On Friday, August 1st I led a contingent of the Uhuru Movement into Barack Obama’s town hall meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida to raise the question, “what about the black community, Obama?” Without the benefit of a big media budget, our organization attempted to bring the serious issues experienced by African working class people across this country into the national political debate.
These issues include the targeting of African and Latino communities with predatory “sub-prime” mortgages – a scheme that has made millions for people like Obama’s chief financial advisor Penny Pritzker, while stripping black families of billions of dollars, the greatest loss of wealth our community has suffered since being brought in chains to this country. We also challenged Obama to take a stand against the police shootings of unarmed African people, and explain why he has publicly defended the judge’s acquittal of the NYC police who murdered Sean Bell.
He has said that he cannot speak out on behalf of those who have been historically oppressed for fear of offending other people. Yet in Miami, he promised the Jewish community, which considers itself a historically oppressed community, that he supports turning all of Jerusalem over to Israeli control, despite the internationally enforced sharing of that city with the Palestinians. When Obama speaks to black audiences, he attacks us, attributing our community’s poverty, not to systemic oppression, but to bad culture and lack of work ethic.
Barack Obama has criticized African fathers for abandoning our children, although a recent study showed that black fathers stay more involved with their children after a split from the mother than white fathers. And Obama says nothing of the unjust imprisonment of 1 in 9 black men of child-bearing age, the overwhelming majority of whom are locked up on minor drug or other non-violent economic violations stemming from conditions of desperate poverty. He has failed to achieve any meaningful program of economic development for the African community. In speaking to a group of black legislators, Obama said “a good economic development plan for our community would be if we make sure folks weren’t throwing their garbage out of their cars.”
Barack Obama wants to increase military spending and praised Clinton for abolishing AFDC and welfare. He has reversed his position opposing the death penalty and speaks out against reparations. He wants to escalate the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and has threatened Venezuela and Iran with military aggression. He has upheld the FISA, supporting wire-tapping and government spying on citizens. He receives unprecedented financial backing from Wall Street. His close advisors and potential cabinet members include war criminal Richard Clarke, Tri-lateral commission founder Zbigniev Brzezinski, Madeleine ‘it’s worth the price of 1 million dead Iraqi children’ Albright, and Free Trade advocates Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee.
Some argue that we must support Obama or else we are supporting McCain. We in the Uhuru Movement don’t believe our community should restrict our political options to a choice between one white ruling class party or another. In fact, the black community’s most recent experiences in the U.S. electoral arena have resulted not only in the Republican Party’s theft of our votes, but prior to that we suffered some of the worst attacks on our community at the hands of the Democratic Party administration of William Jefferson Clinton, who put 100,000 more police on our streets to murder our people, privatized the prisons to exploit our unpaid labor, and discontinued the public subsidies for impoverished children and families that had been won by African people as a concession to our movement of the 1960s.
African people’s experiences with these last several elections and the desperate conditions facing our community have created a willingness by our people to seek independent political alternatives. In response to this crisis, the white rulers put forward Barack Obama – a pied piper taking African people back into clutches of the Democratic Party. If anyone looks seriously at the positions, programs and advisors of Barack Obama, they will see that he does not stand for any kind of real change, but for the defense of the same old status quo, with a new face. America is in an economic crisis and the white ruling class hopes to save itself by deepening the exploitation of African people in the U.S. and on the continent of Africa, where the world’s biggest reserves of oil and precious minerals lie. How better to do it than with an African face at the head of state?
Our success as a people requires that we achieve our own independent political agenda. African people’s votes should be contingent on the willingness of a candidate to support and fight for that agenda. The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement has invited Barack Obama, John McCain and Cynthia McKinney to attend our annual convention on September 27-28 in St. Petersburg, Florida to clarify their position on the question, “what about the black community?” Based on their response, we will consider endorsement of a U.S. presidential candidate.
DIOP OLUGBALA is the International Organizer for the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement