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The African American Achilles Heel


President Obama Urban League
President Obama  

Black unity has served African Americans well – until now, when the enemy has a Black face. Suddenly, our tried-and-true instincts betray us and our political cognition collapses. Obama’s many crimes fail to register in Black brains. African Americans “filter out any and all information that might shatter the illusion that Obama is all that stands between Black folks and the Devil, himself.”

I recently had a telephone conversation with an African American woman functionary of one of the Blackest, and historically more progressive, unions in the country. I had never met the young woman. She’d seen a You-Tube of a talk I’d given on how private school vouchers and, later, charter school advocates were financed by corporate forces to drive a wedge between Blacks and teachers unions, two of the main pillars of the Democratic Party. The person I’d originally been conversing with had suddenly put the union official on the phone, and she thanked Black Agenda Report for its insights on the issue. I thanked her in return, and said that President Obama had proven even more effective than George Bush in his assault on public education and teachers unions – something she did not want to hear.

Was I supporting Romney, she asked? No, I support public education, I replied, and Barack Obama has been a more effective champion of privatization of schools during his three and a half years in office than the Republicans could ever have dreamed of.

The conversation turned cold as ice. There was nothing – nothing! – she said, that could shake her faith in this president. What about preventive detention, I asked? Didn’t it upset her that Obama had signed into law a bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, that gutted the Bill of Rights, allowing the arrest by the military of American citizens without trial or charge on the say-so of the president – Barack Obama or any president, Republican or Democrat, that succeeds him?

She had never heard of the preventive detention law, she said, in a tone that clearly indicated she believed I was making the whole thing up. Quickly, she repeated that there was nothing that could alter her dedication to Obama’s reelection.

Of course, she did not know of Obama’s careful shepherding of preventive detention through Congress, last year – because she did not want to know. Like tens of millions of African Americans, she filters out any and all information that might shatter the illusion that Obama is all that stands between Black folks and the Devil, himself. She cannot see the Devil – the corporate demon – when he appears in the perfect camouflage of a Black icon. She is intelligent, and a union activist who understands the evil intentions of Republican school privatizers and union busters. But, when The First Black President builds on the same corporate game plan to put the full weight of the federal government behind massive school charterization and the de-professionalization of teachers, she is willfully blind, deaf and dumb.

Our Black female trade unionist is a descendant of a people who have, of historical necessity, been the staunchest defenders of civil liberties. Yet, for her and millions like her, the Black president and preventive detention cannot coexist; it simply does not compute. And so it goes for Obama’s expanding wars, especially in Africa, his wholesale shredding of international law, his servitude to the banks. Black consciousness, itself, succumbs to a fatal illusion. In Barack Obama, our enemies have found our Achilles Heel.


By; Glen Ford

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