The Guardian: A ‘first-draft’ obituary on the “post-racial” myth

Ferguson unrest: ‘Obama don’t feel the pain, cos he never went through this’

African Americans are split over whether the president has tried hard enough to improve race relations

ferguson protest

A protestor holds up an American flag in front of the police station in Ferguson, Missouri on Tuesday 25 November 2014. Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters

Paul Lewis in Ferguson

Tuesday 25 November 2014

It was 10.08pm when Barack Obama stood at a lectern in the White House and said: “We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I’ve witnessed that in my own life. And to deny that progress I think is to deny America’s capacity for change.”

At that very moment, 800 miles west, hundreds of young black teenagers were trying to overturn a police car in a suburb that has come to represent the lack of racial progress in America. It was the start of a night of raw anger in Ferguson, Missouri, that by the morning would be considered the worst race-related disturbances since Los Angeles riots in 1992.

national guard fergusonBy Tuesday 7pm, on that same stretch of road where teenagers attacked the police car, there was a scene reminiscent of the 1960s civil rights movement.

National Guard troops outside the Ferguson police station on Tuesday amid continued tension in the Missouri city. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Mostly white National Guardsmen in military fatigues stood in a line behind shields, protecting a police station that has been the focal point of predominantly black protests.

For many in Ferguson, the decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson over the killing of the unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown was evidence that, six years into the presidency of the first black president, America remains a divided nation.

Many African Americans interviewed by the Guardian said Obama’s race partly explained his impotency as president; his inability to influence events from Washington to the streets of Ferguson.

They argued that as a black president the odds were stacked against him; others in the power structure, they argued, are determined to thwart him.

On some level, they said, Obama could relate to their frustrations. Yet nearly all of those interviewed said the president’s empathy only goes so far – and not, they said, far enough.

At dusk, a few National Guard soldiers were also assembling two miles north-east of the police station. They were huddled around an armoured personnel vehicle in a strip mall off West Florissant Avenue, the scene of the worst violence in Monday.

All of the soldiers were white. Nearly all of the shoppers walking past were black.

When they needed to use the bathroom, the army reservists, in full protective gear, walked in pairs to use the facilities inside Save A Lot.

ferguson protest 25/11
Protesters outside Ferguson police station on Tuesday. Photograph: David Goldman/AP

They had to walk past the discount supermarket’s boarded up windows which had been sprayed with a message for looters: ‘Black Owned’.
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Susie Jones, a 57-year-old grandmother, was sat in her car smoking her cigarette. She shook her head in disbelief at the image of armed soldiers on the streets of the St Louis suburb.

“These people just treat us like we’re nobody,” she said. “They do – always have. I don’t care how nice we try to be with them. Police just do what the hell they want.”

Asked about Obama, Jones was effusive, but careful to stress that the Hawaii-born Harvard graduate had experienced a very different upbringing to that lived by people in Ferguson.

“He had a silver platter. He didn’t miss out on nothing,” she said. “But I think he was still trying to do what he could. I really feel he knows what us as black people go through.”

That said, even the occupant of the White House was ultimately powerless without the support of the rest of the predominantly white political establishment.

She said Congress should “move out of the way” to allow the president to do more than just give powerful speeches. “He ain’t shit,” she said of Obama. “His words mean nothing.”

That sentiment was partly echoed by Johnetta Elzie, a 25-year-old protest leader. “I think he’s very aware of how racism works,” she said “Everyday he’s reminded he’s a black man in the White House. The people who oppose him do a good job of subtly reminding him it is because of the colour of his skin.”

She added that the president is less able to relate to the restraints of “social class and economic issues” that hamper poorer communities in the St Louis suburbs.

Close observers of the president say he has always had a complicated relationship with race.

Striving to appear as a unifying, some would claim even post-racial head of state, Obama skirted race and identity issues for much of his first term of office.

That changed last year, in the wake of the decision by a Florida jury to acquit George Zimmerman over the death of teenager Trayvon Martin. In his most candid remarks about racial discrimination of his presidency, Obama decried the daily stereotyping of young black men and said “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago”.

The president has charted a more cautious path since the death of Brown. Speaking after the decision not to indict Wilson on Monday, he said that while there had been improvements in race relations in the US “the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation”.

“The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of colour,” Obama said. “Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country.”

Yet the limits of presidential influence were plain to see. Just as Obama was acknowledging the grievances of protesters but imploring them to refrain from throwing bottles, smashing car windows and vandalising property, TV cameras were recording hundreds of angry demonstrators doing precisely that.

By Tuesday the president’s rhetoric had hardened considerably. He called on those responsible for violence to be prosecuted and said: “To those who think that what happened in Ferguson is an excuse for violence, I do not have any sympathy for that.”

Steve Moore, the 49-year-old owner of Celebrity Soul Food restaurant, which was looted back in August, said the pressure Obama faces in Washington from his political critics was indicative of the experiences of ordinary people.

“If you have a commander-in-chief, in a high position like that, facing racial profiling and slander on a daily basis, what do you think it is like for simple, every day, law-abiding African Americans?”

But African Americans, he said, sometimes feel that Obama just stops short of supporting their interests. He pointed out how Obama, only last week, gave an impassioned and emotional plea for American to accept mostly Hispanic undocumented migrants.

“He’s doing it for the Mexicans,” he said. He added that he believed in solidarity across the ethnic divide but felt black Americans faced particular grievances Obama should be able to relate to.

It is not only Obama’s race that leads people to think he would be well-placed to speak to issues of race and poverty in America. After graduating, Obama worked for three years as community organiser in deprived black neighbourhoods on Chicago’s south side.

He is also widely considered a progressive, left-leaning Democrat with tremendous skills of oratory, a president who – even his critics concede – has the power to inspire.

White House officials are actively weighing the merits of a presidential visit to Ferguson.

Mark KeceBrown, a 20-year-old Ferguson resident, said that was unlikely to stop the unrest. “Obama don’t feel the pain, cos he probably never went through any of this,” he said. “He grew up somewhere else so he probably wouldn’t know the struggle or what we go through. He can hear about it. But he can never know about it.”

Shifting Tides, Shifty Obama-ists

[We are not accustomed to quoting the Bible, but sometimes the biblical words have become part of common culture, as in this:  “Matthew 7:15-20, ‘You Will Know Them by Their Fruits’ — ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.'”  Which is appropriate warned, when perusing the shifting claims and tides of Obama-ists like Angela Davis, whose latest statement (read down to her Guardian article) reaches into more radical territory to restore credibility.  Davis, who partially broke with the path of the revisionist CPUSA many years ago, and who has made contributions to the growing prison abolitionist movement, still has promoted electoral-democratic-reform illusions about the imperialist system against revolutionary strategies. (our highlights, for emphasis). —  Frontlines ed.]

  • From Black Agenda Report, by Glen Ford — March 27, 2012 — “Angela Davis Lost Her Mind Over Obama” —  The “delusional effect” that swept Black America with the advent of the First Black President has warped and weakened the mental powers of some of our most revered icons – and it has been painful to behold. Earlier this month, Angela Davis diminished herself as a scholar and thinker in a gush of nonsense about the corporate executive in the White House. The occasion was a conference on Empowering Women of Color, in Berkeley, California. Davis shared the stage with Grace Lee Boggs, the 96-year-old activist from Detroit. The subject was social transformation, but Davis suddenly launched into how wonderful it felt to see people “dancing in the streets” when Barack Obama was elected. She called that campaign a “victory, not of an individual, but of…people who refused to believe that it was impossible to elect a person, a Black person, who identified with the Black radical tradition.”……There was a hush in the room, as if in mourning of the death of brain cells. Angela Davis was saying that Barack Obama is a man who identifies with the Black radical tradition. She said it casually, as if Black radicalism and Obama were not antithetical terms; as if everything he has written, said and done in national politics has not been a repudiation of the Black radical tradition; as if his rejection of his former minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was not a thorough disavowal of the Black radical tradition. In his famous 2008 campaign speech in Philadelphia, Obama blamed such radicals for compounding the nation’s problems.
  • From Democracy Now, January 21, 2013  —  Addressing the Peace Ball in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, the renowned author, educator and political activist Angela Davis urges those content with President Obama’s re-election to continue pushing him for social change. “This time around we cannot subordinate our aspirations and our hopes to presidential agendas,” Davis says. “Our passionate support for President Barack Obama … should also be expressed in our determination to raise issues that have been largely ignored or not appropriately addressed by the administration.”
  • And Angela today, adjusting her tone, more accurately and radical, to the shifting tides, as anger and defiance grow…………

“From Michael Brown to Assata Shakur, the racist state of America persists”

by Angela Davis, The GuardianSaturday, 1 November 2014 
 
Although racist state violence has been a consistent theme in the history of people of African descent in North America, it has become especially noteworthy during the administration of the first African-American president, whose very election was widely interpreted as heralding the advent of a new, postracial era.

Neo-Liberals be Damned — Let the Democrats Rot

by ROB URIE, CounterPunch

When considering elections in the U.S. the tendency is for voters to look at the issues placed in front of them rather than at history, political trajectory and who it is that chooses the issues? On their face Republicans, broadly considered, are more direct shills for the worst of the corporate-state— Wall Street, multi-national oil and gas companies, munitions manufacturers and replacement of any and all democratic tendencies with corporate interests. This written, Democrats have been the cleverer proponents of these same interests, the clean-up crew that poses state support as response to ‘natural’ catastrophes that are exactly and precisely the product of self-cannibalizing corporate-state capitalism.

Eleicoes no Brasil

The cartoonist Latuff’s commentary on the elimination of independent and opposition politics, when embracing electoral illiusions and voting. The cartoon was produced in response to the false choices offered the people in Brazil’s elections this year

Political strategy within the mainstream, the choice between slower or faster decay, leaves out of its calculation the possibility of break and rupture that are the most likely ends. Wall Street, which counts ‘both’ political parties in the U.S. as wholly owned subsidiaries, has had three crises of increasing magnitude in as many decades. The oil mafia, the CIA-MI5-BP-Exxon Mobil-military oil and gas establishment, is launching wars at increasing cost with decreasing results except inasmuch as human and environmental catastrophes sustain it. And the ‘political’ establishment that sits metaphorically atop this morass retains public attention only through infinite iterations of manufactured cultural difference.

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US’ Controls on Kashmiri and Sikh anti-Modi Protests

September 30, 2014 | By Parmjit Singh, sikhsiyasat.net

Washington, DC: The Kashmir American Council staged a sit-in outside the White House on Monday (Sept. 29) as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived to attend a private dinner where he was due to meet US President Obama and other key US officials.

A number of Sikh protesters also gathered outside the White House and raised slogans against the Indian prime minister.

An “International The News” report says police had to intervene when some of Narendra Modi supporters and protesters came face to face.

WASHINGTON: The Kashmir American Council staged a sit-in outside the White House on Monday as Indian Prime Minister arrived to attend a private dinner where he was due to meet President Obama and other key US officials.

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India: Revolutionary Students Challenge the Heroism of Nelson Mandela

Democratic Student Union, Jawaharlal Nehru UniversityDecember 14, 2013

Nelson Mandela: A Hero for the oppressors, A BETRAYER FOR THE OPPRESSED!

The mournings & praises from the imperialists and their agents, are Mandela’s “legacy” of brokering one of the biggest sell outs of the 20th century!

Ever since the death of Nelson Mandela on the 6th of December, the most flowery tributes have been showered on him by a wide spectrum of the ruling classes all over the world. While the face of US imperialism Barak Obama “led the world” in paying tribute to “his personal hero”, the speeches his lieutenants in Britian, much of Europe, and across the world reverberated the same. The mass murderer president of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapakshe who oversaw the genocide of the people of Tamil Ealam also had tears to shed for Mandela. The Indian state also gargled the same and declared a four day long state mourning. The same waves also reached our campus. From ABVP to the parliamentary pseudo-left AISA or SFI and their likes, several organizations vied with each other in presenting their laurels to their “hero”. This spectrum is certainly striking, and may even confuse a few as to the real “legacy” of Mandela. However in reality, it is precisely this unanimity of imperialists and their agents that is most revealing. Mandela’s so called legacy is built upon on an illusion, the seeds of which were laid by Mandela himself. It is extremely important that we break this collective iconization and the illusion of Mandela’s legacy. Continue reading

How the System Worked – The US v. Trayvon Martin

July 15, 2013, http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/15/the-us-v-trayvon-martin/

by ROBIN D.G. KELLEY

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Senator Rand Paul, Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley (also sponsor of his state’s Stand Your Ground law), along with a host of other Republicans, argued that had the teachers and administrators been armed, those twenty little kids whose lives Adam Lanza stole would be alive today.   Of course, they were parroting the National Rifle Association’s talking points.  The NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative lobbying group responsible for drafting and pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country, insist that an armed citizenry is the only effective defense against imminent threats, assailants, and predators.

But when George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, teenage pedestrian returning home one rainy February evening from a neighborhood convenience store, the NRA went mute.  Neither NRA officials nor the pro-gun wing of the Republican Party argued that had Trayvon Martin been armed, he would be alive today.  The basic facts are indisputable: Martin was on his way home when Zimmerman began to follow him—first in his SUV, and then on foot.  Zimmerman told the police he had been following this “suspicious-looking” young man.  Martin knew he was being followed and told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, that the man might be some kind of sexual predator.  At some point, Martin and Zimmerman confronted each other, a fight ensued, and in the struggle Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.

Zimmerman pursued Martin.  This is a fact.  Martin could have run, I suppose, but every black man knows that unless you’re on a field, a track, or a basketball court, running is suspicious and could get you a bullet in the back.  The other option was to ask this stranger what he was doing, but confrontations can also be dangerous—especially without witnesses and without a weapon besides a cel phone and his fists.  Florida law did not require Martin to retreat, though it is not clear if he had tried to retreat.  He did know he was in imminent danger.

Where was the NRA on Trayvon Martin’s right to stand his ground?  What happened to their principled position?  Let’s be clear: the Trayvon Martin’s of the world never had that right because the “ground” was never considered theirs to stand on.  Unless black people could magically produce some official documentation proving that they are not burglars, rapists, drug dealers, pimps or prostitutes, intruders, they are assumed to be “up to no good.”  (In the antebellum period, such documentation was called “freedom papers.”)  As Wayne LaPierre, NRA’s executive vice president, succinctly explained their position, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”   Trayvon Martin was a bad guy or at least looked and acted like one.  In our allegedly postracial moment, where simply talking about racism openly is considered an impolitic, if not racist, thing to do, we constantly learn and re-learn racial codes.  The world knows black men are criminal, that they populate our jails and prisons, that they kill each other over trinkets, that even the celebrities among us are up to no good.  Zimmerman’s racial profiling was therefore justified, and the defense consistently employed racial stereotypes and played on racial knowledge to turn the victim into the predator and the predator into the victim.  In short, it was Trayvon Martin, not George Zimmerman, who was put on trial.  He was tried for the crimes he may have committed and the ones he would have committed had he lived past 17.  He was tried for using lethal force against Zimmerman in the form of a sidewalk and his natural athleticism. Continue reading