ACCRA — After eight years of Obama, progress made by African Americans, including that made by people of African descent in general, have been washed away. Had Obama discussed his plans, figuratively, with past black leaders like Huey Newton, Malcolm X, M. L. King Jr., Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglas, he would have been told to steer clear of the presidency.
Eight years later, about 60 percent of African American youth have no jobs. African Americans in their prime – 30s, 40s, 50s — are way behind. “We have an African American president and what he’s done for African Americans is a shame,” Trump told CNN. He is right but there was no way Obama could have fixed it. Obama knew the obstacles but he feigned heroism – he assured African Americans that he would fix the economy.
The real economic issues black people face in America is systemic racism before any other, but the critique of capitalism has taken forefront, leading blacks to relegate the race discussion to the back and bandwagon on the capitalism debate. It is argued that his agenda was personal because above everything else, there is a race agenda he could not defeat by working alone through the system, not with two presidential terms. It is analysed from a Marxist point of view, albeit the intimate connection between capital, class and the uplift of the white race at the expense of coloured people, which Marxists failed to adequately analyse despite various black diaspora and African leaderships strong flirtation with Marxism during the civil rights movements in the diasporas and liberation struggles on the continent.
This approach is important because these are the times on the one side with unprecedented wealth abundance in the world and on the other side, blacks having the highest number of “have-nots” in the entire history of the world while we all claim to be a single global family.
It is done so not for blacks to claim and own the “victim narrative” but rather as a response to the fact that while no one wants to hear the predicaments of the blacks, the ambiguous global family based premise stand in their way each time they make efforts to alleviate their situation. For example, “All Lives Matter” as a response to “Black Lives Matter”. The latter is borne out of consistent killing of blacks. But the former is promoted out of a fear of a force the victimised could become instead of a proper reconciliation and reparation.
Furthermore, the “we are all in it together” approach of current influential global movements such as The Occupy Movement becomes part of propagation of white supremacy because it disenfranchises the blacks of their struggle. They set the rules and dictate capitalism as the main problem, thereby disowning people of their struggle. What makes them dangerous and particularly important for analysing Obama’s impact is that their arguments are often hinged on statements like: “A Black man is now president of the world. So what else do you want?”
From Hobbes, Locke, Nietzsche to Kant’s idea of “Untermenschen” to Nazi Germany, similar themes on coloured people ran through European philosophies and theories of person-hood and yet Marxism failed to see how colour and race override the economic theme they postulated. White supremacy had everything to gain and nothing to lose in this failure because beside ensuing capital control for whites, racism is defined and thought of only in a social discrimination context. Ignoring the cultural, military, sexual, economic, educational, political and all other aspects of it means continuous capital accumulation and political control for whites. Thus, the oppression must continue if capital is to remain in the hands of its current beneficiaries. Here lies the underlying need for whites to own power in its absolute form, from the power of utterance and rhetoric to the power of definition.
Did the world, especially black people, think Obama would do something for the oppressed? I’m sure not. His rise is a classical case of the system’s ability to rally all of us behind a certain hype, with some piling symbolic achievements while the actual life changing material remain with a few. Obama’s rise and his overwhelming endorsement is not by accident and is certainly not because he was a saviour. He benefited immensely from the same perverse systemic racism in a sense that global celebration of hip hop culture blinded many whites from the colour debate until it started affecting their privileges.
From Scandinavia to India, Japan, Russia to China, everybody loves hip-hop and African American popular culture, and that built Obama’s base for his global acceptance. White American push to appropriate black culture and then degenerate the manifestation of the impact of white American privilege, which goes as far as whites’ romantisization and trivialization of serious issues systemic racism puts black people through, pushed the Obama hype. For example, the glorification of prison culture, youth boast of killing, selling drugs, etc. White in America, and in fact in many places in Europe, get so excited about wanting to be part of these things that they ignore or forget that these are serious issues caused by systemic racism.
People have failed to recognize that laying red carpet for Obama and giving him medals before he did anything was simply another version of the good old patronisation of the people of African descent within a contained space created by the American elite who are not some right wing freaks but the same liberals who protest side by side with the victims. The system conditions the definition of success to assume some people cannot aspire to go above others, and Obama knew his limits are capped by the system like all blacks but he was worried.
To some, Obama’s meteoric rise means the days of racism are over. All sorts of naive comments greeted his coming. The Nobel Prize was prepared for him. Bush era agonizing economic challenges were forgotten for liberal mainstream Brouhaha. As if he was a prophesied Messiah, but he lands to derail many progress blacks made. When he was asked about the whole Obama-mania, Trevor Philips, the then UK Equality Chief was criticised for saying Black people’s salvation will ultimately come from no one but themselves and not from a Messiah chosen by the system. The criticism that met Mr. Philips refusal to endorse the hype showed no one was interested in finding in real solutions.
Obama’s ambition was personal, and he had the multicultural background, upbringing and knowledge to make that look professional, an ambition he may have known could derail progress made by black people. He knew very well that his ascendancy to the throne of US presidency could only mean more trouble for black people. But people were quick to forget that this system, built on the blood and toil of the oppressed, could not sustain any real solution, thus if Obama was even out seeking one. From Muslims to Christians, everyone prayed for Obama. And by all standards, Obama has broken taboos from recording the highest number of drone killings, pushing for same sex marriage to his attempt at affordable medical insurance for the whole country. He made himself a name and placed himself firmly among the greats of modern politics. The system’s ability to allow Obama in the white house to address issues in a one-side-fit-all format makes mockery of issues needing special attention.
From a Marxist viewpoint, a direct comparison will show that majority of the members of the working class people are black, however, blacks did not choose to be in it by themselves, and any efforts to join capital, ruling or any other elite class will not be allowed, as they do not possess the right skin colour. Hence racism argument overrides a class and capital argument, making white supremacy the actual factor holding capitalism together. Obama’s inability to think of the bearing of seeking this post on the collective of the people of African descent weakens any hope and chance the black working class may have.
The only thing Obama did well was not pay attention to the one directional European narrative about people of African descent. The idea that blacks can only be beneficiaries of the benevolence of others outside their communities was completely ignored. He did not push for aid; neither for black America nor for the continent. Ignoring the NGO industrial complex, another racist capital venture Marxist could not foresee, has weakened that narrative.
Many white Americans have not gotten over their anger of Obama’s two-term US Presidency. So it makes sense that they decided to go the other extreme to vote Trump. It’s obvious Trump cannot win because of his ingenuous assertion that America can sustain itself without pouring any blood outside. But the extreme wealthy elite of America who know that Trump’s views contribute to the fall of their reign will not let him become president. The same elite know what damage Obama’s presidency is doing to blacks’ ability to garner real solutions.
Something between the two serves their interest. So they victimise a sizeable proportion of whites to create more space for the capitalist and class at the expense of a race argument. Interestingly, people cannot see that creating white “have-less” serves as a buffer from tackling the problem of coloured “have-nots,” i.e., the postponement of any real solution against white supremacy and white privilege. For the elite, capital profit as a vehicle to their control must flow, and contrary to Trump’s believe that a lot of it exists within the US, they know it doesn’t and they would do anything maintains this situation, even if they have to put another black person in White House.
Further disproving the Marxist argument and underlining Obama’s need to help the working class, which he did not do, is the fact that the manufacturing base, which empowered and restored the black urban dueller’s dignity is long gone in search of a cheaper destination. White ownership of capital and the economy on the other hand, regardless of where the jobs went, stayed same.
Black Americans still could not realise that after slavery and Jim Crow, the next biggest crime against black America was the effort to rally them after the 2001 September 11 attacks. Many black bought into the patriotism thing and naively thought racism was over. This in effect, gave rise to fighting capitalism on the same front regardless of colour, until hurricane Katrina struck.
Katrina greeted blacks with senseless death tolls and a system that practically watched them die while criminalising them in the process, tried again two years later to make them believe Obama is a saviour. His response to the culture and colour role in the slow response to the predominantly black victims was this: I do not subscribe to the notion that the painfully slow response of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security was racially based. The ineptitude was color-blind.
This response of pretence to colour-blindness also applies to Obama’s approach to Clinton era black family structure damaging policies such as mass incarceration of young black males. This has worsened under his own umbrella because as if the mass incarceration is not enough damage, the streets of American is seeing some of the most openly perpetuated killings of innocent and unarmed black people by law enforcement officers any civilised society has ever experienced.
Those liberals who feel uncomfortable having this discussion because it has a bearing on white privilege, resort to keeping the debate in an economic context, which give white leftists and Marxists a say from a victim point of view. But even if we stick to this conundrum and look at it as a war against working class, people of colour have been hit the hardest. A perfect example being the recent sub-prime mortgage crisis in which black people suffered the highest foreclosures and home repossessions. The racist aspect of this, studies have shown, is that it amounts the highest transfer of wealth from people of colour to whites in the modern history because whites cheaply buy the repossessed homes. A perfect Marxist conundrum except that blacks suffer and whites gain.
Obama’s legacy will remain symbolic regardless, simply because he has occupied the White House for 8 damn years. Black suppression of their desire to seek solutions on their own is worsened by the occupation of that position because any efforts to argue that the system needs to be adjusted to redistribute resources properly, seems to meet the statement: “we have a black president now so what else do you want?”
The tricks involved are sophisticated. For example, while real figures will show slight falling numbers of black employment, welfare dependence increase more. Liberal black journalists like Tavis Smiley and known to be staunch Obama supporters have recently conceded, “Blacks are worse off now than before Obama sworn into office.” Black unemployment is still twice the size of white unemployment.
After the euphoria that surrounded Obama’s rise, economic realities set in once more and people of all races actually tried to implement the post race America idea by targeting banks and bankers. Guilelessly, Obama did not empower the poor whose assets the banks swallowed but rather the banks. He bailed the giant conglomerates and left the poor. This was interpreted as Obama not being different to Clinton and Bush, thus serving corporate interests which has nothing to do with race. While that is a fact, the white ownership of the corporate interest and black dominance of the proletariat again, brings a racial dimension to it. People of all colours were made to understand that the one per cent at Wall Street was at fault, and with the birth of The Occupy Movement, this kind of protests were loosely institutionalised under around 2011.
This time again, whites whose assets Wall Street gambled with, formed an alliance with black “have-nots.” Few coloured people who knew about this case got a wake up call. A young white male who had a chronic bronchial problem felt sick and died later in New Jersey, a few groups of friends he made while camping outside Wall Street at The Occupy protests sought to pay their respect only to hear the deceased had assets piled up with one the Wall Street firms while protesting with them. Many black that heard the case saw that as a classical case of white liberal hypocrisy and left the protests withdrawing their supporting the Occupy Movement.
It’s the final few months in office and his greatest achievement for the working class, Obamacare, faces a court injunction. Blacks occupants of prominent global positions have the tendency to speak up towards the end of their tenure. With six months to go, Obama has been bold enough to effect perhaps the biggest symbolic change blacks have ever had, Harriet Tubman on a Dollar bill.
It’s not appalling to assume Trump implies Obama needed to simply ensure massive capital moved from white to black hands. While they are known for quick spending of capital outside their communities, a little percentage is bound to remain and empower few people to learn to take matters into their own hands. Thus, if Obama was able to create black capital owners and a sizable white proletariat, the race argument will slowly melt away and the capitalist one will be justified.