by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball
Just as much of the southern "civil rights" movement collapsed after passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Black progressive politics all but evaporated with the election of Barack Obama. Now, as Democrats face disaster in midterm elections, the insane idea circulates that Obama has "only failed in delivering our utopia because he has been hampered by Republicans," conveniently forgetting Obama's own services to the corporate agenda.
And We Are Still Not Yet Saved
by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball
"The president has surrounded himself with so many reactionaries and centrists that it can hardly still be said to be a fight between him and someone else."
"In 2008 we changed the guard. This year we must guard the change." This, the Democratic Party-sponsored "call-to-arms" by civil rights veteran Reverend Joseph Lowery, is supposed to encourage young Black people back to the polls next month. To protect the sanctity of that fight for the vote young people must blah, blah, blah. This is part of the DNC's $3 million scramble for Black votes which includes these kinds of public service announcements, and outreach to Black bloggers, and is also what continues to highlight several severe problems for Black people. The ideas that Obama is a changing of the guard or that the struggle for the right to vote was simply a struggle for the right to vote or that new media technology represent some revolutionary change in the way we disseminate information around which we then organize are all simply absurd.
The message taken from Reverend Lowery is one echoed a lot recently by defenders of the president. It is an idea that he has only failed in delivering our utopia because he has been hampered by Republicans. Given a complete pass are the conservative Democrats and the president himself who has surrounded himself with so many reactionaries and centrists that it can hardly still be said to be a fight between him and someone else. How someone who demonstrates the kind of continuity of governance as has Obama is still called a "changing of the guard" is testimony to the power of propaganda. But the other attendant myths are equally powerful and have a longer track record. The myth of the vote itself being the sole or primary focus of the civil rights movement denies the subsequent struggles of Black Liberation, for which too many remain imprisoned by the way, as well as, the broader human rights movement signified by the kinds of grassroots movement histories so often omitted from the popular record.
"Black bloggers are being hired, bribed, or cajoled into cheerleading for a president rather than adequately informing their audiences."
For one instance is the work of Debbie Louis, And We Are Not Yet Saved: A History of the Movement as People, in which she recounts the absolute disillusionment among actual grassroots laborers within the Civil Rights Movement that accompanied the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. For them the issue was never the vote in and of itself. The vote was a means to an end we have subsequently been conditioned to ignore. Louis describes the issue of voting as "unquestioningly righteous" and, therefore, easy to support. But issues of genuine equality, abolition of poverty and White terrorism had become "too confusing and disturbing to follow." For "most northern supporters" she writes, "the Voting Rights Act represented a welcomed solution to their dilemma." Below the Mason-Dixon line, which Malcolm X still remains correct in calling the Canadian border, Louis explains that "With the Voting Rights Act, the southern movement dissolved." As the movement dissolved in its place arose the myth that the struggle was for the right to vote as opposed to striving for the vote as a means to achieve power. Instead, victories were claimed, funding dried up, people went home and little changed. Vietnam became the focus, poverty and White terror remained largely unchecked.
And as for this nonsense about new media technology and the positive value of social media, we need to ask what good are more media if they too are forcibly cowed to elite financing? Lowery's PSA is running as part of a $3 million funding blitz to Black media. To my knowledge Black Agenda Report has received none of this and has not been invited to White House blogging summits for Black "journalists." No, that is reserved for our political opposites some of whom have as their masthead that they are the voice of the "black bourgeoisie." So just as was the case with the Civil Rights Movement, we of the Black Left have to ask, for whom is all this done? In 2008 Obama's campaign ignored the Black press and denied it millions in ad revenue. In 2010 Black bloggers are being targeted with the same old stale and empty rhetoric of voting for change and protecting the change we've achieved. They are being hired, bribed, or cajoled into cheerleading for a president rather than adequately informing their audiences. They once did it entirely for free and now are being offered crumbs to do the same. How can it then be said that new media advance our ability to understand our reality and then organize it out of existence?
And yet, we are still not saved.