Avoiding World Conference on Racism Shows Obama’s Deep Disrespect For Blacks

On Tuesday, April 14, according to the Huffington Post, the White House placed a conference call to American “Jewish leaders,” all but assuring them the U.S. would not show up for Durban II, the international conference on racism, in Geneva, Switzerland. President Obama’s close adviser Samantha Power, of the National Security Council, said the event’s revised draft document “met two of our four red lines frontally, in the sense that it went no further than reparations and it did drop all references to Israel and all anti-Semitic language. But it continued to reaffirm, in toto, Durban I.”

Translation: although the document, under relentless U.S. pressure, has been watered down to the point of irrelevance, it remains unacceptable because it reaffirms declarations of the first World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. There is virtually no chance President Obama will reverse his decision to boycott Durban II, April 24-25.

We must first ask: Why is the White House reporting to “Jewish leaders” on an issue that is of interest to all Americans, most especially people of color? Has Obama arranged such briefings on Durban II for “Black leaders,” “Latino leaders,” or “Native American leaders” — representatives of constituencies that have suffered genocide, slavery, discrimination, forced displacement and all manner of racist assaults right here on American soil? No, he has not. Barack Obama knows full well that he risks nothing by disrespecting African Americans at will. Across the Black political spectrum, so-called leadership seems incapable of shame or of taking manly or womanly offense at even the most blatant insults to Black people when the source of the affront is Barack Hussein Obama.

Several weeks ago, popular Sirius Radio Black talk show host Mark Thompson (“Make It Plain”) wondered aloud if Obama’s threat to boycott Durban II should be a “deal breaker” — a “last straw” offense against Black interests and sensibilities. It should have been. The Obama administration’s fawning, damn near servile behavior when accommodating Zionist demands — and I use the word “demands” quite purposely — was a lesson in how Power responds to constituencies it favors, fears, or at least, respects. Blacks get nothing from Obama’s White House except permission to worship him as the ultimate role model. Less than nothing, as the unfolding Durban outrage demonstrates.

Obama has done more damage to the Durban process than George Bush, who pulled out of Durban I after the conference had begun. Important language survived the 2001 disruption, such as:

“We acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade, were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity not only because of their abhorrent barbarism but also in terms of their magnitude, organized nature and especially their negation of the essence of the victims, and further acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so, especially the transatlantic slave trade and are among the major sources and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and that Africans and people of African descent, Asians and people of Asian.”


“Urges States to adopt the necessary measures, as provided by national law, to ensure the right of victims to seek just and adequate reparation and satisfaction to redress acts of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to design effective measures to prevent the repetition of such acts”

As University of Dayton, Ohio law professor Vernellia R. Randall has pointed out, pressures from the Obama White House caused revisions in the Durban II draft that

* withdrew language related to reparations;

* removed the proposed paragraph related to the transatlantic slave trade being a crime against humanity;

* removed proposed paragraphs designed to strengthen the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; and,

* overall weakened the efforts related to people of African Descent.

And of course, language related to Palestinian rights and Israeli racism was totally eviscerated. (Samantha Power: “..it did drop all references to Israel and all anti-Semitic language.”) But none of that was enough to satisfy the Zionists, who hope to utterly destroy Durban II, and erase Durban I from the record. (Power, on remaining U.S. objections: “But it continued to reaffirm, in toto, Durban I.”)

George Bush’s walkout at Durban I provided a sour ending for the event, but allowed participants to make some important statements and carry out additional work over the next eight years. The United States and other countries were to report to Durbin II on residential segregation, criminal justice, police brutality, felony disenfranchisement and Katrina displacement. That cannot happen if the official American delegation is not in Geneva. Samantha Power told her Jewish leadership friends, who don’t want Durban II to occur, at all, not to worry. “In order for us to participate in the negotiations, to sit behind the placard, to be involved in a frontal way, much more would need to be done. And all four of our red lines will need to be met.”

Israel and the White House speak of “red lines” that they will not tolerate being crossed in politics and diplomacy. But where are the “red lines” that so-called Black leaders will not allow to be breached? Where Barack Obama is concerned, such lines do not exist — which is why he is permitted to walk all over Black folks, with impunity.

Yes, Durbin II should have been a deal breaker. Instead, it was mostly cause for sniveling lamentation and words of “concern” or wishful predictions by Black notables that Obama would change his mind (after the damage had already been done!) and attend the conference.

The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), although initially registering “profound disappointment” (oh, my!) with Obama’s boycott of Durbin II, cheerily added, “we are confident that your Administration will be reversing its decision in time to participate in the conference and its remaining preparatory meetings….” That was on March 27, by which time Obama’s vandals had caused the shredding of almost every word of value in the documents. The Black lawyers’ “Open Letter to President Barack Obama” was signed by an impressive list of many scores of prominent organizations and individuals – but in its determined, concentrated meekness, should never have been expected to have any impact on the White House. And of course, it had none.

“Where are the ‘red lines’ that so-called Black leaders will not tolerate being breached?”
The likes of the NCBL would be flattered to have Obama’s people string them along — any attention would do. But Samantha Power and her boss won’t even bother, understanding perfectly well that the meek inherent nothing but contempt. In her thorough and collegial report on Durban to Jewish leaders — who are anything but meek — Power said: “We will make our decision [to attend] up closer to the date of the conference, we want to show good faith to our allies and the people who are working hard to improve the text . . . But we are also not interested in being involved or associated with fool’s errands.”

Obama’s White House has not seen fit to show the slightest glimmer of good faith to Black people (at least, those not in his immediate family or employ), and seems to consider salvaging Durbin II a “fools errand.” You know what color the “fools” are.

TransAfrica chairman Danny Glover placed an article in the April 8 issue of The Nation magazine that read like a letter to President Obama. “This should be a moment for the United States to rejoin the global struggle against racism, the struggle that the Bush administration so arrogantly abandoned,” wrote Glover. “I hope President Obama will agree that the United States must participate with other nations in figuring out the tough issues of how to overcome racism and other forms of discrimination and intolerance, and how to provide repair to victims.”

Let’s see if Glover calls Obama “arrogant” when the president finishes sabotaging Durbin II. My bet is, “disappointed” is about as strong as Glover will muster. Obama sucks the spine out of Black people.

And as long as Black notables (let’s drop the “leadership” charade) turn into invertebrates at the mere thought of Barack Obama, so long will he treat the entire group as inconsequential, harmless ciphers.

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.

18 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Olive said on April 15th, 2009 at 11:58am #

    The problem with this conference obviously talks about racism only in the context of European colonialism. We need to change the way we talk about racism. There are many different ethnic and tribal conflicts around the world that do not include whites but unfortunately the conference does not address those issues because it contradicts their notion that only Europeans are evil. Today more blacks are killed by Arabs or other Africans than by whites and its a disservice to NOT mention this. It is also a great disservice to blacks that they feel compelled to help and support other dark skinned groups assuming they support blacks in return. In the case of this conference pays attention to the plight of the Palestinians. Actually Palestinians tend to be racist towards blacks, like many other Arabs are. The Arab league has benefited from the exploitation of Africans in Sudan. So it is a great disservice to mislead blacks into supporting a group of people who would gladly spit on them if they had the chance.

  2. Deadbeat said on April 15th, 2009 at 12:00pm #

    If there is an issue where the black support for Obama can be wedged this is it and I’m glad to see Glen Ford hit on this particular issue. Zionist reactionary racism against blacks has been particularly virulent since the 1970’s especially during the Ed Koch years. Koch used racism to engage his neo-liberal policies especially in the aftermath of NYC bankruptcy. His approach of using racism to divide the working class to deploy neo-liberal policies was later adopted by Reagan. Thus African American have been directly victimized by Zionism and have deep-seated feeling AGAINST this ideology. Thus it will definitely anger African Americans to see Obama PANDER to Zionism and to see Obama, like Bush, avoid an international conference on racism to appease Zionists.

  3. rg the lg said on April 15th, 2009 at 1:01pm #


    The words: “Deep Disrespect For Blacks” is a little understated … don’t you think? As a rising member of the oligarchy, isn’t a more appropriate phrase “Deep Disrespect For all non-Capitalist Pigs” … a more fitting way to describe Mr. O’Bama’s approach to the world?

    As I have said repeatedly, his notion of change is WAY too limiting … but anything more would probably lead to nothing more than bodies ‘a la Kent State’ … or additional residents in our ever growing prison system.

    I wonder just how long it will be before we hit the 50% mark … you know … half of us in prison for trivialities while the boogers on top continue to get a free pass?

    Not long … then maybe we can have a revolution … which will be co-opted …

    Or, how is this … we agree that Orwell was right about the state of life to come? 1984 as template.

    RG the LG

  4. joed said on April 15th, 2009 at 1:55pm #

    RG the LG,
    that’s the trouble with you kids–you are scared of gettin’ in trouble. so you spend your energy in the FREE SPEACH ZONE(DissidentVoice) when you should be out in the streets bringing down the system. don’t be puttin’ down Mr. Ford, he is doing his job. it’s you kids that are not doing your job of raising hell and therefore letting your selves and the rest of the sheeple down.

  5. Jeff said on April 15th, 2009 at 7:01pm #

    Hey joed, what is your solution to the situation at hand?


    Thanx in advance.

  6. dove said on April 15th, 2009 at 7:31pm #

    Great article Glen!
    “Blacks get nothing from Obama’s White House except permission to worship him as the ultimate role model.”
    This is exactly why white folks (like the Zios at opednews) wept tears of joy when this bast**d was elected.

  7. joed said on April 15th, 2009 at 7:40pm #

    hi jeff,
    no solution, the bad guys won and you guys are screwed, blued and tatooed.
    my advice, get out of the FREE SPEACH ZONE(dissidentVoice, BuzzFlash, etc) and use your energy to build a better world or at least put up a good fight. civil-disobedience is the sure way, but you must sacrifice and endure hardship to make real change.
    the hard part is removing your selves from this FREE SPEACH ZONE and getting to the streets. i don’t expect you guys are up to the task. the bad guys won and you guys are screwed, blued and tatooed.

  8. Deadbeat said on April 15th, 2009 at 8:43pm #

    the bad guys won and you guys are screwed, blued and tatooed.

    The “bad guys” haven’t “won” because using such past tense implies the “end of history” and we already seen that analysis is not true. The “game” is not over HOWEVER if you come to the wrong conclusion then you’ll be wasting your time in the streets. Before hitting the streets you need to take time to do the PROPER analysis so that you can come to the right conclusion and take the proper actions.

    We have already witness in the 1930’s what happened when the German people took the WRONG actions.

  9. joed said on April 16th, 2009 at 6:54am #

    hello deadbeat,
    well, im not really implying anything. to repeat what i said and there is no implying here,
    the hard part is removing your selves from this FREE SPEACH ZONE and getting to the streets. i don’t expect you guys are up to the task. the bad guys won and you guys are screwed, blued and tatooed.
    oh, there is history and will be history. whispered throughout, “if only you had the courage to move to the street.”
    but it doesn’t matter now. the bad guys won and you guys are screw, blued and tatooed!

  10. Jeff said on April 16th, 2009 at 6:21pm #

    well “joed”, I have been blued and tatooed. The rest of you fuckers got cold feet and left me with the bag.

    Show me your skid marks.


  11. joed said on April 16th, 2009 at 7:18pm #

    hi jeff,
    might as well make a joke of the situation! if you guys coulda’ just found a way out of the FREE SPEACH ZONE, you might have at least put up some kind of resistance. oh well.

  12. Jeff said on April 17th, 2009 at 7:34am #

    Thanx for the small piece of levity joed.

  13. Gretchen Carlson said on April 17th, 2009 at 12:52pm #

    The President understands that racism, as an American issue, is no longer the political imperative it was, nor has much cache since his election. He is uniquely positioned to ignore the issue, while Clinton(s) and even McCain would not have done. And this is all good, since racism really ISN’T much of an American issue any more.

  14. Nuages de Nuance said on April 17th, 2009 at 2:59pm #

    Gretchen C: not

  15. stan squires said on April 17th, 2009 at 3:59pm #

    I am from vancouver,canada and i wanted to say that president Obama is no different than any other democrat in the past when it comes to racism.western govs.supports zionism which is awful.It will be the working class in the usa and the rest of the world that will defeat racism.The western govs. helps promote racism.The Cuban gov. condemns racism where ever it is in the world.Other govs. should do the same.

    Stan Squires

  16. Theophilus said on April 18th, 2009 at 5:03pm #

    It seems to me that there are many good reasons to avoid, or try and recast the nature of, this conference. Not least the fact that “race” is a social construct, and agitating for political or economic empowerment along racial lines does as much to fracture communities and perpetuate ignorance as it does to raise people out of poverty or put to bed the ghosts of past crimes.

    This does not seem to be the motive behind Washington’s decisions regarding the matter, however. Opportunism comes first, as it usually does, and a nation that has filled up very many of the pages in the history books of racism is excluding itself from the global effort to move forward on the issue, however misguided that effort may ultimately prove to be.

  17. Dave Silver said on April 20th, 2009 at 6:44pm #

    Brother Ford is right on once again. We knpw where Obama has been ad is theimperialist economy 0bail out the Banks and fuck workers,people of color and the poor. He has clearly shown his hand by boyci=otting the Durbam2 follow up to Durban i on eradicating racism issues directly affected by it like jobs, /single payer health care
    afordable housing and assistance ti=o reverse foreclosures, His he is inching toward everything Bush did legally and otherwise. Obama has a problem with calling Zionism is racism inflAMMATORY iT IS CONTAINED IN THE PROFOUNLY RACIST SLOGAN BY /WEIZZMAN bEN gURION AND OTHERS WHO IN 188
    DECLARED A lAND wITHOUT pEOPLE No Palestinins or /Arabs lived in a olac callled PPalestinr for a people -the Jews without Land.
    We must bring the war home to the White House and and Shut down
    Aipac’s a lobbying effectivreness.

  18. CALVIN FREEMAN said on April 20th, 2009 at 7:27pm #

    there is no racism in usa its call racial profiling is the way to get attention in the usa now calvin freeman