Obama and Black America: The Promise of Change or the Politics of the Same?

The election of Barack Obama as president of the United States of America is a watershed moment in American history. Just 40 years after the assassination of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., America has elected its first Black president. This has the potential to change a number of social and political dynamics throughout this nation. But one thing it will not change is the reality of racism. One of the stories that must be told now that Obama is elected is the way in which race and racism was manifested throughout the campaign process. The fact that Obama had to run what, for all intents and purposes, was a "race-less" campaign, speaks volumes to just how real racism remains. We all know that he would not have made it this far if he ran his campaign any other way. That is a sad fact. In truth, for those of us who are Black and poor and have suffered for America's benign neglect of our concerns, there is no guarantee in an Obama presidency that that fundamental fact of American domestic policy will change.

So much talk was made about the "middle class," yet most Black people are not middle class according to the classic definition. Most Black people are lucky to have a job, let alone one that pays the bills. Yet, the irony here is that had it not been for the Black electorate that turned out in record numbers and voted him in, Obama may not have won. Just consider what may have happened in Pennsylvania, Virginia or North Carolina if the Black vote went to McCain or stayed home. So when I think about the prospect of the United States electing its first African American to the presidency, I see these two discordant realities converge: this moment of drastic change in American history and the politics of the same for the "least of these."

I am concerned that we have entered a "neo-colonial" phase in American politics as it relates to the Black community. By "neo-colonial phase" I mean the placement of Black elites in positions of power to implement the oppressive policies of the empire. My only hope is that Obama has enough integrity to fight against this "surge." But I also know that it will take more than integrity to hold back America's racist domestic and foreign agenda. This is why it will be paramount that the Black community is as organized as we have ever been. We have to develop a class consciousness within the Black community that enables our people to notice when Black leaders are putting their class interests over the interests of the majority of Black people who are still struggling on a number of levels.

We have to insure that in this new era of American politics that our issues are not overlooked any longer. These issues include, but are not limited to, the resegregation of public schools, the injustice of the criminal justice system, the divestment of the corporate sector from the cities, gross unemployment and lack of healthcare. So now that Obama has won, I say we celebrate and recall the memories of all our ancestors that fought and struggled to see this day come. But on January 20, 2009 when Obama is inaugurated, the celebrations cease and the real work begins.

Copyright 2008 by Ewuare X. Osayande

A New Day Has Come


i rose with the sun

and bathed myself in memories
born of blood

i reached back
and dressed myself in the whip-cracked flesh
of Fredrick Douglass

his words echoing like thunder in my head

then i put on Harriet Tubman’s eyes
as glasses and viewed
this day through the far-sighted lens of herstory

when i put on my shoes
I laced up Fannie Lou Hamer’s feet
tired of being sick and tired
and marched to the polls
singing her gospel symphony

when i arrived
i pulled the curtain behind me
and broke out into a breakdance
as if i were on the corner of 125th and Lenox
in Harlem
reciting Malcolm X’s “Ballot or the Bullet” speech
under my breath

then I coughed up the shard
that shot through King
and squeezed it in my hand
til it turned to dust
and tattooed the words
on my soul

then i took my mother’s hand
~ bless her heart
and together we pulled the lever
and with millions of others
made history

and then her spirit whispered to me:

“a new day has come, son”

then i walked out of the booth
knowing that the struggle isn’t over.

it has only just begun.

copyright 2008 by Ewuare X. Osayande