If you’re judging me based purely on the title, and using it as an excuse not to fully engage in a substantive critique, then there’s no conversation to be had – with me or anyone else.

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02/02/12 Race & Racism # , ,

On Patriotism: Black History Month vs. African AMERICAN History Month

African Americans have been more patriotic than I think anyone would’ve predicted given our history in this country. My dad flew Old Glory out in front of our house for years, and although there’s a lot of bad stuff out there, and much of it was created at hands of American officials, I think it’s important (and smart) for this President to acknowledge our patriotism, with a wink and a nod no less.

In my mind, there’s ownership in patriotism. “I’m patriotic because this country is my own.” And being patriotic is empowering because it moves the needle from being disaffected to being determined. The fact that our forefathers fought in every American war since this country’s inception  means that this country is ours just as much as anybody elses…and we shouldn’t stop fighting for it just because some folks are hell bent on stealing it from us. I’ve always liked that framing better than any of the other alternatives. I don’t have a kid, but if I did, I’m sure this would be the line I’d push.

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30/01/12 Black Politics # , , ,

No Ron Paul Isn’t the Best, but He’s All We Got… and Here’s Why

From Ta-Nehisi Coates’ post entitled “No one Left to Lie To”:

If you believe that a character who would conspire to profit off of white supremacy, anti-gay bigotry, and anti-Semitism is the best vehicle for convincing the country to end the drug war, to end our romance with interventionism, to encourage serious scrutiny of state violence, at every level, then you should be honest enough to defend that proposition.

The Best? There is no ideal in American politics, so if you’re waiting on that guy, don’t hold your breath. He ain’t comin’. And I’ll tell you who else ain’t comin’ in the next 3, 4 or 10 election cycles; a man who believes 1.) Incarceration is racist 2) The War on Drugs is a lost war 3) Free market capitalism should trump crony capitalism 4) Non-interventionism is the best American foreign policy 5) The Constitution should be our guide (even our law professor President doesn’t adhere to that one) 6) People should be left alone, even if being left alone means that they smoke marijuana.

There won’t be another Ron Paul any time soon, which means no one’s picking up the mantle and fighting for any of the aforementioned  issues any time soon.

It’s curious to me how Obama supporters so often rail against progressives as idealists who don’t understand how the wheels of government turn. But here’s the thing; we get it. And for some of us, Ron Paul is the practical choice for forcing President Obama to clarify, defend, and reassess some of his most heinous decisions. We’re pretty clear headed on this one… and we’re not going to sit around and wait for the ideal candidate to come along. Didn’t Coates himself say in a previous post that all the prophets were dead?  Yeah, that.


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23/01/12 Black Politics # , , , , , , , ,

President Obama and the Black Community: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It

Up at, I lay out what I believe is a comprehensive plan for moving forward with (or without) the Obama administration. It’s an extensive 1,500 or so words, so read and ponder when you have some free time. As always, an appetizer:

In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. –W.E.B. DuBois

As of late, I’ve adopted the habit of consulting the work of black intellectual giants for my queues, and not just on airy matters, but as a force of habit in practical affairs as well. When I began considering whether I should vote in 2012, I also began reading a piece by W.E.B. DuBois entitled “Why I Won’t Vote.”  Like me, DuBois lamented the corrupting impact of money in politics, America’s adventures abroad, and, of course, the little positive action being taken  on the Negro question.

What I discovered was that there were no practical distinctions between where DuBois was then and where I am now. The seminal departure from where I am in 2012 and where DuBois was in 1956 rests on one shiver of twilight: The Obama Presidency.  All the corruption, misdeeds, and unfairness is still with us, but there is now a fleeting opportunity to do some good from within the political structure. But even in the 21stcentury, with the first black president in the White House, the Negro question still looms.

The prevailing thought in the African American community was that, finally, we had someone in the White House who could perceive our needs and integrate them within the broader swath of American needs. No one expected a messiah.  We didn’t cry all over ourselves on inauguration day because we were witnessing the second coming of Jesus Christ, but because we were watching a man who was, or so we thought, the incarnation of an African American progression, spanning some 400 years,  which supported equality, fairness, and benevolent leadership.

I think about that moment and I brim with pride, then I think about this moment, and I shrink. We haven’t been made bigger and better by President Obama’s election; we’ve been made smaller, largely diminished by both Obama and his critics. So it is time to ask; how did we get here?  Where did President Obama, Tavis Smiley, Dr. Cornel West, and Rev. Al Sharpton go wrong? And did they, have they, collectively squandered the opportunity for the African American community to have a reciprocal relationship with this White House?

It pains me to write this. I ache under the weight of writing a piece that outlines both the shortfalls of the first black president and his black detractors, but it must be done, and it must necessarily be done before the upcoming presidential election.

Please, read the whole thing. And once you’re done, add to the dialogue. I want to hear your thoughts and concerns. This is serious.

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