10 THINGS THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION TAUGHT ME ABOUT US
By Agyei Tyehimba
So Barack Obama was re-elected November 2012, is about to be inaugurated this month, and all is well in America. I think not. According to columnist Gary Younge, writing in the June 6, 2011 edition of The Nation, “Under his tenure black unemployment, poverty and foreclosures are at their highest levels for at least a decade.” We might add to these citations, increasing violence within urban areas and increased U.S. militarization in Africa and the non-white Muslim world. The great irony of course, as Younge correctly states, is that ”The very group most likely to support him—black Americans—is the same group that is doing worse under him.” Yet, this reality fails to dawn on many Black people, who are still swept up in the wave of racial pride and progress they believe Obama’s electoral victories to represent. My countless discussions and debates with fellow intelligent, concerned and political-minded Black people on and off the Internet lead me to the following sobering conclusions. The good news is that we have time to address these things, transform our priorities and refashion our agenda and strategic thinking. No, these conclusions do not represent ALL Black people, just many I’ve talked with and observed. And yes, I am wearing my body armor in preparation for hostile responses…
1. At this late date, we STILL do not understand what politics truly is and should produce. We should elect politicians based on their stated platform – which should align with our issues and interests – and a demonstrated ability and willingness to advocate for our issues and interests and to deliver the goods, services and situations we desire. Any other rubric for deciding who to support politically will result in disappointment and betrayal.
2. We have abandoned our historical tendencies toward self-reliance and independence and now depend almost exclusively on party politics for our empowerment.The vast majority of Black people’s gains (tenuous as they are) did not come from participation in the political party system, but from grassroots organizing and activism, utilizing our rights to critical speech and writing, amassing independent economic power and building independent institutions. In those cases when the government assisted our struggle for liberation, it did so reluctantly and only after consistent pressure from us
3. We fail to critique and provide alternatives to an obviously flawed two-party system. If we are going to participate in the system, we should at least try to reform it and create a viable alternative party reflective of our needs.
4. We fail to CORRECTLY evaluate politicians. A proper evaluation would include: reviewing the legislation he/she supported and opposed, determining who his/her primary funding sources/allies are, determining how their policies positively or negatively affect US and additionally in the case of Obama, we have not seriously attempted to determine how similar or different his politics are, (via policies and actions) relative to the Republicans we love to hate
5. We delivered between 90-95% of our vote to Barack Obama in a form of racial politics, although there were some third-party candidates whose policies and practices were more in line with our interests. While I believe in Black solidarity, ideological solidarity is equally important. So we should NOT support someone just because they are Black if his/her politics are counterintuitive. Nor should we reject non-Black candidates if their politics and backgrounds align with our interests
6. We are too easily moved by speeches, image, and symbolism
7. We fail to appreciate that nothing is personal in politics; only business. Therefore we should approach our political choices (if we agree to participate in the process) by supporting those whose agendas best benefit US and have benefited US in tangible ways.
8. We (despite all of brother Malcolm’s brilliant exhortations otherwise) STILL fail to understand that MONEY, POWER, and LEVERAGE moves most modern politicians not moral, ethical, or racial appeals. Those groups able to amass more of those things will likely have more of their needs and wants satisfied
9. We dedicate far too much energy to national elections and not enough to city and state elections which impact us far more in way of employment, schools, the police force, contracts, land use, city budget, etc.
10. We have NOT forced the President’s hand. Yes he’s Black. Yes there are white racists who oppose everything he attempts to do. Yes he is not just the President of Black folk but of the entire country. The same is true of every other president in reverse, but they still take care of those that elected them! Besides, if you give a person 90% of your vote then make people feel guilty and backwards for not voting for him, you damned well better develop an agenda and FORCE that person and his/her administration to address the issues important to you! Isn’t this why you elected him? Our failure to develop an agenda and pressure the President to address it, allowed him to “sit on the fence” regarding many issues. Without an actual agenda, how do we even evaluate how successful or effective he’s been? What’s the reference point? This “praise the Black man, don’t criticize the Black man, don’t pressure the Black man to deliver” approach MUST END RIGHT NOW….