Euphoria abounds and is well deserved. But people must keep in mind that Barack Obama’s presidential priorities and commitments really won’t be known unless and until he becomes President. Thereafter, Blacks must hold him accountable for addressing their concerns in discernible ways.
The exuberance over Obama’s nomination (indeed, his campaign), is reminiscent of Black leaders’ unbridled embrace of newly appointed Los Angeles School Superintendent Admiral David Brewer some eighteen-months ago. His qualifications for the position, unlike Obama’s, still aren’t apparent. Thus far, Brewer’s leadership and grasp of the education and political landscape is inadequate. (Newly hired Dr. Ramon Cortines may signal Brewer’s early departure.)
Barak Obama’s oft-stated commitment to change does not automatically mean Blacks will be beneficiaries. A president’s explicit focus on a specific group is unlikely, but his/her proposed legislation, policies, and advocacy are the ultimate validation of commitment and trust. Obama has exceptional skills, but whether he will take risks vital for the change he so eloquently articulates, is an open question.
(Maxine Waters switched her support to Obama at the end of the line. Hillary Clinton supporters Diane Watson and Laura Richardson, as of this writing, had not switched. Backing Hillary smacked of hypocrisy and traditional political bartering, given Obama’s qualifications and their stated concern for new Black leadership. Was Obama’s “inexperience” the sole rationale for supporting the Clintons?)
Obama’s extraordinary odyssey to the Democratic Party nomination initially seemed based largely on his audacity to hope. Against tremendous odds, he overcame Hillary’s “imperial” advantage as the consummate Washington insider. Her staunch refusal to immediately concede victory after Obama secured the nomination is an indication of her flawed character.
Obama’s support came from a broad cross section of the country and developed despite politically damaging bleeps on the radar screen. Bogus media interpretations of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s remarks—and the Catholic priest’s trashing Hillary Clinton from the pulpit—failed to derail the Obama juggernaut.
Reverend Wright’s (and the Catholic priest’s) remarks were the proximate cause of Obama’s quitting his church. It may have been politically correct, but questions about the appropriateness otherwise, are in order. Some believe Obama has trouble maintaining firm positions on controversial issues, which could damage his credibility, especially with Blacks. Obama first publicly distanced himself from Rev. Wright’s remarks, later denouncing Wright himself; he back tracked on saying small town, poorer Whites tend to take up arms and rely on religion when continually frustrated by poverty (which may be true). Recently, Obama quit his church, presumably because of cumulative negative fallout from Rev. Wright’s protestations and the priests’ Hillary tirade. If Obama does have a propensity for over-accommodation, it will eventually damage his credibility.
Blacks tend to have unrealistic expectations concerning Obama’s presidency. The man is mortal, has no magic wand and would be everyone’s president, not just theirs. But there is ample reason to believe that his administration would be responsive to Blacks’ concerns.
Race is an indelible part of America’s fabric. Remember, Obama began his campaign attempting to avoid the race issue; it didn’t work and he was forced to address the issue more directly. Race matters and its continuing influence should not be minimized. Undoubtedly, it will play a significant role in the up-coming campaign.
Many Whites will probably vote for John McCain chiefly because of race. Those who feel emphasis on race an exaggeration, have only to check out the plethora of racist comments and innuendoes from exit polls in the recent primaries.
Obama intones, ‘Yes we can”, “We are one people, one nation,” and promises to transcend partisan politics. Blacks and younger voters especially, have responded warmly and in droves to his call.
My observations are intended to challenge Blacks in particular, to face political reality that includes endemic racist barriers to change. They must do everything possible to remove these barriers by staying informed and continuing the struggle for total freedom and justice.
Obama represents unparalleled hope and opportunity for victory in November. “Yes we can”—work hard to elect and thereafter keep him accountable. He could be the best thing since emancipation.
Larry Aubry n can be contacted at e-mail