February 10, 2007

From Kenya with Love: Barack Hussein Obama

Senator Barack Obama's decision this morning to throw his hat in the presidential race is a significant moment in this nation's history. In MLK, Jr., Ethiopia, and Protest Politics, we honored the work and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., and in so doing, recognized the numerous legislative and judicial victories scored by African-Americans in the last century (to name a few, voting rights, access to education, health care, housing, public benefits, employment, and affirmative action). The African-American struggle for equality clearly made America live up to the promises of liberty and justice its founders promised to the governed in 1787.

Beyond the historic significance of Obama’s announcement, the Illinois senator’s candidacy will allow registered African-American voters (including Ethiopia-Americans) in the Democratic Party a clear alternative to the carpet-bagging junior senator from our favorite state in the Union. Yes, Hillary Clinton and her arrogant and demeaning posture vis-à-vis African-American voters is back and managing to convince, yet again, many in the African-American community that she, like her husband, is "black" and deserving of their support. (When, by the way, will African-American voters stop giving their vote lock, stock, and barrel to the Democratic Party?)

This is not a posting that throws its support behind Obama's campaign—we simply find the candidate to be compelling and one who reconciles the dreams and aspirations of African-American voters, be they descendants of slaves or the recently arrived. In her recent comments, writer Stephanie Molkins opined that the meaning of Black History month "has far exceeded the hopes of its founder [Carter G. Woodson]. It not only highlights the impact of African-Americans on society. It also helps people remember the danger of racial and socio-economic oppression which effect more than just blacks. This month helps everyone see the importance of human rights for all people and is the reason why it should always be celebrated."

In continuing to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., Black History Month, and the importance of today’s announcement to American history, we sign-off with one of our favorite passages from Obama's book Dreams of My Father (2004):

I have seen, the desperation and disorder of the powerless: how it twists the lives of children on the streets of Jakarta or Nairobi in much the same way as it does the lives of children on Chicago's South Side, how narrow the path is for them between humiliation and untrammeled fury, how easily they slip into violence and despair. I know that the response of the powerful to this disorder—alternating as it does between a dull complacency and, when the disorder spills out of its proscribed confines, a steady, unthinking application of force, of longer prison sentences and more sophisticated military hardware—is inadequate to the task. I know that the hardening of lines, the embrace of fundamentalism and tribe, dooms us all.