Friday, December 26, 2008

Why "President Obama" Could Disappoint On Issues of Justice & Equity

"I greeted Obama's electoral victory with very little enthusiasm but much relief that the lying slime- bag right-wing John McCain was defeated. I think Obama will be another Bill Clinton, perhaps not as bad. Some people see his accession to the White House as a great historic victory for African Americans and for democracy. But I am not all that impressed. When the victory is extended into social democratic policies that have a salutary effect on millions of struggling impoverished African-Americans and other working poor, then I'll start dancing in the streets."
--Michael Parenti, long-time, left-wing, media/social critic, speaking for an indeterminate, but I suspect large number of people, in an interview posted on MLW today.**

Parenti alludes to a question that I have considered for a while, at least 6 months: Will Obama disappoint? If so, why? And whom?

This is how it appears to me: As President, Obama will naturally excite fairly high--albeit likely tacit-- expectations from that segment of the culture which, because he is "of" it, makes his ascendancy such an historic event. Questions of equity, class, justice, fairness, equality would --one might think, SHOULD-- be high on the agenda of a member of the group which most frequently and consistently experienced them. People so afflicted could be forgiven if they expected some greater measure of justice, etc., when one of 'their own' rose to the highest office in the land.

Yet, exactly BECAUSE Obama is, de facto, the avatar of the Civil Rights/Social Justice/Economic Equity movements (no matter/despite his own personal or political propensities, he cannot avoid being linked with them, if only subliminally), any act or program enacted by "Pres. Obama" intended to extend justice to that population --"his 'people'", i.e., poor, disenfranchised, marginalized, people of color--of which he's REGARDED as a/THE paradigmatic representative (again, whether he is or not is irrelevant), will inevitably be regarded and portrayed by his GOPuke/Rightard critics' as 'pandering' and/or special pleading for "his" people, the charge of which contains the implicit criticism that such acts are 'unfair' as not meant for the benefit of "all the people." In order to be "President to ALL the People, he will be required to act towards "his people" in almost exactly the same ways they will have grown discouragingly accustomed under "white" authority.

No small irony: Obama's regime will NOT be able to advance the causes of social justice, economic equity, or civil rights, precisely because if he did pursue such an agenda, the flying monkeys would portray him as helping "his" people at the 'expense' of 'others' (i.e., themselves, hegemonic 'whites') who, under a regimen that was truly dedicated to social justice and equity, might be required to eschew or forfeit certain ("social") privileges they had enjoyed as a legacy of their former "superiority."

So, I do not look for much activity from an Obama regime in advancing the claims for fairness, equity, or social justice from the 'marginalized' communities of America. Indeed, I expect him to steer as clear of them as he can, for as long as he can, and to act reluctantly--if at all--if he's cornered.

(**: Parenti has been an always astute, severe, sometimes vitriolic, reliably controversial, but seldom inaccurate, cultural observer for at least 30 years. I first encountered him in journalism grad school in '84, but he already had achieved and admirable degree of notoriety by them, when he presented a paper at a conference I helped to organize.)

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