Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR columnist Jared Ball
A stroll through Al Sharpton's recent MLK-themed demonstration, in Washington, DC, was anything but a walk down memory lane. Gone were the principled voices of yesterday. "None were there to challenge Obama, whose presidency has so far been an absolute reversal of any of King's most pronounced political concerns; an end to poverty, war and capitalism as an unchecked economic system."
 
Reclaiming the Dream and Brand Obama
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR columnist Jared Ball
"Dr. King's dream has by now become twisted, distorted and distilled through brand Obama."
On my way back last week from a visit with family and friends in Panama a cab driver pulled along side me at the airport.  He called out to me as an American.  Once he had my attention he slid his finger across his throat and said, "America es cancelado."  America is cancelled.  I smiled as he drove off.  My wife was furious.  For her it was more personal, how dare someone insult her husband and claim to speak for all her people.  For me it was first a lesson not to ever again so carelessly travel with my old navy sea bag, no matter how practical that thing is, and more importantly that his anger was ultimately righteous.  It was a nice sign that even under Brand Obama people's sense of sanity is still there.  And it was a sign I did not see enough of back here at this weekend's Washington, D.C. march to "Reclaim the Dream."
The Panamanian cabbie, at least in my mind, was responding to a centuries old relationship of U.S. dominance which meant that up to even just ten years ago no Panamanian could enter a region of their own land renamed the "Canal Zone."  Certainly everyone there remembers the invasion of 1989 and the death of the land-reformist president Omar Torrijos, who himself once said that he "did not want to go into history" but that he only wanted to "go into the Canal Zone."  But here, and at this rally, not many seemed to remember the King they claimed to reclaim nor the policies and behavior of the current president whose own reclamation they openly also marched. From the pulpit to the shop floor all were on hand to say somehow that the policies to which Obama is committed are precisely those for which Martin Luther King lived, fought and was killed.
Dr. King's dream, which he himself later abandoned as a "nightmare," has by now become twisted, distorted and distilled through brand Obama.  This is by acknowledged design, as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has said himself.  A sentiment repeated againthis week when Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett said that Michelle Obama would not be available to work on the issue of rape in the Congo because it is, "not her brand."  No.  Brand Obama cannot appear concerned for anyone with whom he is so often immediately identified.  No Black people, no Africans and nothing approaching real progressivism.
"No one I spoke with at the rally said they were there to challenge Obama to practice the politics of Dr. King."
So while King left 1963 only to increase his calls for and action toward an end to militarization, capitalism and White supremacy Obama's brand is able to assume this political trajectory while actually worsening each of these "evil triplets" as King called them. Brand Obama has, in the words of one commentator, confused the fact that when honestly polled his "positions are inversely proportional to his popularity."  And this is especially so in Black America.  His positions on health care, war, poverty, racism, incarceration and reparations all run counter to why some said they rallied this weekend and yet the brand convinces so many of the opposite.  From preachers to union workers to students no one I spoke with at the rally said they were there to challenge Obama to practice the politics of Dr. King.  None were there to challenge Obama whose presidency has so far been an absolute reversal of any of King's most pronounced political concerns; an end to poverty, war and capitalism as an unchecked economic system.  All were there to protect Obama against the Tea Party or to support some amorphous and undefined concept of "justice."  In fact, when asked to define her use of the term "progress" one participant told me that poverty in 2010 is a "luxury" compared to 1963.
This march to "reclaim the dream" fell to the powerful brand of Obama.  It was a regressive step back away from the righteous critique of the original March on Washington offered by Malcolm X.  It was a regressive step back away from the progressive radicalism adopted by King post-1963 including his own belated arrival to an old struggle to move the fight beyond a sole focus on domestic civil rights and on to an international struggle for human rights.
When my comrade said that, "Dr. and Mrs. King would not have been welcome at either rally" this weekend she hit that proverbial nail on the head.  Their focus on poverty, human rights and peace make them both pariahs in either camp, because the Black liberal is ultimately no better than a White reactionary.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Jared Ball.  For more visit BlackAgendaReport.com.
Jared Ball can be reached via email at: jared.ball@morgan.edu.

Direct download: 20100902_jb_DCMarch.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:37pm EST