Thursday, March 24, 2011

More Perfect Union: A Racial Solidarity Blueprint

Immediately following Barack Obama’s oath of office, liberal whites and others rushed to proclaim the dawn of a new day.  They called this dawn a Post-Racial America.  They used the ‘obvious’ fact that whites voted for a black man, that made him president.  Not so fast, most polls suggest that it was minority America coupled with white votes that secured his election.  The fact that Post-Racial enthusiast support a narrative, that does not include the whole picture, undermines the ideology behind being post-racial.  Whites casting votes for a black person (for any political office), by itself does not denote being Post-Racial.  There is still much work left to be done in clearing our American institutions and social spaces free of racism.  Once this is done, perhaps, we can proclaim to be a post-racial nation.  How can Barack Obama’s “More Perfect Union” speech be used as a blueprint for racial solidarity?

Barack Obama gave his “More Perfect Union” speech two years ago on March 18, 2008.  Presently, we are seeing an ever increasing critique of Obama (as President) on matters of leadership, his handling of the economy, international awareness, political ideology, and still, his origins.  Politicians are infamous in their use of wedge issues to drive communities apart.  Race in America has always been the card to play, especially during election cycles.  Racism is coded in phrases like “he is not like us.”  It is not by happenstance, that we are two years away from another Presidential election cycle.  The GOP, along with some African Americans continue to question Obama on grounds of loyalty (albeit to America or to the Black Community respectively).  The Birther Movement, the Tea Party, and the GOP, with their respective spokesman, all use tongue and check jabs at Obama’s racial origins to galvanize a specific (albeit dwindling) segment of American society that are still unwilling to accept change.  This segement will believe that race, sexual orientation, and religious afflilation are to blame for America's continual decline and thus, change for them must be resisted.

During Obama’s presidential campaign, he was triangulated by Party Politics, those drawn to his ideas of change, and America’s third rail of race.  Those who sought to tank his bid for president, tried to use charges that he was anti-Americanism.  This belief was rooted in the belief that he shared the militant Black views of his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  Obama navigated the rail of race through his belief in the “unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people.”  Barack Obama was alas forced to address the nation regarding these attacks.  In delivering his speech, Barack Obama seemed to understand the intersection of time, space, and symbolism.  All of which served to positively impact the delivery of his “More Perfect Union” speech.

Barack Obama delivered his speech in Philadelphia.  This is the city of “brotherly love.”  When he gave the speech he noted his proximity to Independence Hall.  In United States' historical terms, this is the birth place of our nation, where the Constitutional Convention took place.  It is where certain compromises took place to forge a union.  Also, it is where certain aspects would be left to future generation to solve.

The speech opens with a line from the United States Constitution, “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union” immediately grounded the conversation in the spirit of collective nation building.  The question is, however, what are we moving from in order to become perfected?  The Constitution is a document of compromises that is both “unfinished” and “it was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery.”  As it did for the patriots, it continues today, to be “a question that divided.”  Ideas left to “be perfected overtime” include; “the ideas of equal citizenship under the law,” and things “that promised its people liberty, and justice and union…”  For Black people in America, this would not be enough to “deliver slaves from bondage or provide men and women of every color and creed their full right and obligation as citizens of the United States.”  Later generation would have to “protest and struggle, on the streets and in courts, through civil war and civil disobedience” in order “to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.”

“The More Perfect Union” speech was presented amid comments made by his then pastor Jeremiah Wright, Jr.  Political pundants, began to believe that Obama shared his pastor’s views on condemnations of the United States.  Obama still was hampered by some within the Black community regarding question of his blackness, being black enough, and if he possessed a Black agenda.  This speech traces the American issue with race through the Constitutional Convention's shortcoming to the way his presidential campaign sought to frame race.  He also addresses himself in racial terms, how race hurts America in various arenas to charting a path for racial solidarity.

He begins his path within the African American community.  He suggests “embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past.”  African Americans must continue to demand justice across the American landscape.  This means demanding more within the community too, on matters of health care, schools, and jobs.  While it is a historic conservative value within the community but to not abandoned the idea of self-help.  As you self help believe that society can change.

Americans must realize that our nation is not “static.”  This nation has made progress.  In fact this “..county that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land…”  For this to have been possible and to sustain all other such possibilities, coalition building is essential (with whites, blacks, Latino, Asian, rich and poor, young and old).

He also charts a path for the white community.  This is a path that begins with acknowledging the legacy of discrimination and current incidents.  This means that they have to embrace that they are very real and not in the heads of the minority.  They should being to invest our schools, the communities, enforcing our civil rights laws, and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system.  This community must also provide “ladders of opportunity” that were not available to previous generations.  Investing in health, welfare, and education of black, brown, and white children will help American prosper, Obama inserts.

He concludes by reminding us that we can continue to talk about what divides us or use race as a spectacle or we can say “Not this time.”  We can at this moment and every moment demand change and work to rebuild what is crumbling, together, for the sake of “one America."  Barack Obama's blueprint for creating racial solidarity is a  path that begins with acknowledgement of racial pains, providing opportunity, investing in each other, and demanding consistent changes.This seems to be the way we ought to use Obama’s “More Perfect Union” speech.  As he concludes in his speech but it ought be the beginning of any racial conversation, “But it is where we start.  It is where our union grows stronger.  And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the 221 years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where perfection begins.”

1 comment:

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