Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why I’m not voting for Barack Obama- Part Two

So, last week I wrote to you about Barack Obama, you know the man who is about to speak to like 40,000 people at INVESCO Field in Denver, Colorado. Yeah that guy. I’m not voting for him and he’s really upset with me. OK I made that up, he doesn’t know I exist. And he wouldn’t care if he did.

Anyway Today I am going to make the only, almost legitimate, case I see for voting for Mr. Obama and probably be called a reverse racist in the process.

But first, a word on Joe Biden:

Never mind.

Sorry I know you must find me cynical. I really am a very hopeful person. I’m just not optimistic. To paraphrase Cornell West, my people remain hopeful but have no logical reason to be optimistic. Or even more importantly to quote Mr. West on Mr. Obama: “He’s got folk who are talking to him, that warrant our distrust.” That’s Joe Biden in a nutshell.

Finally, the only almost legitimate reason I can find for voting for Barack Obama. Drum roll…

He is Black.

There it is. I said it. The only thing that makes me consider voting for Mr. Obama is that he is black. I know you think I’m discriminating. I’m basically making it OK for white people to vote for people because they are white. Or making it OK to tokenize people because they are brown. Except, I’m not. Power dynamics and slavery make the concept of reverse–racism non-existent. If you need me to explain, I can’t right now. It’s a long process of deconstructing the concept of racism, and explaining 400 years of colonialism. I don’t have time for it. So for now just agree or disagree with me, whichever you chose.

For the record, (Geraldine Ferraro – I’m talking to you) Black Americans as a voting bloc do not vote for someone just because they are black. If we did, Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun would have scared the crap out of John Kerry.

Ok so back to voting for Barack because he is black. Now first I have to preface this concept with a few ground rules. Voting for someone because they are black does not apply to all black candidates, i.e. Alan Keyes, Clarence Thomas, and Condoleezza Rice. Such a concept contains basic requirements. Like you can’t be black and run on a platform that says “I hate Black People.” Which, in a really over-generalized nutshell, is the basic mental attitude of the aforementioned African Americans. And you can’t be a crystal meth dealer or something like that. All things being equal between candidates... vote for the black person.

I understand why someone would think like this. This rationale is really simple: “someone is gonna be in the White House anyway, why not let it be a brother or a sister.” The reality is that at least once in his life, Barack Obama was probably called a nigger and as a result you could make an inference that he might do more to help those of us that are treated like niggers every single day. I’m perfectly fine with that argument except for one thing, history has shown us that it doesn’t work out.

Now we all think that Barack Obama’s candidacy is historic. This evening he became the first African American to be nominated for president by a major party. I think some of us forget that it wasn’t that long ago that the first black mayor of a major city was elected.

His name was Carl Stokes and he was elected mayor of Cleveland on November 7, 1967. On a smaller scale, his candidacy carried the same type of hope. Since his election there have been dozens of black mayors elected in major cities across the country. Most every major metropolis has had at least one African American mayor.

And guess what? Most every major city is segregated with Black Americans living in third world conditions. One in 15 black male adults is currently incarcerated compared to 1 in 106 white male adults. The vast majority of these incarcerations happen in large cities often under the purview of Black Mayors. In fact the presence of Black Mayors has had no impact on the growth of the black prison population.
For more info on that check out:

Now I’m not trying to imply that a mayor is as powerful as the president. I’m merely analyzing the success of Black Political Executives attempting to govern in a white dominated society. The long-term success has been limited at best. Furthermore sometimes really terrible things have happened during the tenure of Black Mayors.

Two of the most racially charged and disastrous events to take place in my lifetime were the LA Riots and the bombing of the MOVE organization in Philadelphia. The LA Riots also known as the LA Rebellion, happened as a direct result of the beating of Rodney King by several white LAPD Officers. The officers were caught on videotape and the horrific brutal attack was transmitted to every household in the United States. When the trial of the Police Officers was moved to Simi Valley, the officers were acquitted by a jury made up of ten white jurors and zero black jurors. The mayor of Los Angeles at the time was a black man named Tom Bradley. In fairness to Mr. Bradley, he was adamantly opposed to the brutality of the officers and fought to have them convicted. But the point remains that this event happened on his watch and he didn’t have the authority to prevent it or the power to implement justice afterwards. In response, many people in South Central L.A., lit the city on fire. Mayor Bradley appeared to have no ability to prevent this from happening.

On May 13, 1984, another horrendous event took place, the bombing of the MOVE Organization in their home on Osage Ave. in Philadelphia, PA. MOVE is a radical organization made up of mostly black members. In 1984 they came into conflict with the city of Philadelphia. For years MOVE had been the target of brutal attacks by the Philadelphia Police Department. During this particular conflict, the city attempted to execute warrants for the arrest of several MOVE members. MOVE refused to cooperate. The city’s response was to drop a bomb on the roof of the MOVE House. Subsequently officials decided to let the house burn instead of putting out the flames; even though the fire department had poured tens of thousands of gallons of water on the house earlier in the morning. Eventually the house became fully consumed with flames. When people tried to escape the house with their children they were shot at. Six adults and five children were killed. Sixty houses were burned to the ground leaving an entire city block in rubble. The Mayor at the time was none other than Wilson Goode, Philadelphia’s first Black Mayor. Unlike Mayor Bradley, Mayor Goode ordered this brutal and unnecessary attack.

So on second thought, we can’t vote for someone simply because they are black, tempting as it may be. And even if the candidate is well intentioned the system and its powerful interests are not. I’m not voting for Barack Obama. If I can’t trust the system he represents than I can’t trust him, even if he is Black.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why I’m not voting for Barack Obama.

First I have to admit that I’ve voted once in my life, and it was for me and two other community activists that were running for the school board. I was twenty-five years old at the time. That undertaking is a long story. I would say that although it was an interesting learning experience, it’s not something I would do again.

The reason I’ve made a conscious and informed decision not to vote is pretty basic, I don’t trust the political system. It’s that simple. But why?

Good question. Beats me I was just smoking weed one day and thought it sounded cool to say: “I don’t trust the system, man.” (I’m just kidding. I haven’t smoked weed this entire millennium. Seriously it’s true.) I don’t have time to go into detail about all of the reasons that I don’t trust the political system. After all the entire liberal world is waiting desperately to find out why I’m not voting for Barack. Well maybe not the entire liberal world, I’m sure one or two of them already know why I’m not voting for Mr. Obama. So amazingly I’ve written an entire paragraph without coming close to answering the question I just posed.

OK, I’ll give it a shot. Here goes. I will try and be concise:

…I believe that politicians represent a second tier of power, far less powerful than the first tier which is made up of gigantic corporations (Think Haliburton, Walmart, Microsoft, Exxon/Mobil) and the wealthy class of individuals that control them. Therefore, I believe we are given the illusion that we have a choice of selecting the people that control our fate. Basically I’m saying that rich people are more powerful than politicians and we don’t get to vote for them…

Now for the heck of it, assume what I just said is true.

Now that answers why I don’t trust the political system but it doesn’t really address why I’m not voting. After all why not vote anyway, I mean the system exists. Doesn’t it still help to get someone on the powerful second tier that more closely represents your own beliefs? Umm… NO, but I’ll answer that in a second.

Why am I not voting for Mr. Obama, specifically? Isn’t that like rooting against Jackie Robinson? (It just dawned on me that there actually might be some people who might not know who Jackie Robinson is. I want to say Google it but I’m not going to.) First of all Mr. Obama is more than a “Black Candidate”. He is against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan; he is against the death penalty, and wire tapping and he is in favor of reparations. Wait, actually only one of those is true. He is against the Iraq War. Lucky for him it just so happens to be a time when being against the Iraq War is politically convenient.

But all of that aside, let’s face it, the guy is pretty cool. I mean he’s kind of blown the whole Bill Clinton playing the sax on Jay Leno thing out of the water. He’s been on the cover of Rolling Stone twice. One of my favorite bands, TV on the Radio, had his picture on their MySpace site in place of their own. And the man can speak. I don’t mean that in the “he’s a very articulate black man” sort of way. More like in the historical gigantic figure sort of way. Hey truth be told, I’ve been caught mesmerized by his words once or twice. But after you analyze all those words and check out his positions as I noted earlier, he’s just not all that progressive. He’s pretty moderate. And that’s kind of why people like him. He doesn’t seem like some whacko lefty like Dennis Kucinich. This is what makes him electable.

And that brings me to why I’m not voting for him. He has to play the game to get elected. He needs to say things that don’t offend the top tier of power. I mean the man counts names like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase as major contributors. Those are not exactly grassroots organizations. It is a logical assumption that he will have to enact policies that support the wishes of some of these Mega Corporations.

Ultimately the reason that I am not supporting his candidacy is that we have to play the game to. To the tune of $500 million dollars (I can’t help but think of Dr. Evil when I say that). That is the probable number that Mr. Obama will raise for his election bid, when all is said and done. That’s five hundred million dollars that could be spent on grassroots organizing to address the root causes of oppression. The money could provide anti-racism trainings, Safehouses for GLBTQ youth, workshops on sustainable inner city living and a slew of other amazing possiblities. The truth is people working at the most grassroots level make wonderful things happen with pennies on the dollar and create more positive change than any president ever has. That’s my opinion.

To elect this man it will take a whole lot of money and also human energy. And all of this to appoint the “most powerful man in the world” that has no control over the “most powerful people in the world” and has no plan in anyway shape or form to attempt to alter this basic stratification. Which means ultimately no sustainable change can take place. That’s a whole lot of energy for no sustainable change. And a gigantic distraction from the important grassroots work that true progressives exercise everyday. So no it’s not worth it even if he appears to be closer to me on the political spectrum than say Strom Thurmond. Not at this price.

And I know what some peace activists are thinking, what about Iraq? Well it’s quite possible that our good buddy G.W. will negotiate troop withdrawal for 2011 before Obama even gets in. And you can’t say definitively that Mr. Obama will not invade Iran and you can say definitively that he will escalate the conflict in Afghanistan. That doesn’t seem like a significant assurance of peace to me.

I will say that I’m convinced that Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States. (Barring some Spitzer/Edwards like revelation) He’s just not gonna get there with my help. I’m sure he’s pissed…

Ironically this will be the first time that I will be voting in a presidential election and no, this doesn’t mean I’m voting for John McCain… But that is for another day.