Rev. Jesse Jackson has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama’s Democratic presidential campaign. I must say, I am a little ambivalent about this endorsement. We are a people who have clung to hope. Hope is what sustained us through enslavement and exploitation. Both men speak highly of hope. One, while pursuing the Democratic candidacy for president, inspired others to hope for a better future, a better America. The other is pursuing the seat of the presidency. “This campaign has been about giving hope since Day One,” said Obama in an AP report. Referring to Rev. Jackson, Sen. Obama said he was “proud to have the support of his friend.” “It is because people like Jesse ran that I have this opportunity to run for president today.”
It has been one blow after another for those of us trying to survive this nation’s death-drive toward Empire. Cruelty and torture of the “terrorists” resonates with black Americans’ experience of indifference. The Bush administration does not care about black Americans and the day-to-day experience of black Americans is that the rest of the country does not as well.
Sen. Obama must make take a stand with AIPAC. He must declare that the U.S. needs to “preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel.” In fact, this was the title of Sen. Obama’s speech to the AIPAC Policy Forum, on March 2, 2007, in Chicago. “As the U.S. redeploys from Iraq, we can recapture lost influence in the Middle East,” said Sen. Obama. “We can refocus our efforts to critical, yet neglected priorities, such as combating international terrorism and winning the war in Afghanistan. And we can, then, more effectively deal with one of the greatest threats to the United States, Israel and world peace: Iran.”
Then a few days later, on March 5, celebrating the 42 Annual anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama at Brown A.M.E church, Sen. Obama said his candidacy was directly linked to the legacies of the civil rights movement. “I am the product of your legend,” he told blacks in the audience. He especially thanked Rev. Jackson. Sounds like both the civil rights movement and Rev. Jackson are a think of the past. In Selma, Sen. Obama referred to himself as a member of the “Joshua generation.”
And now if we can get past the clean words, winks, and hand shakes and consider what this means for the majority of black Americans who have been betrayed time after time by the Democratic and Republican politicians alike. Where is the hope offered by this “Joshua generation” candidate? What does it mean to be a member of the “Joshua generation” anyway? I can only speculate.
According to the Biblical legend, Joshua became the successor of Moses. While some members of his generation doubted God would allow them to enter the promise land, Joshua held on to his faith, and proclaimed that there will be those of his Joshua generation who will die in the wilderness. In the face of indifference and racist oppression, are we to assume that some in Sen. Obama’s generation and others younger will die in the wilderness of indifference and racist oppression?
Despite the fact that black Americans have never supported U.S. aggression, in other words, war, Obama’s rhetoric has become increasingly hawkish. As a result, it is hard to distinguish him from Sen. Hillary Clinton or the Republican Party in general. After all, the average black American cannot vote because of conviction records, and most are unable to contribute the big money AIPAC is able to funnel into Sen. Obama’s campaign. Is this yet another practice of deserting the black community similar to the Republican Party’s election strategies to disenfranchise black people by steal our votes throughout this country? Does Sen. Obama feel he does not need the black vote?
A Habeas Corpus maneuver for a people no longer entitled to defense.
Jackson claims that Sen. Obama agenda includes the war on poverty and voter protection, according to the AP report. According to Peter Dreier’s report entitled “The New War on Poverty,” however, the numbers of poor Americans has not declined: it has risen since 2001, from 33 million to 37 million people who now live below or at the poverty line. Thirty three percent of black children live in poverty while 10 percent of white children live in poverty. “Inequality,” Dreier writes, “has almost never been worse.”
For a nation claiming to want peace and democracy-equality-we need to look at the inequalities surround this war on terror. Along with Iraqi women and children, black soldiers are dying in Iraq. Soldiers, white and black, are suffering from bureaucratic red tape at Walter Reed Hospital. They are suffering in their homes from depression after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Halliburton and Blackwater have profited from the invasion these last four years. In the meantime, over 1 billion dollars for reconstruction allocated by the Coalition Provisional Authority went missing in Iraq. In 2005, the same two companies flee over the floating dead of New Orleans and Mississippi with guns pointed at the standing victims and, since they have secured contracts there worth billions for reconstruction again. In Iraq and in New Orleans, at least the Ninth Ward where most of the poor and black lived pre-Katrina, the landscape is still devastated. Iraqis living in Baghdad with little water, food, or lights have watched as the largest U.S. Embassy compound in the world rises from the ground of their city. They are watching the rise of 592 million dollars, according to USA Today, while the reconstruction of “health clinics, water-treatment facilities and electrical plants” for Iraqis ha been “scaled back” to pay for rising costs of security outside the Green Zone.
How ironic! Our politicians are bickering over the date to pull out of a situation that has worsened for the Iraqi people and U.S. military every day. I see black Americans in the background watching the rise of condos and homes in the white and middle-class communities, and they wonder when the U.S. will pull into to the Ninth Ward. There is the Right to Return Act for Katrina victims displaced around the country. 1.6 million Iraqis have had to leave their country with another 1.5 who are displaced within Iraq. See how all of this points to the U.S. government on the down road to world domination for the corporations.
Halliburton and Blackwater are doing well, and in the lingo of the war economy, they seem to be members of the “Joshua” generation, doing the “Lord’s work.” We have come a long way down from “Bloody Sunday.” Bush, stalling as long as possible to divert attention away from the building of air bases and embassy’s in the Middle East and Africa, has Democrats like Sen. Obama agreeing to defend all or part of the war economy agenda even while speaking of being a product of the civil rights movement legacy.
The eight fired US Attorneys have something in common with black Americans too. Beside the fact that both are fired explicitly at the discretion of the employer, there is the implicit explanation: they adhere to the “wrong” politics.
While No Child Left Behind has led some of our children to the prison industrial complex or the military industrial complex, there are blacks who have been executed while innocent. Then there is the case of Gary Tyler, wasting, yes, wasting away in a Louisiana prison for the last 32 years for a crime he did not commit while there is a moment of collective sympathy for Scooter Libby, Former Chief of Staff for Vice President Cheney. It is okay to be indifferent to a breach of justice in the case of an innocent black man, however. Recently, in Texas, a 14-year-old high black high school freshman, Shaquanda Cotton, receives seven years in prison for shoving a hall monitor. In another case in Texas, Chicago Tribune senior writer, Howard Witt reports that a 19-year-old white man was convicted last July of “criminally negligent homicide for killing a 54-year-old black woman and her three-year-old grandson with is truck.” But guess what? He was sentenced to probation in Paris, Texas and ordered to “send an annual Christmas card to the victims’ family.” It is not enough to slight the black victims-add cruel mockery to the mix. It is okay, these days to inflict suffering on black Americans. We are focused on defending a generalized image of “all Americans.”
The core of the historically progressive movement in the U.S., blacks watch as whites Americans hail Sen. Obama as the black who will allow white America to forget how it deserted the civil rights movement after Martin Luther King’s death as if racism, too, died. Let us hear no more of it! No one is to remember this most egregious offense of deserting the progressive movement and certainly not up and coming black politicians of the “Joshua” generation.
No more of the Jackson of old these days. No more reminding white America and middle-class black America about the poor while pursuing the presidency. The message in these days of the “Joshua generation” will talk about America and defense against “terrorists.” Employing the lingo of white supremacy, references to “minorities”-blacks and Latinos, Hmong, Native Americans, and Asians-is a Shakespearian aside: “Americans-and minorities too.” One day they will wake up and “discover” a world map and see that the “minority” is the majority of the world. The “minorities” will truly be the numerical majority in this country by 2060, according to projections by the U.S. Census Bureau. It should not be assumed that this soon-to-be majority will drift off to the wilderness to die peacefully without some form of resistance.
So when will Sen. Barack Obama of the Joshua generation stand in defense of those in despair, the least among us, as well as those who represent the “all of America”? Who will defend our right to a world without war?
Dr. JEAN DANIELS lives in Madison, Wisconson and writes a column for the City Capital Hues. Email: Darlkofi2002@yahoo.com
This essay originally appeared in the Black Commentator.