LIVING FOR CHANGE
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Dec 19, 2009
On Saturday, December 5, the New York Times published “Black In The Age Of Obama,” an Op-Ed piece by African American visual journalist Charles M. Blow.
Until then, I hadn’t paid much attention to Blow’s articles which have been appearing every Saturday at the top center of the Op-Ed page. But I hope this one will be widely read and discussed because it exposes the dilemma facing the people of this country and the world since Barack Obama became U.S. President.
Blow begins with these familiar words from Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
He continues: “Blacks are living a tale of two Americas – one of the ascension of the first black president with the cultural capital that accrues; the other of a collapsing quality of life and amplified racial tensions, while supporting a president who is loath to even acknowledge their pain, let alone commiserate in it.”
How do we struggle with an African American president who bails out Wall St. instead of Main St., rejects Medicare for All and instead promotes health care reform that further enriches the insurance industry, and is waging two illegitimate wars that have killed and maimed tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen and women and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani civilians?
Do we handle him with kid gloves because we campaigned or voted for him or because of this nation’s long history of racism? Or do we struggle with him as seriously as we would with a Euro, Latino, Asian or Arab American president?
A black Commander in Chief who is a puppet of the Pentagon is just as guilty as LBJ of killing countless kids every day.
This is not the first time that we have faced this dilemma. One of the reasons our country is in its present mess is that ever since the urban rebellions of the 1960s warned the power structure that white politicians could no longer maintain law and order, blacks and progressive Americans have not struggled seriously enough against the thousands of black politicians elected to city, state and national offices.
Obama’s presidency challenges us to face the contradiction that the more middle and upper class blacks are integrated into the system and the higher the level at which this integration takes place, the more they are integrated into its anti-human values and the more our society deteriorates.
This contradiction was always implicit in the centuries-long just struggle by blacks for equal rights. It has become more challenging since Barack Obama took over the Oval Office.
From the founding of our country the system that blacks have been struggling to integrate into has been rotten at its core because it enslaved blacks and exterminated Native Americans for the sake of rapid economic growth. That’s why James Baldwin called it a “burning house” in The Fire Next Time. He knew, as many of us did in the 60s, that the more blacks gained access to and started living in this burning house, the more damaged they/we ourselves would become.
Therefore, as our struggles have forced the power structure to grant more access to blacks, it has become increasingly urgent that we develop an alternative to both Integration and Separation.
In the 19th century Frederick Douglass insisted that “Without struggle there is no progress.” In the 21st century we must recognize that new and rapidly changing realties demand new forms of struggle.
In Detroit in the1980s we had to begin creating new “rebuilding from the ground up” politics when we opposed the proposal of Detroit’s first black mayor to create a casino industry to provide the jobs no longer being provided by the auto industry.
That is why we have been able to mid-wife Detroit’s becoming a City of Hope. That is why the 2nd USSF is bringing 15-20,000 people here in June 2010.