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MUHAMMAD: President Obama and the March

8/28/2013, 3 p.m.
Askia Muhammad

Five years ago in Denver – Aug. 28, 2008 – then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination to be president of the United States. That date was the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington, but the young aspirant to the presidency did not mention the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

This year, as president an older, and a much more chastened Barack Obama was the keynote speaker on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the March, speaking from the spot where Dr. King delivered his now immortal “I Have a Dream” soliloquy. What changed in five years?

Well, for one thing this president never has to run for public office again. He has only his “legacy” about which to be concerned. So it is in the interest of this public figure who may have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize before he earned it, it is in his interest to begin to burnish his reputation which has been tarnished by his blood-thirsty war mongering habits, habits which are contrary to Dr. King’s every moral fiber.

But granting the great symbolic victory – a true African American – rising on the merits of his character to become president and then speaking on the Golden Anniversary of Dr. King’s iconic speech, what’s not to be glad, even giddy about?

Well for one thing, like Dr. King, President Obama thinks he knows them, but neither he nor Dr. King truly understands/understood White people.

Dr. King thought White people in this country could be won over by logic and moral suasion, that they would do “the right thing” because it is right. President Obama thinks his political adversaries can similarly be won over, and that at the end of the day they will do what’s in the best interest of the country, rather than scheming to cause the entire country to crumble just so this Black man who happens to be president will not get credit for turning the country around.

It’s better to “be dead than red,” this country’s Cold War xenophobes used to say 50 years ago about the Communist “threat” to overthrow the United States. Today, President Obama – in their view – is a Black (you can probably think of another, more caustic word to go here), socialist (the next thing to a Communist), Muslim (which means he’s nothing more than a terrorist).

What the president doesn’t understand about this new breed of nihilistic White politicians is that their object is to render the government incapable of protecting its citizens. I am clear about this, because of what I learned from Craig Wilson a teacher at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. I met him at the Democratic Convention in Denver which nominated President Obama on Aug. 28, 2008.

Until 1968 when Republican Richard Nixon took power utilizing his “Southern Strategy,” Christian, segregationist, White Democrats – so-called “Dixiecrats” – ruled the South telling White voters six “truths”: 1. The federal government’s a threat; 2. Federal courts don’t understand the Constitution; 3. Taxes are bad; 4. Unions need to be eliminated; 5. You have a lousy hospital; 6. But at least you’re White. Now, the Republicans have adopted that philosophy, and that way of thinking explains why dirt poor White voters, keep voting against their own interests in order to return these scoundrels to office, again and again. They’re keeping Black folks in their “place.”

So today, the arch-conservative mantra which has caused this country to lurch even farther to the right is also simple: 1.The federal government’s the enemy; 2. Taxes are bad; 3. The federal courts don’t understand the Constitution; 4. Unions are bad; 5. You may have no health insurance; 6. But at least you’re an American. And oh, did I mention that you’re White? That Black people must be stopped from “taking over?”

So, good luck President Obama with that “we’re-all-in-the-same-boat” reasoning. Even though now is the time when White Americans need everyone on the boat to either grab a bucket and bail out some of the water which threatens to sink the boat, or to grab an oar and help row to safety, White folks in the form of the right-wing Republicans who are ruling the roost with their obstructionist ways have made it plain they don’t want Black folks or Latinos to have equal status with them, even if it means the boat sinks.

I wish this Dream stuff was a nightmare and that I would wake up soon.