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

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