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. He viewed people like Rev. Wright as having been mentally scarred by battles of long ago, who were unable to see the inherent goodness of America, as he did. This is the man who said he agreed with President Ronald Reagan, that the Sixties were characterized by “excesses.” Can anyone doubt that Obama considers the historical Angela Davis, herself, to be a part of the political “excesses” of the Sixties and early Seventies that he so deplores?
And that is the saddest part of the story. Angela Davis, who retired as a professor of the history of human consciousness, in 2008, seems not to be conscious of the fact that she is repudiating herself, her history, her comrades – all in a foolish attempt to artificially graft a totally unworthy Barack Obama onto the Black radical tradition – a place he not only does not belong, but most profoundly does not want to be. This is the guy who declared, at his first national broadcast opportunity, that “there is no Black America…only the United States of America.”
How, then, did Angela Davis connect Barack Obama to the Black radical tradition? She didn’t, because even an icon cannot do the impossible. Instead, Davis quickly told the crowd, in Berkeley, that “we need to figure out how to prevent somebody like Mitt Romney from getting elected.” But the vast majority of Black people are going to wind up voting for Obama, anyway, because he’s not white and Republican. There is no need to pollute the proud tradition of Black radicalism by dipping the corporate warmonger, Obama, into the historical mix. In doing so, Professor Davis has soiled herself, and done a terrible injustice to Black history and tradition. And, the biggest shame of all is, she has diminished herself and insulted our people for the sake of a president who doesn’t give a damn for their history or their future.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.