Obama’s Siren Song

Barack Obama is the antithesis of Black Power, a man who promises with every word he speaks, with every nuance of phrase and body language, and through his voting record as a U.S. Senator, that he personifies the definitive end of black organized struggle in the United States–a unilateral surrender to white racism. This is his appeal to the white masses: that they will no longer be challenged to confront history, or to relinquish privilege in the present.

Obama’s siren song to African Americans is of an entirely different nature. He does not have to sing it; we provide the music, ourselves. The lyrics and melody are actually alien to Obama, but he has heard them off and on in his strange sojourn through life, and senses their power to sway us. He understands that most of us will demand nothing from him–not even elemental allegiance. His “black” flank, he knows, is covered, while his white “progressive” flank is neutralized and confused by black failure to recoil at his betrayals of the most basic elements of social democracy. The field is wide open to the greatest opportunist to emerge from melanin-rich ranks in the New Millennium.

Obama has already cashed in on his “Race, but not really, Card”–to the tune of $25 million dollars in contributions in the first three months of this year, three-quarters of it from corporations. This does not happen by accident. Since setting foot in the U.S. Senate, Obama has directed his entire message machine to the task of convincing corporate America that he is a friend who can be counted on to leave the actual Power Game in their hands. One of his first votes was to transfer most class action suits to federal courts, where multi-billion-dollar companies found guilty of race, gender or general employee abuse are fined the equivalent of the millionaire CEO’s latest weekend at the casinos in Monaco. In the process of taking class action suits out of state courts, where the penalties to offending corporations have historically been much harsher, Obama voted against an amendment to put a cap of 30 percent on credit card debt charges. A fraction of that multi-billion dollar gift to the most unproductive sector of the economy wound up in his campaign coffers.

The alienated man from Kansas, Hawai’i, Indonesia and Harvard has not skipped a beat in his pursuit of Power Approval. He stood down while only California Senator Barbara Boxer stood up to challenge the theft of black voting rights in the 2004 election. He coddled American Manifest Destiny queen Condoleezza Rice and Bush Supreme Court nominees, while doing nothing–absolutely nothing–to materially aid Katrina victims. He has stuck like Crazy Glue to positions on the Iraq war and health care that are practically indistinguishable from Hillary Clinton’s–and in no way threaten the military-industrial complex or health care-insurance industries. Obama vows to add 100,000 more troops to the U.S. aggression and occupation force, to be deployed…wherever his masters want them to go.

Obama is a company man. He knows the language, the subtle and overt signals, and emits them like a beacon. Ruling circles have gotten the message, and that is why corporate media have made him a contender, and corporate billfolds have financed him. The “skinny kid” made his bones at the Democratic National Convention, in August, 2004, while he was still an Illinois senatorial candidate–a shoo-in against the hopeless and deranged black Republican Alan Keyes. Obama put all white fears to rest: “There is no white America. There is no black America. There is no Latino America. There is no Asian America. There is only the United States of America.” Hallelujah!

Therefore, there is no specific oppression of Black people in America (carried out by whites), and there is no Black polity worth paying attention to. Voila, the problem of centuries is solved!

The litany of Obama’s subsequent transgressions against the entirety of black struggle is too long to recount in this article, and can only be understood as methodical elements of a studied plan to eliminate race as a subject of debate in American political life. Obama is the NOT-Black candidate, who just looks black, and will absolve white folks–like a priest behind a screen–of historical, present, and future sins. He will integrate the mythical American narrative, washing it clean of real facts by his very presence and gleaming smile. He is happy. White folks are happy. Blacks are happy. Oh, happy days!

In his journey to personal identity–dishonestly but expertly packaged for white and corporate audiences in his two books–Obama learned a salient and elemental fact of black life: we want recognition by the nation as a whole, and some connection to the national narrative. African Americans have claimed at least five U.S. presidents–Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge–as “soul brothers” in blood, alleging they have Black ancestors. It does not matter that none of them, including Lincoln, thought of black people as equals or even, in some cases, human. Such is the hunger.

We at Black Agenda Report are not immune to the illness. While our team was operating out of Black Commentator, in 2003, Bruce Dixon and I discovered that Obama was listed as a member of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the corporate-funded rightwing of the party, created by white southern Democrats (Bill Clinton, Al Gore) for the purpose of blunting black and labor influence in the party’s affairs. Obama was at the time a national nobody, not ranked as a front-runner in the Illinois senatorial primary. We called him on his alleged affiliation with the DLC, which was posted for all to see. He claimed to know nothing about it–a transparent lie. But we gave the “brother” a pass, and engaged him in a dialogue.

There followed a month-long series of interchanges in which Obama danced like Mr. Bojangles to get around the issues at hand. Was he a DLC Democrat, by affiliation or political affinity? Finally, tiring of the charade and the reflexive spin from Obama’s mouth, Dixon and I compiled three questions to the wannabe senator, the answers to which would determine if he should be in the DLC and, therefore, unworthy of our support. Obama, a genius at double-speak, fudged all three, on the Iraq war, universal health care, and NAFTA/so-called free trade.

We gave him a pass, and said he was clean, although both of us knew by then he was an inveterate liar and evader. He had actually flunked the “bright line” test. Neither of us wanted to be the ones to put a damper on an up-and-coming black star. We understood that our people didn’t want crabs in the barrel, pulling brothers down, or the appearance of it.
We apologize, to our people and to history.

Since that time as a nobody, Obama has become a great presence that threatens the very fabric of black politics, having declared there is no such thing. At a recent gathering of black trade unionists who support the most left-wing social democratic agenda that is allowed in American political discourse, Obama was treated as a savior–despite the fact that his applause-filled speech endorsed almost none of the specific planks of black trade unionists. He had fudged again, and gotten away with it. No white man could pull it off, but Obama did, and entertained fans for an hour afterwards, taking pictures with folks who wanted to show their grandchildren that they had been in the presence of the next Black president.

He is a knife in our heart.

This article was first published in the Black Agenda Report.

Glen Ford is Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, where this article first appeared. He can be contacted at: Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com. Read other articles by Glen, or visit Glen's website.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. JoeMorgan said on June 14th, 2007 at 5:45am #

    From article:
    “…a unilateral surrender to white racism…”

    “white racism” is a redundancy.

    The term racist, like the term neo-Nazi, is a synonym for the word European, that is why 99.9% of the time the term is only used against European-Americans, while almost never used seriously against nonwhites who organize along racial lines, appoint racially-defined leaders and discriminate when in their ethnic interests.

    When has Hollywood, for example, ever made a movie or TV drama that depicts a nonwhite as a racist or neo-Nazi?

    When was the last time that national TV covered a racially motivated crime committed against a white Gentile?

    The only reason that nonwhites embrace multiculturalism, for now, is because it is a minority empowering ideology, which punishes the majority, European-Americans, for promoting their own ethnic interests.

  2. Cory Lee said on June 14th, 2007 at 6:42am #

    Compared to who, Hillary? Give me a break. If you choose to work within the political system then he is obviously the best option we have ever had. If you choose to work outside of the system you are welcome to do so but please don’t disparage Sen. Obama because all it does is create division within our own ranks. There are far to many people with negative views of AA people. We don’t need any more, especially those who criticise others who try to end diviciveness and bring about positive change. After all it was this same diviciveness that allow Africans to be enslaved and has led us to our current predicament.

  3. Shontelle said on June 14th, 2007 at 10:35am #

    There is a difference between a Black person and an Afican American. One is proud of his heritage, knows the true history of his people, and understands the current situation of Blacks in America. The latter is just happy to be considered an American in the so-called land of the free. Maybe if we as BLACK people stop worying about trying to please everyone (including those within our community) and focus more on overcoming the inequities within this country more progress would be made.

  4. Daro said on June 14th, 2007 at 10:48am #

    I think insisting on a separate black identity provides no solution to race bias. In Britain we don’t have “British Africans”. Everyone talks with the same accent (within each burrough or city naturally) and have pretty much the same values. Takes 2 generations. Everyone’s joined in (except the Pakistanis who are a muslim wall of inbreeding and ignorance) and I never feel “edgy” talking to a black Brit like I do talking to an AfAm.

  5. E. Bills said on June 14th, 2007 at 11:39am #

    Sorry, Mr. Ford, but Kanye West, 50 Cent and/or Dr. Dre are sitting this one out. A Black Agenda Report-certified African-American candidate–or one that’s “gangsta” enuff for your tastes–couldn’t even get out of the proverbial political starting blocks. Mr. Obama is off to a good start, smiling when he needs to, wooing those who any realistic candidate must. For many of us, he is a great black hope. A real possibility. Doesn’t he deserve the benefit of the doubt? Is Tiger Woods black enough for you? Is Halley Berry? They both comport themselves like Obama. I’m not aware of you guys disowning them or calling them knives in your heart!?

    Reread Cory Lee’s points. Guys like you and rags like your “gangsta” apologist platform will set the African-American cause in this country back 20 years.

  6. atheo said on June 14th, 2007 at 12:04pm #


    “To renew American leadership in the world, we must immediately begin working to revitalize our military. A strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace. Unfortunately, the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps, according to our military leaders, are facing a crisis. The Pentagon cannot certify a single army unit within the United States as fully ready to respond in the event of a new crisis or emergency beyond Iraq; 88 percent of the National Guard is not ready to deploy overseas.

    “We must use this moment both to rebuild our military and to prepare it for the missions of the future. We must retain the capacity to swiftly defeat any conventional threat to our country and our vital interests. But we must also become better prepared to put boots on the ground in order to take on foes that fight asymmetrical and highly adaptive campaigns on a global scale.

    “We should expand our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the army and 27,000 marines. Bolstering these forces is about more than meeting quotas. We must recruit the very best and invest in their capacity to succeed. That means providing our servicemen and servicewomen with first-rate equipment, armor, incentives, and training — including in foreign languages and other critical skills. Each major defense program should be reevaluated in light of current needs, gaps in the field, and likely future threat scenarios. Our military will have to rebuild some capabilities and transform others. At the same time, we need to commit sufficient funding to enable the National Guard to regain a state of readiness.

    “Enhancing our military will not be enough. As commander in chief, I would also use our armed forces wisely. When we send our men and women into harm’s way, I will clearly define the mission, seek out the advice of our military commanders, objectively evaluate intelligence, and ensure that our troops have the resources and the support they need. I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened.

    “We must also consider using military force in circumstances beyond self-defense in order to provide for the common security that underpins global stability — to support friends, participate in stability and reconstruction operations, or confront mass atrocities. But when we do use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others — as President George H. W. Bush did when we led the effort to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991. The consequences of forgetting that lesson in the context of the current conflict in Iraq have been grave.”

  7. AFRIMERICAN said on June 14th, 2007 at 11:42pm #

    Many people, especially Afrimerican people, see Obama as “The Great Black Hope”, and even when what he says amounts to nothing more than hot air, they follow him because everyone wants to belive exclsionary racism against Afrimericans no longer exist, or want to ignore it .

    Obama represents the symbol of both, and he plays the parts well.

    Obama has demonstrated to this writer that he is a puppet for the man. The main, and most constant demonstration is, all, or mostly all of his public speeches are plagerized from Whites who have appealled to Afrimericans, and/or of those whites who really worked to advance Afrimerican parity. To prove it, all one has to do is record his speeches and then go to Google and look up Civil Rights Speeches, or Abolitionist speeches, and you will find the speeches Obama plagerizes.

    Secondly, this writer has repeatedly seen Obama do what secures every Afrimericans rise in white America. Such security is acquired by making public demonstrations of willing to betray your own race.

    He did this with taking the obama “My Space” blog from a young, poor, Afrimerican supporter, and he also demonstrates by making non commital promises.

    Overall, obama may be running for president, but he knows, and the powers that be know, he won’t win. If he even begins to sincerely look like he will, the media will crucify him, and ruin his character by saying some of the things I say hear per his betrayal of his own race.

    Sadly, while one has valid points of contention, the sad reality is, he really is the “Great Black Hope”, and that’s a sad commentary about and for Afrimericans.

  8. Dave On Fire said on June 15th, 2007 at 2:41am #

    A great article; I will be adding DV to my blogroll. To some of the comments…

    When has Hollywood, for example, ever made a movie or TV drama that depicts a nonwhite as a racist or neo-Nazi?

    How about anything featuring Arabs or Muslims – sorry, Islamofascist terrorists?
    I’m not sure what revelatory “solutions to race bias” to expect from someone who hides behind an Orientalist “muslim wall of inbreeding and ignorance”. Black Britons, you seem to be saying, are okay because they now think just like “us”, but damn those British Muslims for not “joining in” with the system that has so screwed them over the years.
    @E. Bills:

    Mr. Obama is off to a good start, smiling when he needs to, wooing those who any realistic candidate must.

    Any realistic candidate must woo the corporate interests, the military-industrial complex, the Israel lobby? You may be right – but if so doesn’t that show a completely screwed up and undemocratic system? If you’re right, then what we need are the “unrealistic” candidates, who even if they can’t win they can at least show some popular opposition to the status quo. Admit defeat if you must, but touting a “realistic” candidate as the Great Black Hope only legitimises the status quo and makes it even harder for real opposition.

  9. Hue Longer said on June 15th, 2007 at 3:21am #

    Christ E.Bills, are you implying that the only realities for blacks are “gangsta’s” or Oreo’s? Please tell me you’re one of the ivory tower Dems who laugh at the stupidity of the southern, ignorant white man for being racist.

  10. lastdregs said on June 15th, 2007 at 9:04am #

    as none of the white candidates represent me (although gravel? has made a few provocative satements), i am not surprised that the one black? candidate does not represent blacks. These people (candidates) generally do not have anybody’s interest in mind but their own…just like the corporations that fund their campaigns. modern slavery is not based on race, it is based on economics. american slavery was also based on economics, it was just so much easier to enslave people that looked different so de-humanisation became less of a personal conflict. today, i think, it is not p.c. (and illegal) to discriminate based on appearance or gender, but economic standing will always be fair game. many aspects of the past are unfortunate (to say the least), but the future does not look so bright for many groups of people. as a semi-privileged kid i could have easily bought the line of the “riff-raff, uncouth, blah, blah, blah” that represented anyone that did not go yachting on the weekends. somehow i managed to avoid that belief. i think people must realize that there are not too many things that bind each other together, not race, gender, faith…even the rich are trying to outdo each other. remember, a wise man once said something like “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”. as much as i’d like to see the next “leader” be of another race or gender than i, the one that focuses on human dignity and balance is the one i will get behind.

  11. AFRIMERICAN said on January 10th, 2009 at 12:21pm #

    I was wrong. I stand corrected. I’m glad I was proven wrong, and hope he continues to do so because so far it’s a wait and see proposition

    I hope President Obama does not prove to be another Clarence Thomas.

    I hope President Obama initiates a Black Agenda to create parity that the White Agenda has long relagate to third and forth, or non class status.

    We will see.

  12. bozh said on January 10th, 2009 at 2:28pm #

    respectfully, obama had already proven that old world order will remain. gazan events prove it. but i do understand what it means to any person when s/he is a slave.
    if i had been or my dad a slave i could easily go mad; thus it must have been an enormous relief for black amers to have seen a black (s)elected for presidency. thnx