Obama Resigns From Black Nation
Wednesday, 04 June 2008
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
How far is Barack Obama willing to run from the very same Black nationalism that was fundamental to his victories in so many state Democratic primaries? The nominee-apparent is in pell-mell flight from everything that does not conform to his own "race-neutral" worldview. Obama's political contradictions compel him to reject his most fervent supporters, and apparently to reexamine his ties to the Black Church as an institution. The "journey" to Black identity that Obama describes in his book Dreams From My Father seems in conflict with the Road to the White House. Longtime friends - maybe Black people as a whole - are left by the wayside. Perhaps "Obama ought to just keep on steppin' out of Black America entirely."
Obama Resigns From Black Nation
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
"Obama's lurching exit from Trinity Church shows that he can't tolerate Black nationalism of any kind."
Having this weekend severed a 16-year relationship with Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, Barack Obama might as well let the final shoe drop and resign once and for all from Black America, a polity he refuses to recognize or respect despite garnering 90 percent of Black electoral support. Never in African American history have Black people's collective affections been so callously rebuffed by an individual Black recipient. The fact that Black people's "love" for the Illinois Senator is wholly unrequited is obvious to everyone except wishful Obamites - a pitiful spectacle to behold.
If there is a tie that binds more tightly and unthinkingly than the romantic urges of adolescents, it is the pull of nationalism. African Americans have the misfortune to be self-shackled to Obama by deep historical yearnings to wield power through their own racial representatives, as other "nations" of people do. The problem is, Black Americans find themselves trapped in a threesome, in which the object of their Black nationalist aspirations is hopelessly enamored of someone else: the mythical white American nation.
"Barack Obama is true-blue to the slaveholding forefathers and heroic blond mothers of the storybook U.S. of A."
"I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country," said Obama, in banishing Trinity's retiring senior pastor Jeremiah Wright from his inner circle, in April. Obama believes in One-Love - of the white fairy tale kind that despises the "use [of] incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation." Barack Obama is true-blue to the slaveholding forefathers and heroic blond mothers of the storybook U.S. of A. His intense (white) nationalist fealty to the Indian-killer and slave-whipper compels him to reject out of hand the African American version of U.S. and world history - to compulsively dismiss both the Black counter-narrative and narrators, like Rev. Wright. And if some stray white man in a clerical collar wanders in, assaulting white sensibilities with denunciations of white skin privilege and other unwelcome language, Obama can be counted on to slap the wayward priest down, forthwith.
"I am deeply disappointed in Father [Michael] Pfleger's divisive, backward-looking rhetoric," said Obama, appalled at the effrontery of a man whose parishioners call a practitioner of "blue-eyed black soul," who mocked a Hillary Clinton character bawling that "a black man" was "stealing my show." Pfleger, pastor of predominantly Black St. Sabina Catholic Church since 1981, has been described in the corporate press as "Chicago's renegade priest." He was invited to Trinity Church specifically to expose "white entitlement and supremacy wherever it raises its head." Otis Moss III, the 37-year-old "hip-hop pastor" who took over from Rev. Wright, seemed thoroughly pleased with 59-year-old Father Pfleger's performance, as were the knee-slapping deacons arrayed behind him. Nevertheless, Father Pfleger found it necessary to make a blanket apology for his joyful exuberance, and to specifically beg the pardon of Barack Obama for mixing the presidential frontrunner's name into the skit.
"My words are inconsistent with Senator Obama's life and message," said Pfleger. He was right. Obama's life and message have nothing to do with Black liberation, of the theological or secular variety. Both Reverends Pfleger and Wright support in practice African American political self-determination and general Black nationalist aspirations - goals that are repugnant to Obama, who behaves as if on constant guard against perceived insults to white folks' (and America's) sacred honor.
"Obama's life and message have nothing to do with Black liberation."
Rev. Wright was also correct a month ago in characterizing the shameless corporate media attacks on his liberationist teachings as an "attack on the Black church." Obama pulled his family out of the 8,000 member congregation because, in his words, "our relations with Trinity have been strained by the divisive statements of Reverend Wright, which sharply conflict with our own view." But Wright had already retired. Clearly, Obama is not comfortable with the youthful new minister, Rev. Moss, either, or with the congregation that supports him, or with Trinity's political ties to the radical Catholic priest, Rev. Pfleger - who until a few weeks ago was actively working on Obama's campaign. Obama is distraught with the whole Black church scene - which seems to attract trouble with white people. As the Washington Post reported on Sunday:
"Obama acknowledged that joining another black church, where ‘there's a different religious tradition or a worshiping style' might be equally problematic as his membership in Trinity. He said he probably will not make a decision about a new church until January."
By all rights, Obama ought to just keep on steppin' out of Black America entirely, since his real problem lies with the two-edged sword of Black nationalism. The great irony of the Obama phenomenon is, his fundamental strength in the Democratic primaries - near-universal Black support - is based on an ideology that is a nightmare to white voters and to Obama, himself: Black nationalism. As cunning and cynical as Obama may be, he cannot tame the nationalist impulses of his Black supporters and thus lives in terror that they will spoil his game among white voters.
Of course, Obama constantly claims that most Black folks are as politically deracinated - rootless - as he is, but that's never been true. Black nationalism has always been pervasive in Black America, and Obama can no more wish it away than he can pretend white racism out of existence. As the late, great historian Herbert Aptheker noted in his 1971 volume Afro-American History: The Modern Era, in a chapter titled Consciousness of Afro-American Nationality: "No other people" express this concept of nationalism so consistently "over 200 years." Arch enemies Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois at the turn of the 20th Century both spoke in Black nationalist terms. Dubois referred to African Americans as "a nation," while Washington described southern Blacks as "a nation within a nation." Even the politically passive pre-Revolutionary poetess Phillis Wheatley remarked in 1772 how pleased she was that "so many of my nation" [Blacks] were embracing Christianity.
"Obama is distraught with the whole Black church scene."
Black nationalism is everywhere that African Americans exist. It's the bond that makes perfectly sane people collectively embarrassed by the antics of Michael Jackson. In 2008, it causes millions of normally sober African Americans to binge on Obama'laide, to drink constantly to the political health of a man who gives not a damn about them, and who actually flees from their presence like a plague.
Black nationalism has scared Obama at least temporarily out of The Church!
In his ceaseless attempts to meld Black realities and white illusions, Obama tries to marginalize Rev. Wright by calling Wright's belief system "generational" - another word for outdated - only to have Wright replaced in the pulpit by a "hip hop pastor" whose politics is perfectly compatible with Wright's, and with the radical white clerical elder, Rev. Pfleger. At that point, Obama must head for the door, family in tow, never to return.
University of Chicago Black political scientist Michael Dawson writes that "the black movement that is developing in support of [Obama's] campaign has some of the markings of black nationalism." Specifically, Obama is buoyed by a "middle-class" type of Black nationalism - the kind that is more common in politicized Black Christian churches and professional groupings than Nation of Islam circles. Obama's lurching exit from Trinity Church shows that he can't tolerate Black nationalism of any kind, if it gets in the way of white outreach.
In the end, Black people's one-sided love affair with Barack Obama can never be consummated. He recoils at every stage, answering love with unconcealed revulsion. One day soon, we'll take the hint.
Of course, the real deal is former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, presidential candidate for the Green Party ticket. McKinney reports she's leading in the Greens' delegate count. Unlike Obama, whose politics is substantially to the Right of most Blacks, Cynthia McKinney loves you back.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com .