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It Was Good That Blacks Expressed Frustration with Obama – But Don’t Call It “Direct Action”

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Dr. Daniels said the demonstration was intended as a ‘wake up call’ for Obama.”

It’s taken four years and five months, but only this week did we witness the first White House demonstration by activists from the more traditional sector of Black politics – that is, those who have stood by Obama from the moment his candidacy was deemed “viable” but are now, well…somewhat upset. Led by Dr. Ron Daniels and his Institute of the Black World, and joined by Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., several hundred African Americans gathered in Lafayette Park, in front of the executive mansion. In Dr. Daniels words, the demonstrators were “frustrated and angry at the President's reluctance to openly address what can only be considered a moral and political crisis in terms of depression levels of joblessness, horrific gun violence, fratricide and mass incarceration in urban inner-city Black communities.” In a commentary shortly before the event, Dr. Daniels wrote that, “For some, Obama is like a Black Nero fiddling while Black communities are imploding!”

I checked with journalists and activists in Washington to confirm that this was the first White House demonstration of Obama’s presidency by Blacks who had previously supported him. However, other Blacks have marched to the White House to protest and denounce The First Black President’s domestic and foreign policies. That distinction goes to the Black Is Back Coalition, which marched on the White House twice – the first time in November of 2009, and then again the next year. The Black Is Back Coalition predicted, early on, that Obama would be a servant of the rich and the Pentagon – and they were right. Black Is Back also said that knee-jerk, reflexive Black support for Obama would only encourage and legitimize his inherently anti-Black policies.

The demonstration was mislabeled.”

Monday’s demonstration comes two election seasons late – although late is better than never.

The demonstration was also mislabeled as a Day of Direct Action. Dr. Daniels and Rev. Jackson know full well that “direct action” has historically consisted of tactics of resistance such as sit-ins, strikes, blockades of traffic, property takeovers, and filling up jails. In Dr. Martin Luther King’s words:

"Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

Dr. Daniels and Rev. Jackson don’t even pretend that they’re attempting to create a crisis that the Obama administration must confront. Daniel’s, himself, says the demonstration was intended as a “wake up call” for Obama – which is something quite different than a crisis purposely brought about by direct action. Plus, direct action is always accompanied by demands – not requests and suggestions, but demands – with the clear understanding that rejection of those demands will bring consequences that will heighten the state of crisis. None of that occurred on Monday.

With Obama now a lame duck, many in the Black political class will seek to rewrite the histories of their own behavior during this shameful period when Black folks rolled over en mass for a corporate shill with a brown face. There will be lots of play-acting and revisionism, along with, hopefully, some actual resistance. Let’s be clear about the difference between direct action and political theater.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20130619_gf_WHdemo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:56am EDT