Friday, May 10, 2013

Obama and African-Americans

Chauncey DeVega takes up the theme in Was President Barack Obama's Election the "Mount Everest" of Black Politics and the Black Freedom Struggle? WARN 05/01/2013. He picks up there on Bruce Dixon's commentary, The Obama Legacy, Pt 1 of Many: Top Ten Things Black America Will Have To Show For 8 Years of President Obama Black Agenda Report 04/24/2013, noting that he agrees "with the spirit and substance" of Dixon's post.

Dixon's focuses on the limitation of Obamacare because of its private-insurance focus; Obama's commitment to cutting benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; the overly-generous bailouts; neglect of urban development issues; Obama's continuation of the War on Drugs is essentially the same form and the attendant imprisonment of wildly disproportionate numbers of African-American men; continued militarism, including extensive intervention in Africa; the drone and related targeted-assassination programs; the continued shift from public to private education; disproportionate black unemployment and loss of wealth; and, "After 8 years of Barack Obama, black leadership and black America will have decisively lost and forgotten the habit, the inclination, even the example of standing against unjust and abusive power, and our former reputation around the world as a people of struggle."

Dixon, who is affiliated with the Georgia Green Party, summarizes:

All in all, it's not an inspiring legacy. For Latinos, the Obama era will mark historic broken promises on a path to citizenship for the undocumented, and the largest number of deportations by far of any administration in history. For labor, the biggest single broken promises are the failure to push through laws that would make the organization of unions easier, or the renegotiation of NAFTA. For media activists, there are the broken promises on network neutrality and freedom of the internet.
Dixon says on the defined-benefits ("entitlements") issue:

We'll probably have reductions in social security proposed and enacted by a Democrat, something no Republican could have initiated, that sets the stage for further reductions in benefit by either party.

In the tradition of Democrat Bill Clinton, who did what Republicans tried and failed to do, "ending welfare as we know it" in the 1990s, Barack Obama has promised Wall Street that he would curb "entitlements" the code word for cutting Medicare, Medicaid and social security.

With poverty at record levels, the ending of many defined benefit pension plans and the broken promise of retirement security from 401K plans looming black seniors will still be more dependent on social security than anybody, and the value of real benefits will be declining, if Barack's first negotiating offer to Republicans is any indication of his stance on this issue. [my emphasis]
In our society in which economic inequality is particularly acute for African-Americans, reductions to benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will hit the black community especially hard and increase their barriers to opportunity.

I'm more hopeful that the cuts will be blocked. But that'S as much hope as analysis.

DeVega writes:

Barack Obama represents the full nadir, if not immediate obsolescence of both "Black Politics" and the Black Freedom Struggle. I am not alone in that belief.

There is a growing literature on how Obama has forced a reframing of Black Politics, and how his election has ironically helped to advance a neoliberal/hyper-conservative colorblind agenda which disproportionately harms black and brown folks because they are the Americans who are most likely to be poor and working class. Austerity is "race neutral" in theory; in practice Austerity advances white supremacy and reinforces a society structured by systems of racial inequality along lines of class.
Christie Thompson looks at the current state of the War on Drugs in Is Obama Delivering On His Promise Of A '21st-Century' Approach To Drugs? National Memo 05/08/2013

Norman Solomon notes in his discussion of Obama's selection of billionaire Penny Pritzker as Commerce Secretary (Obama in Plunderland: Down the Corporate Rabbit Hole Common Dreams 05/09/2013):

A more blunt assessment came from journalist Dennis Bernstein: "Her pioneering sub-prime operations, out of Superior Bank in Chicago, specifically targeted poor and working class people of color across the country. She ended up crashing Superior for a billion-dollar cost to taxpayers, and creating a personal tragedy for the 1,400 people who lost their savings when the bank failed." Pritzker, whose family controls Hyatt Regency Hotels, has a vile anti-union record. [my emphasis]
The election in 2008 of an African-American President and his re-election in 2012 represent and important psychological and breakthrough in American history. But the individual elected, Barack Obama, is esssentially a moderate conservative in his political. Since the Republicans have fully embraced a Radical Right, segregationist agenda, Obama's moderate conservatism is more constructive than what the Republican wrecker party has on order. But even though Obama ran both times on Democratic themes, as President he is not a progressive leader, and not very often a liberal one. DeVega writes:

[Dixon's] claim that the "black political class" are lockstep in support of Obama is problematic.

The public face of the black "leadership class" (and other heirs to the Civil Rights Movement) may express support for a President whose election was groundbreaking and "historic"--and are quite compelled to do as a natural reaction to how Obama's identity as a black American has been used to mobilize white racism by conservatives--but in private black spaces there is much concern and upset.
And not only there.

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