FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama Should Not be Welcomed at the March on Washington Commemoration

by AJAMU BARAKA

On August 28, the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington, an event is being organized at the Lincoln Memorial by the King Center, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Council of Negro Women to commemorate that extraordinary and consequential demonstration. To highlight the occasion, these organizations apparently extended an invitation to the President of the United States to deliver the keynote address on the very same spot where Martin Luther King delivered his legendary “I have a dream” speech.

The fact that Barack Obama will be standing in the shadow of Dr. King, his presence conveying the impression that he somehow represents the values and self-sacrificing lives of Dr. King, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks and many of the thousands gathered that afternoon on the national mall, should be taken as an insult by everyone who has struggled and continues to struggle for human rights, peace and social justice.

Surrendering to Barack Obama the podium that King stood before allows the State to close the circle of meaning on an important chapter of the African American story, and what is possible in that story. Linking the demands and aspirations of African Americans in 1963 to the ascendency of Barack Obama as President of the United States within the still-dominant white supremacist structure, affirms a limitation that reflects the oppressive reality of African American life. It brings a clear message, even though it is not acknowledged on a conscious level, that the highest aspiration and possible achievement for an African American is to be able to serve white power – to be a servant. That is the “positive” role model for the new black leadership class.

What those so-called Black leaders and even many progressives and radicals don’t understand is that, in ongoing ideological and cultural battles in which capitalism and its minions are systematically engaging to maintain their dominance, symbols have meaning. When Barack Obama delivers his speech that day, he will complete the process, starting with the King national holiday, of symbolically merging the civil rights struggle with the interests of the U.S. State and the capitalist order. The political and ideological consequence of this is that it effectively eliminates any substantive critique of the links between white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy and continued African American oppression, and reduces the range of acceptable discourse related to the plight of African Americans to reforms within the existing order.

But even more damning for the development of an oppositional consciousness and a movement of resistance among African Americans and progressive politics in the U.S. is the fact that Obama is the living negation of everything, from his domestic to foreign policy, that Dr. King and the movement stood for in 1963.

Could anyone imagine MLK supporting or buying into the incoherent rationalizations of Obama’s actions? On Obama’s record is the killing of 16 year-old Abdurrahman al-Alawki by a U.S. drone strike, just one of the many innocent dead and maimed civilians who have been casualties of U.S. international aggression under the banner of the War on Terror. Add to that the illegal and immoral invasion of Libya and the killing of more than 50,000 people in that country, and the fermenting of civil war in Syria that has cost more than 100,000 lives; the boycotting of the United Nations anti-racism conference and process that gave political cover to all of the other racist, European states that also walked out; the incomprehensible action to obstruct the elected President of Haiti, Bertrand Aristide, from returning to his country from the exile imposed upon him by the Bush administration; giving the green light to deporting record numbers of undocumented workers, a policy that tore families apart and terrorized communities.

Would Dr. King have seen Edward Snowden’s act of civil disobedience as an act worthy of international persecution and imprisonment? Can anyone see Dr. King praising the Obama administration for turning its back on the people of Honduras when they asked for U.S. support to protect their democracy and instead sided with, and gave support to, the coup plotters?

Would it have been possible for Dr. King to remain silent on the state murder of Troy Davis?  And what might Dr. King, who personally experienced the heavy hand of state repression, have said about the decision by the Obama administration to coordinate, at the federal level, the suppression of the Occupy Wall Street movement across the country and to give the Presidency, through the National Defense Authorization Act, the power to indefinitely detain and deny the constitutional and human rights of U.S. citizens without judicial review?

If you cannot see any connection between the political and moral positions of President Obama and Dr. King, it is because none exist.

Some will say, with reason, that Obama’s record underscores the hard realities faced by a President of the U.S. But that is also the point. The bloodstained reality of the American presidency is an office that is structurally, politically and emotionally committed to upholding global white supremacist, capitalist domination. The symbol of Barack Obama occupying the “white people’s house” and the harsh realities of his Presidency cannot be reconciled with the hope of Dr. King’s speech and the vision of black people who were gathered on the mall in 1963 to demand an egalitarian society and a world committed to social justice. And it certainly cannot be reconciled with the teachings of Martin Luther King who, despite his very human shortcomings, is a moral giant compared to Barack Obama and his obsequious deference to white power and the interests of empire.

The invitation to this man is an insult to everyone who believes in justice and the integrity and independence of the people’s movements and should be rescinded. And if it is not, all of us who considered ourselves people who believe in the independence of social movements from any political party and the right of the people to give meaning to our own experiences free from the State, should boycott the event and call on our friends to do the same.

Ajamu Baraka is a long-time human rights activist, writer and veteran of the Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity Movements in the United States.  He is currently a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. He can be reached through his website.

 

 

Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. He is a contributor to “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence” (CounterPunch Books, 2014). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail