Tag Archives: barack obama

Is Ron Paul a Racist (Part II)

3 Jan

Ron Paulby Yvette Carnell

Over the past couple of weeks, two distinct memes about Ron Paul have grabbed hold; 1) Ron Paul is racist 2) a racist should never be President. I submit to you that even if both these suppositions are true, they still don’t matter, certainly not in any meaningful way that actually matters to African Americans.

Firstly, I would like to fundamentally change the definition of racism:  To the extent that policies target and do damage to the African American community, they’re racist. So being a racist and behaving as a racist isn’t solely a function of calling a black person the “N” word, making demeaning or disparaging comments, or harboring bias. It’s much, much broader than that, and it extends to all Presidents and public officials who marginalize the core issues impacting the African American community.

So please, stop thinking that the worst thing a white politician can do to you is call you a nigger, because it’s not the worst by any stretch of the imagination. The worst thing any politician can do to you is refuse to take your demographic seriously and thus, recapture and neutralize your political power. The worst thing a politician – any politician – can do to you and me is saturate us with symbolism and starve us of substance, as is the case with our current President who sends us Christmas cards showcasing a beautiful black family, with few policy initiatives that actually support any black families other than his own, to match the card.

This is politics people. It’s a tough game. Get your emotions out of it. It’s not about cute kids, cute families, or a dog named Bo’. It’s about the Deal. It’s about the Exchange. Many people have attributed racist views and comments to both Presidents Nixon and LBJ, but we still extracted a good deal from their administrations. We made mutually beneficial deals which were free from emotion and sentimentality, something the African Americans electorate has been utterly incapable of achieving during the era of Obama, the defining aspect of which is the foil of imagined post racialism.

Would Ron Paul make a good President? I’m not sure, but he’d certainly make an effective Republican nominee for President. I wholeheartedly believe that having a Republican nominee in the fray who has real policy differences with establishment politicians would be superior to having Obama face his slightly more evil twin – Mitt Romney – in the 2012 election.

On most issues, Romney and Obama are in close alignment and so a race between the two of them would be a Presidential campaign in futility, without any meaningful distinction. This would not be the case for Paul candidacy. An Obama v. Paul race would force Obama to clarify, defend, or maybe even change some of his most heinous policy positions. These are issues we should all take into consideration before bashing Paul. In fact, I would encourage AA’s to stop reacting as Pavlovian dogs whenever the issue of race is injected into the national conversation. Right now, black writers and commentators are being dispensed by the establishment media to take down Ron Paul, and although they may get rewarded with extended contracts and higher pay packages, bashing Ron Paul won’t get us any closer to having our needs met or having our issues heard by the current President.

It’s time to cut a deal. The Wall Streeters cut a deal to ensure that they weren’t held accountable by the Obama administration for engineering the second Great Depression. Hillary Clinton cut a deal that netted her the position of Secretary of State in exchange for the women’s vote. Even Al Sharpton cut a deal to defend this President in exchange for a national television show, so the only question is; where’s your deal?

If I can cut a deal with Ron Paul whereby I exchange my vote for an end to the failed War on Drugs, a war that has unfairly imprisoned far too many of our young black men, and put an end to a War on Terror that has redirected tax dollars from our communities to drone attacks, then I’ll consider it. It’s not personal. It’s business. It’s politics.

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What Blacks Can Learn From Obama’s First Term

10 Nov
Obama shaking hands with mostly black crowd.

Stop being so thirsty.

by Yvette Carnell

In a meeting with over 100 community leaders at the White House on Wednesday, President Obama urged the mostly African American group to “stay unified”.  Unity implies that both Obama and black voters have been on the same page, speaking with one unified voice, up until now.  In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Until recently, President Obama had been evading African Americans and our respective surrogates in an effort to prove to the most puritanical segment of the white electorate that he’s no nigger lover, and no nigger favorer, and certainly no nigger indulger.  Now, with the 2012 campaign in full swing, he’s trying to pretend that all along, we misunderstood him. Whatever.

Anyway, I’m not going to try to convince you why you should or shouldn’t vote for Obama in 2012 because chances are, your mind is already made up. So, it’s really beside the point now isn’t it? But it is important that African Americans use Obama’s Presidency as an opportunity for learning to interpret the lexicon of power; how it builds, then permeates, and then shows its face.

Part of the reason we’ve “misunderstood” Obama’s relationship to us is because we’ve misinterpreted the pertinent indicators.  For example, in true peer to peer power relationships, where both groups (and persons) are stakeholders, the nature of communication is one of collusion. Stakeholders bump noggins and burn the midnight oil in an effort to hash out a mutually advantageous agreement or strategy. Mutual risk. Mutual agreement.

Not surprisingly, the key metric for exposing peer to peer relationships is fraternization. That’s why you’re more likely to see Obama on the golf course with bankers than at the White House with community organizers.  That’s why lobbyists are involved in the nascent stages of writing legislation. That’s why Obama chose former JP Morgan Chase top executive Bill Daley as his chief of staff. That’s also why Obama waited until 2011 to start paying attention to the African American electorate.

What black folks should be paying attention to is how Obama is bringing them in at the end, to seal the deal, rather than in the beginning to craft it.  When folks come out and tell you what decisions have been made and how they impact you without the benefit of your input, then it’s time to panic.  (And for the record, shuffling Al Sharpton and Ben Jealous in for a 30 minute visit to the White House where both men meekly emerged without promises or commitments from the HNIC – except for maybe, Sharpton’s new MSNBC gig, but that wouldn’t come until later- isn’t considered input.)

It’s all indicative of the fact that the black constituency is not engaged in a peer to peer, power broker to powerbroker, relationship with President Obama. Part of this is our own fault since we don’t seem to understand that we actually have the potential to wield a great deal of power. Part of it, though, is also Obama’s fault for yielding to racist factions within the American electorate; factions which insisted that Obama sacrifice African Americans in order to establish his genuine American bona fides. Now that they’ve gotten their pound of flesh, and now that we understand the lexicon, the question is; what should be our reaction?

Indeed, we’re in for a laborious period since gaining a renewed perspective requires casting Obama as the antagonist as opposed to a symbol of progress, or worse yet, a symbol of post-racialism. A symbol is a picture you hang on your wall in between MLK and  Malcolm X; a real life politician is a person you light a fire under until he does in office what he promised he’d do when he ran. A symbol is stagnant. A politician is dynamic. The mistake we collectively made was putting Obama on the wall before his term was over. We don’t know who or what he’ll become if he gets a second term, but that can’t matter to us. Meaning, insulating him against those who would besmirch his presumed legacy can’t matter to us. Why? Because it mattered to us from 2008 until 2011 and it didn’t gain us anything. Now’s the time for us to renegotiate the terms of agreement with this President in such a way that we’re included in the nexus of power. We can begin by asking this President what we get in exchange for a decision to “stay unified”. Hope, as it were, just isn’t enough.



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Herman Cain and Barack Obama; Separated at Birth?

17 Oct

Ideological Twins

by Yvette Carnell

Einstein famously said that if you can’t explain something simply, then you don’t understand it. And right now, black folks are having a hard time explaining to me why Herman Cain is being caricatured as The Boondocks’ Uncle Ruckus whilst Obama is being heralded as the incarnation of MLK.

Every choice demonstrates a person’s values, and politicians are no exception to that. So it is perfectly reasonable for African Americans to question Cain’s bona fides using his proposed policies and past remarks as a measure. It is, by extension, also reasonable for African Americans to reach the conclusion that Cain’s opposition to social justice (“if you’re not rich, blame yourself”) and his refusal to acknowledge racism as a factor in American life (“I don’t believe racism today holds anybody back in a big way”) shoot stray of the African American ideal.

But what of Obama’s incongruences?

Being black in America translates in manifold ways, but for Cain and Obama, the import of American blackness translates similarly. Cain queues white adoration when he, appropriately I think, evokes the story of how his father worked three jobs until he could afford to work two, and two until he could afford to work one. But then Cain errs by misjudging his father’s experience as a demonstration of American colorblindness rather than calling it what it really was; an affirmation that hard work is a formidable tool for combatting institutionalized racism.

Similarly, when faced with African American consternation, Obama, like Cain, queues white populist arousal by asserting that “a rising tide lifts all boats”.  When Herman Cain intimates that everything is all hunky dory in America, his sentiments are echoed by a President who chides black people to stop “crying” and take off their “slippers”. In a nutshell, the President is saying, as did Cain, “…blame yourself.”

Does anyone seriously believe that most of the policies we see coming out of the Obama administration, such as freezing federal wages, cutting discretionary spending, bailing out banks, increasing drone attacks and the like, wouldn’t be the same policies we’d see coming out of a Cain administration?

What Cain and Obama have in common is that they both represent domesticated adaptations of blackness. They both fish in the same pond because theirs are the only representations of blackness accepted by the mainstream political establishment.  Repudiation of generally accepted African American memes is the litmus test for black presidential candidates in both major political parties.

So we end up with two men who are saying roughly the same thing, to the same people (white people), and, quite remarkably, getting opposite reactions from the black community.

One man fetishizes the 60’s with a faux -preacher style rhetoric, but doesn’t reflect any of that 60’s moral conviction in his policies. The other man discusses self-stewardship in the same vein as Malcolm X, but doesn’t include any critique of racism in his rhetoric.

Truth is, both men are crippled aberrations of authentic black leadership. Cain and Obama are nothing more than stilted re-imaginings of Malcolm and Martin.  But with our blind spot firmly in place, we somehow see these failings in only one man.

Maybe Cain was right. Maybe we are brainwashed.


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My President Is Black(ish)

12 Oct

President Obama proving his blackness.

by Yvette Carnell

I really don’t understand the interventionists who come to Obama’s defense any time someone ostensibly questions his blackness. Being black is about a lot of things, and yes, among those things are the identifiables like hair texture, skin color, and facial features, but there are other more murky endowments as well.

The reason black men keep a fresh cut and black women keep a fresh do is not just because we take pride in our appearance (we do), but because we welcome the affinity of being around kin, especially at the end of a hard week. Without knowing anything about the backgrounds of the people in the shop, you know you can say “giiirrrl did you see that….” or “maaan what about that…” and have people you never met a day in your life race to finish your sentence.  It’s not about race as much as it is about a shared cultural experience and the resulting shared values.

So when people question Obama’s blackness, they’re not questioning his race as much as his anchoring. What we’re asking is whether Obama is anchored in the African American experience.

I’ll be the first to admit that it was downright moronic to mint Bill Clinton as the first black president, but let’s not forget why we bestowed that title upon him; we believed (rightly or wrongly) that Clinton felt our pain. He spoke to our issues in a way that resonated with us, maybe because he enjoyed many of the same things as we enjoyed (Aretha, jazz, good food), but we felt some commonality there.

Contrast our experience with Clinton with that of President Obama, who, up until recently, refused to even utter the word black. Does he feel our pain? And is his indifference (or antipathy, depending on how you read it) toward us a consequence of political expedience or are we really an away game for him? For us, questioning Obama’s blackness is shorthand for questioning his connection to us and our African American experience.

For many people, being black in America has much more to do with our shared inheritance than the difficulty in catching a cab on a busy street, and for my part, I’m still peeved that blackness was boiled down (by Obama) to that single inconvenience during the campaign. The mistake we all made during the Obama campaign was debating whether it was most important how the world viewed Obama or how Obama viewed himself. Was Obama black because the world saw him as black, even if he didn’t share that conclusion, or was he biracial? Once Obama answered that question, and confirmed that he identifies as black and not biracial (“I can’t catch a cab”), the debate was summarily dropped.

But the real question, the real argument, should’ve been over what Obama’s self-definition evokes in him. Is Obama psychologically tied to the struggle, or is he, like so many younger African Americans, just adept at employing the signs and symbols of the struggle in order to achieve advancement? Is he connected to us and fighting for us in the same spirit, if not tactic, as our forbearers, or is he just relying on the political capital of less affluent African Americans in order to achieve his ambitions?

This leveraging of the African American community while simultaneously toasting banksters and profiteers, allocating resources to the super wealthy, and protecting shareholders at all costs, doesn’t speak to what black people came up from. And spare me the Touré post racial nonsense. Being black, does, or at least it should, mean something.

The African American experience includes a broad swath of thinkers, activists, abolitionists, and entrepreneurs. I can’t speak to exactly what Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, and many others expected. I don’t know, with exact certitude, what their expectations were for the future of black America. But I’d be willing to bet that they didn’t blaze a way forward so that the first black President could sell his soul in exchange for acceptance from their ideological and moral adversaries.

But hey, I guess I’m among the minority since I still view blacks as the nation’s conscience and not just another minority group to be horse traded during election season. I guess now, the expectation for all black people is that we be willing to trade the hope and dream of the slave   for the fulfillment of Obama’s careerist ambitions. Thanks but no thanks. For me, blackness extends beyond Obama, his cronies, and his Harlem clubhouse. Blackness includes all black people, both past and present, and anyone who doesn’t understand that, who doesn’t understand that blackness is not synonymous with selfishness, doesn’t understand us, and isn’t culturally aligned with us.

You can choose to participate in this spectacle, whereby the import of blackness is dumbed down and neutered, but I’m now with it. I’m not down with that “cause”. And I’m certainly not “in”.  Folks who freely celebrate keepin’ it real should learn to recognize a false representation of blackness when they see one. I do.

Obama Aide Calls Criticism from Black Leaders Bullsh*t

31 Aug

When members of the black community accuse the Obama White House of behaving disrespectfully toward the black community, this is what they mean:

“Is President Obama finally ready to bite back and throw down with black leaders who have ridden him nonstop for the past few months for his lack of attention to black America? Politico quoted an Obama insider as saying, “The whole thing is bull-[bleep] … We have met with [black leaders] more than any other group and we are increasing our outreach.”


If the mere injection of the African American community into a conversation prompts you to use swear words, then not only are you unsympathetic to the needs of the African American community, you’re openly combative.

I thought this White House was led by the only grown-up in the room? Much to the disappointment of many liberals, the Obama administration has never gone gangsta on anyone. They didn’t call bullsh*t when they were inexplicably held hostage by the Tea Party, but mention the African American community and watch the nasty words fly.

As I noted previously, President Obama recently met with the Urban League’s Marc Morial and the NAACP’s  Ben Jealous for all of half an hour. Compare that to the two to three day conference the White House assembled to discuss issues important to the Hispanic community.

And regardless of whom White House staff met with or how many times they met with them, the issue is one of results. What are they doing over there at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to follow-up legislatively on the sparse discussions they’ve had with concerned members of the African American community?

It seems only fair that the reporter from Politico would follow up on concerns articulated by Smiley, West and others. It seems only natural that the White House would have on hand a canned answer to address such a question. Apparently, however, a discussion about the black community wasn’t the discussion that the White House official had in mind. In fact, a conversation on black issues is never the discussion that Obama and his surrogates are desirous of having.

If a reporter were to question a member of the Obama administration about an issue that impacts disabled veterans, Hispanics, or the Tea Party, one seriously doubts that “ bullshit” would’ve been the reply. These aforementioned groups are highly respected by the White House and deserving of a deliberate and well-considered acknowledgment of their concerns. African-Americans? Not so much.  We’re expected to be happy with the symbolic victory of having a black man, however far removed from traditional black values, in the White House. Any assertion that issues impacting the African American community be addressed with the same seriousness as those impacting other communities is met with unmistakable anger and condescension.

Obama and his surrogates must begin to make peace with the fact that the African American vote is all they’ve got. According to the August 30th Gallup poll, President Obama’s approval is at 40 percent. He has an approval rating of 44 percent among Hispanics, 32 percent among whites, and a whopping 83 percent among blacks.

I know it’s a hard pill for Obama to swallow, but he’s been largely unsuccessful at brownnosing his way to majority approval. A nice smile and goodwill only goes so far. The Tea Party and independents aren’t impressed with a President who stakes out the position of lackey-in-chief.

If President Obama has any hope of being reelected, he’ll need to play to his base instead of alienating his base. Feeding the hand that turns you away and biting the hand that feeds you (and votes for you) is, well – bullshit.

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Enter the Clowns; Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner Join Forces

13 Aug
Image cropped from original on Flickr. Origina...

Image via Wikipedia

One broad watermelon smile deserves another.  So when I read on Yourblackworld.com that Steve Harvey had joined Tom Joyner in using his Benson-eque platform to both defend the White House and malign Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, surprise was not an emotion that befell me.

Both Harvey and Joyner are much too enthralled with their own proximity to power, too lost in the glow of gator tuxedo shoes, too bewitched by engraved invitations to President Obama’s 50th birthday bash to actually think before crowing about Smiley and West.

These two self-styled  soul hipsters would have us believe that they have somehow magically transformed themselves from low brow entertainers to thoughtful political pundits. They haven’t.

And what we are now witnessing are the after effects and wreckage caused by men who doggedly refuse to engage in any meaningful self-reflection or collective race reflection. They don’t understand – or own- the fact that black suffering and the accompanying poverty are part of our inheritance and as such, must be dealt with in a meaningful way.  In shorthand, this means that Steve Harvey’s purchase of a new lime green suit doesn’t benefit the whole.

Smiley and West are merely making the argument that President Obama hasn’t used the ample resources available him to redress wrongs caused by those who engineered this crisis. Obama hasn’t put forth any meaningful plan to address how the poor will make up the gains lost by the recession or how they’ll regain their footing, let alone any hope of joining the narrowing middle class.  That’s the crux of it. Harvey is free to offer an alternate view, but offhandedly dismissing Smiley and West as Uncle Toms just doesn’t pass muster.  And neither does passing off misinformation as a thoughtful critique.

Here are a few examples of the nonsense that now passes as serious black commentary on black talk radio:

On his syndicated talk show, Harvey asked ““Who in the hell got 2-3 days for your ass? I ain’t got time to sit down with your monkey behind for two, three days, let alone the President of the United States. We got three wars going on, the economy crashing and we going to sit down with Tavis ass for three days?”

Here’s another quote, this one from the White House, “On  Monday July 11th and Tuesday July 12th, the White House will host a Hispanic Policy Conference, bringing community leaders from across the country together with a broad range of White House and Cabinet officials for an in-depth series of interactive workshops and substantive conversations on the Administration’s efforts as they relate to the Hispanic community.”

Compare the 2-3 days the White House spent with leaders of the Hispanic community to the ½ hour Obama afforded NAACP’s Ben Jealous and the Urban League’s Mark Morial. I can only hazard a guess that either Steve Harvey is o.k. with this disparity or he wasn’t aware of it. But if you’re going to be about the business of offering a political critique, a thorough examination of the facts is required.

Speaking of facts (or lack thereof), Harvey blusters on that Smiley and West   “don’t have any real basis behind your dislike for this man…you keep masking it saying it’s not about hate. Then what is it about? Poverty existed before January 20, 2008. Where was your damn bus then?”

But this discounts the fact that there were an ample number of liberals, especially black ones, who made it their business to criticize the impact of Bush and Clinton’s policies on poor people. Now however, the chorus of black and principled activists has largely dissipated due to the pressure imposed by folks like Joyner and Harvey. So, in effect, Smiley and West are filling a void left by a once principled group that abandoned their principles in favor of Obama absolutism.

It should also be noted that West wasn’t kind in his criticism of George W. Bush. It was West who described hawks in the Bush administration as “evangelical nihilists — drunk with power and driven by grand delusions of American domination of the world”. The idea that West is a Johnny come lately of sorts who only recently jumped into the political fray just doesn’t hold water when viewed within a full political context.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire Steve Harvey’s philanthropy. His work with young men is a standard that all black male celebrities would do well to follow. But we’re at the crux of something huge now.  The top 1% are administering, almost daily, devastating blows to the poor and middle class, and the question we’re all asking is whether Obama will hold us down while they strike the final blow or stand up to the bullies on our behalf. If Harvey and Joyner have something to add to this discussion, I’d love to hear it. But if they’re content to just clown Smiley and West with the rhetorical equivalent of “yo’ mama” jokes, then they should get back to their day jobs. The world of serious commentary just doesn’t need them.

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Van Jones Speaks Out on the Debt Ceiling Debacle

10 Aug
van jones, black politicsVan Jones, former White House “Green Jobs Czar,” is on to bigger and better things.

Former White House environmental adviser and “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones, who resigned in September of 2009 amidst Tea Party controversy that labeled him a “reverse racist” because of his activism against environmental racism in the black community, has launched Contract for the American Dream. Says Jones “Many of our best workers are sitting idle, while the work of rebuilding America goes undone. Together, we must rebuild our country, reinvest in our people and jump-start the industries of the future. Millions of jobless Americans would love the opportunity to become working, tax-paying members of their communities again. We have a jobs crisis, not a deficit crisis.”


In the incentive to “do something, don’t complain,” the Contract makes vivid the point that America is not broke, but those who profited most from American freedoms and democracy consistently refuse to reinvest in the economy or pay their fair share of taxes. Jones states “Americans who are willing to work hard and play by the rules should be able to find a decent job, get a good home in a strong community, retire with dignity and give their kids a better life. Every one of us…has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is our covenant, our compact and our contract with one another…”

The Contract outlines 10 major principles: Invest in America’s Infrastructure, Create 21st Century Energy Jobs, Invest in Public Education, Offer Medicare for All, Make Work Pay, Secure Social Security, Return to Fair Tax Rates, End the Wars and Invest at Home, Tax Wall Street Specs, and Strengthen Democracy.