Monday, January 21, 2013

Is Martin Luther King Jr. Smiling Down on President Obama's Second Inauguration?

The coincidence of timing between President Obama's second inauguration, 50 years having passed since the March on Washington, Dr. King's Holiday, and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation is like a type of political catnip or intoxicant that the pundit classes--and those others interested in American history, culture, and life--cannot resist.

Such an alignment of dates could portend something "magical" and inspirational for the President's second term. Alternatively, perhaps Obama's second inauguration, and the alignment of dates which could suggest a radical breaking from standing history and the shadow of the colorline, is simply an easy lede for a story written under deadline.

Whatever the motivation or source, many folks, like those standing outside at the National Mall on Monday, talking in barbershops and hair salons, writing online, or whose editorials will appear on TV, radio, or in traditional print media, are likely asking "what would Martin Luther King Jr. think of President Obama's second inauguration?"

We can try to divine the wishes and thoughts of the departed. Some folks will pretend that they are clairvoyants, at a seance, and can actually hear Brother Dr. King's words and wishes in an act of paranormal and fantastical interpretation.

I am not able to channel the late Dr. King's wisdom about events that occurred more than four decades after his murder. However, we can look to some of his actual wisdom, cautionary words, and insights into the country which he died to improve and protect.

On poverty and war Dr. King famously said:
"(I)n the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers, (a)s I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. 
But they ask -- and rightly so -- 'what about Vietnam?' They ask if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."
Dr. King also astutely connected the price of the military industrial complex and American imperialism abroad to a broken infrastructure at home:
"There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."
Or race, inequality, and reparations Dr. King observed:
But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. 
In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men - yes, black men as well as white men - would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
No one could offer those truth-telling statements and be elected President. This is especially true given the status of Black Americans as contingent citizens whose inalienable rights are forever suspect: no Black American with serious desires to be President (or any other high office), could ever utter such words, or give comfort to similar thoughts in public (or even in private) and be successful.

President Obama is just a man. He is not a black superhero. President Obama is a President who happens to be black. He is not a Black President. President Obama is not the living embodiment of Dr. King or Brother Malcolm.

He is not our shining black manhood as deftly spoken to by Ossie Davis during his funereal oratory for Malcolm X:

Some of you knew this. Others had to be told of its truth.

Barack Obama has demonstrated the veracity of a fundamental belief held by those who study the American Presidency: he is bounded by precedent and the decisions made by those who came before him; Obama will leverage those said happenings to the degree possible in order to advance his agenda; he will not concede power or the expanded understanding of what the office allows he or she who is President to do. And yes, that includes the unitary executive, the imperial presidency, drone strikes, and kill lists.

As he is sworn in a second time, President Obama is a paradox of sorts. He is a President who happens to be black who was reelected because of the overwhelming support of black and brown voters. The (twice) arrival of Barack Obama also heralds the end of Black Politics.

I am unsure if the the ways in which President Barack Obama navigates the political realities of post civil rights era America, with its insincere colorblindness, in the face of vicious and racist opposition by conservatives, is evidence of his genius (or not). As a supporter of Barack Obama, I lean towards the affirmative. Obama is playing a game that is not designed for a man who looks like him; somehow he plays it pretty damn well...whatever you/we/us think of the policy outcomes.

I have no doubt however, that Obama is very mindful of his legacy as the country's first black president, feels deeply beholden to the ancestors and the Black Freedom Struggle, and how the first draft of history will judge his tenure.

Realpolitik can be cruel in its honest truths. With few exceptions, outsiders and visionaries do not become President of the United States of America. The United States is an empire. Men like Martin Luther King Jr., leaders who are killed because they speak truth to Power, are not elected President of the United States of America.

Consequently, it is high time that folks stop using Brother King as a measuring stick for Barack Obama. They were playing very different games; therefore they should be held to very different standards of leadership. There is only one Brother Doctor King. There is only one Barack Obama. They are very different from one another. Both are first ballot hall of fame entries into The Pantheon of Black Exceptionalism and Greatness: deny that fact at your own peril. It is a far better use of one's energies to meditate on the consequences of Obama's elevation to a leading figure in the Black Freedom Struggle, than to deny if said conclusion will come to pass.

I am not suggesting moral cowardice or retreat by Obama's critics, and Progressives, especially. Rather, I would hope that President Barack Obama is judged by the standards of the office, pushed forward by his base to be like Johnson or FDR--or at the very least made to be more accountable to the people and the Common Good, than to the public opinion polls, the financiers, banksters, and his chances of reelection.

Obama is and has never been a "runaway slave." That temperament is not his way. However, President Obama is adept at playing 3 dimensional Star Trek chess. By leveraging this talent he can win a few victories for regular folks on both sides of the colorline. Incrementalism can be a virtue.

Would Dr. King approve? I am unsure. You tell me.


Invisible Man said...


The only on target thing you said
was that you are an Obama supporter. And it’s clear to this objective observer, that you are like the ground hod day movie, that I've never seen, they say it's about doing the same thing over and over, even though it doesn't make sense. again that you spout the same rhetoric decimeminated from the handlers of the democratic
party. Blame republican obstruction for every thing. I guess the Republicans caused his dismal pandering to the Plutocratic elite too? And his drone strikes. Talk about rose colored glasses

And you say you “have no doubt that
Obama is very mindful of his legacy as the country's first black president,
feels deeply beholden to the ancestors and the Black Freedom Struggle, and how
the first draft of history will judge his tenure.”

Yet he continues to ignore and manipulate the Black community for votes.

Then you down play the courage of
King as if he was playing minor league baseball as oppose to Obama who’s playing for real.

Obama spoke about being a transformative President and never
even attempted. And dude don’t you live in Chicago? Are you blind to Obama’s politics
in Chicago? What people like you do is create an excuse for every thing, you ignore the long long tradition of blacks acting as subversive agents in various positions including politics Your narrative emasculates and neuters Obama as a helpless hapless Black president trapped in the white house.

And finally progressive Black folks are holding him to King’s legacy, but for the last four years it’s been people
like you, Obama supporters that continuously circulating pictures of Obama with
King, and every other Black hero. And Obama greatly fails in comparison next
too LBJ and FDR too. They were transformative Presidents along with Teddy
Roosevelt who stood up to corporate interests. Is this what you’re gonna do for the next four years?

It’s funny how you manage to
produce such insight on cultural issues, but with Obama, you don’t even do a good job of shilling for him. For the last time, President Obama ran on a Mandate. He
Won on that Mandate and Immediately Discarded said Mandate Before he even walked into the white house. And when he walked into the white house he slammed the door in the face of a progressive army of millions waiting to be activated.

He walked into the white house with the cronies, the bankers, the manipulators who caused the Black community and America so much grief.

That will be his legacy, but even sadder with be the legacy for Black folks like yourself who just sat back,
shucking diving, and dodging while the Black community fell deeper into despair, partially because yall fell in love with the symbolism of a Black President while remaining disconnected from the Black poor and those barely
making it. To me this is a class issue, which is just sad.

It's ironic that King's last campaign was about economic rights, the sanitation workers. Obama has done the exact opposite and he certainly has not shown any solidarity to those who pick up trash.

CNu said...

There is only one Brother Doctor King. There is only one Barack Obama. They are very different from one another. Both are first ballot hall of fame entries into The Pantheon of Black Exceptionalism and Greatness:
deny that fact at your own peril.


Blackness IS the R branded on one's cheek.

Stephen Obama is not an exemplar of blackness.

He is a black-faced pope in a demonic church that has done everything in its power to silence, pacify, and finally co-opt the spirit of anti-impyrial righteousness which informed and infused the shining manhood.

Stephen Obama is an obscenity enacted in plain sight against the spirit of shining manhood.

The fact that his handlers and sponsors have hoodwinked and bamboozled legions of Tyler Perry fans - is testament to the ophidian cunning of the egregore, and the debased and demoralized state of those who have fallen prey to its reptilian seduction....,

The pure and fleeting spark of mortal righteousness is martyr bound in its contention with the reptile. Who remains within this nest of snakes that is worthy of such sacrifice?

chauncey devega said...

You never disappoint. You may deny him entry, the ballots are already counted and submitted however. Are you going to stage a protest? I knew that any talk of "manhood" would elicit a response.

chauncey devega said...

Such a response. Good. So worked up today. Why is that?

"again that you spout the same rhetoric decimeminated from the handlers of the democraticparty'

Where am I getting these talking points? Are there secret memos going around? Such claims undermine the veracity of your other points--which are insightful in some ways.

Today was inauguration day. Why would I not offer up a comment? See paragraph number 1.

"Then you down play the courage ofKing as if he was playing minor league baseball as oppose to Obama who’s playing for real."

This one is just odd. What are you talking about? I am making a clear and fair reading of institutional change, outsiders vs. insiders, and the nature of the system. That is all. MLK could not be definition of his politics become President. You see that, no? MLK died for his beliefs and was a radical. Elites were moved to implement change, some of it dramatic, other incremental, to save face in the context of the Cold War. If the smart folks in the room playing the long game didn't want to change trust me there would still be Jim and Jane Crow today. King and others pushed them and provided the cover necessary to get it done.

"That will be his legacy, but even sadder with be the legacy for Black folks like yourself who just sat back,shucking diving, and dodging while the Black community fell deeper into despair, partially because yall fell in love with the symbolism of a Black President while remaining disconnected from the Black poor and those barely
making it. To me this is a class issue, which is just sad."

Again, relax and take a step back. I am a fair critic of Obama, know what my goals are, and made a calculation to support him. You could support a third candidate if you like, you could vote for Romney, etc. I made a choice to support the lesser of two evils. That was my decision. I know that you want a black messiah or superman to show up. Keep waiting and dreaming...and being disappointed at this point folks have to save themselves.

CNu said...

Are you going to stage a protest?

Who remains within this nest of snakes that is worthy of any sacrifice?

Only a fool wants better for others than they want for themselves - and papa Nu never raised up no fools...,

chauncey devega said...

Got to love the last line. Just like Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live. Are you here to chew bubble gum and kick ass? And are you all out of bubble gum?

CNu said...

lol, been fresh out of capt-save-a-ho resources ever since I became a father and began investing time, attention, resources, and love sufficient to give rise to this or even this level of the game.

Constructive_Feedback said...

My Dear Friend Mr DeVega:

Nice make over to the site "optics".

Let me ask you a question, sir.

If we use a fixed index of "The Moors" of Northwest Africa and their "legend" within the Black community ..........

1) As we both were growing up and heard that - "The reason why Southern Europeans are so dark (Sicilians and Greeks) is BECAUSE "The Moors' from Africa invaded Europe and took White Europeans as their wives

versus today......................

2) "The Moors" are being called "ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS" by the French who are bombing the hell out of Mali - with the logistical aid of the United States and the drones from AFRICOM........................

DOES IT STICK IN YOUR MIND - that IF today's "Americanized Negro" was alive in the late 15th century - they would look at "The Moors" military actions within southern Europe and would hope that the Italians and the Greeks push back on "The Moorish Extremists"?

When Minister Sharpton tells you "Obama ended 2 wars" as he markets the "American Commander In Chief" BUT he told you that HE WOULD NOT ATTACK OBAMA ABOUT THE IMPERIALIST ACTION IN doing so ----- HE WOULD WEAKEN OBAMA and play into the HANDS OF THE RIGHT WING........................

Can we then agree - Mr DeVega and Mr CNu that TODAY'S AMERICANIZED NEGRO is in fact 100% AMERICANS. And that any homage to "Mystical Magical Africa" IS ONLY used as an INDICTMENT against his RIGHT WING ENEMY for POLITICAL ADVANTAGE here in America?


IF the American Negro CANNOT enumerate the COMPETENCIES that he is receiving via his present AMERICAN CONSUMER EXPERIENCE that is ultimately TRANSFERABLE for the STRUCTURAL BENEFIT of any other population of Negroes in the "Black Diaspora" who DOES NOT have a "Social Justice National Government" to STRUGGLE FOR CONTROL OVER............................WHAT EXACTLY is the American Negro vying for - OTHER THAN an AMERICAN FIAT ECONOMY AND GOVERNMENT that has a law which permits ITSELF to mint a $1,000,000,000,000 COIN to PAY off its debt........................TO ITSELF.

With all due respect,, My Dear Fine Sir, Mr DeVega......WHEN A PLANE LOAD OF AMERICAN NEGROES can fly into ANY point in Africa or the Caribbean or South America with 5 of these COINS in hand - and then disperse out throughout the countryside in 5 teams:

* Health Care
* Education
* Industry
* Law & Order
* Cultural Consciousness

INSTILLING EACH into the working order of THE BLACK PEOPLE IN QUESTION.............................then they can TAKE THIS MAGIC $1 T American coin and HAMMER IT DOWN into a piece of metal for use in the TEETH of those who need their CAVITIES FILLED by the EXPERT DENTISTS that have been dispatched from the ranks of the INSTITUTIONS within "BLACK AMERICA"

IF YOU CAN'T SHOW THIS ORGANIC COMPETENCY is being developed TO-DAMNED-DAY Among the American Negro then YOU have likely placed your order already to the "" already. The first shipment that was printed in China 2 weeks ago is due to land in the Port Of Oakland tomorrow.

"Keep The Dream Alive"....................BROTHER.

Adam said...

I just completed a grant to build an English multimedia resource center in my school. The first thing my kids are going to hear and read in there (in Russian and English) is King's speech at the Lincoln Memorial. They understand incremental change better than most Americans, I believe; most of them have been alive for more than half of Ukraine's history as an independent nation, and they've seen a lot of equalizing things introduced to Ukrainian culture, like Internet access, somewhat relaxed restrictions on travel and business, and elections, in a very short period of time.

But to paraphrase King, twenty-two years later, Ukrainians are still not free. Freedom and equality aren't guaranteed by the absence of a totalitarian government any more than they were by the abolition of slavery. And they'll learn that fifty years after the march on Washington, things have changed in America, but many of the problems that King campaigned to end - not incrementally improve, but end - persist.

They'll still be inspired anyway. They admire Obama greatly; by the rules of Ukrainian culture, a multiracial guy wouldn't have had a chance to rise so high in the Communist or democratic system, and for most of American history he wouldn't have had a chance there either. I'm blown away by how much the Ukrainians I know like him, even one kid who I had to kick out of my after-school clubs because even after I told him not to use racial slurs, he continued to do so - even that guy told me he liked Obama and thought Romney was a fool.

So I think King would approve, if not enthusiastically. He probably wouldn't be happy about the US using predator drones against suspected terrorists, and he'd definitely still be upset about de facto segregation in America. But even if a majority of white people voted for the whiter candidate twice, a lot fewer of them did than would have voted against Obama just a decade or two ago, and in any case it's becoming increasingly clear that trying to go specifically for any ethnic demographic in a national election, and divide voters by skin color, will fail. That's going to force politicians to either plan to be uniters, or force them to accept irrelevancy. That's definitely a step forward.

chauncey devega said...

spot on in terms of having to adapt. white nationalism and white id politics are gonna have to adapt. that may make them more dangerous. congrats on the school innovations! what do you students think of MLK? What about him resonates?

CNu said...

Faced with totally non-violent protest last year, the Hon.Bro.Preznit Stephen Obama resorted to a coordinated, anti-democratic, violent crackdown organized by a joint private/public cartel with primary decision and communication hubs allocated across federal reserve bank districts

With that in mind, and with Stephen's mephistophelian appropriation of Dr. King, how exactly do you suppose the smart kids ought to respond?

CNu said...

King did the best he could and the alliance which supported his efforts made brilliant strategic use of media/global media/global media scrutiny.

King's movement forced the elite hand. Not only was the elite concession to American ethnic minority interest expedient, practical, and ethical - it was highly profitable over the long run.

King wasn't assassinated for non-violent civil rights work, King was assassinated for speaking out against the most prolific imperial purveyor of violence in human history.

Resistance to that aspect of elite power reached its zenith during this period and it was by no means non-violent where it mattered most

To have the peak methods and moments of King's legacy appropriated by the absolute tool of continuing elite predatory militarism is very deeply offensive and simply and ruthlessly exploits the historical ignorance of folk drunk on racial symbolism and starved for substantive historical and political understanding.

Constructive_Feedback said...

My dear friends Ed S, Thom S, Mike P and Chris M. ......I aslo think that your heart is in the right place. But, you really need to qualify terms and clarify assumptions...........I now see what this Black guy named Constructive Feedback has been saying...........the Republicans haven't had traction in Chicago, Milwaukee, Flint, Detroit, Rochester, Buffalo, Newark, Camden, Philly, Baltimore, Atlanta and Memphis for more than 50 years - despite the effort that I have invested with you guys, my "Brothers From Another Mother" - MY PEOPLE'S in these places have not improved COMMENSURATE WITH the amount of VALUABLES that I helped compel them to INVEST. I am going to have back away from you guys for the next 10 years as a means of evacuating certain thoughts and loyalties that I have built up in my mind.

Please lose my number Ed. I see that MSNBC's "Black ratings" went up - but so did the Black unemployment rate in December 2012"

_____________________Signed Chauncey DeVega

Constructive_Feedback said...


YOUR TARGET is inaccurate.

You keep "Blaming Obama" when in truth Obama was ENABLED by the chorus of his "Left Wing Base".

Do you notice the various news media outlets that are setting up the narrative for the Obama Second Term: FIGHTING THE REPUBLICANS!!!

What you really need to ask my dear friend Chauncey DeVega is:

"Chauncey - knowing what you know now the MATERIAL/ORGANIC BENEFIT received BY the Black community FROM 'Defeating the Republicans' and taking over the SEATS OF POWER in key 'Human Resource Development Institutions'..............ARE YOU going to be able to temper your natural instincts and instead make note that 'As The Congregation Is FOCUSED ON THE REPUBLICANS"............the AMERICAN GOVERNMENT largely does the SAME DAMNED THING - economically, militarily, foreign policy-wise? THAT MAYBE it is all a diversionary trick - in order to keep a Battle Royale going".

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