David Wall Rice: Is Obama the end of black politics? This is a dumb question...

Friday, August 08, 2008 - 12:00 AM

It is pedestrian in scope, takes for granted the complexity of black people, our multiple political agendas and is oh-so-typical of mainstream, pop thinking — you know, that almost analysis that substitutes rich reporting and thought for simplicity and personality profiles that are supposed to be deep.

It’s kind of like suggesting you have insight into the black socio-cultural machine because you understand the urban grit of the über hip-pop group Black Eyed Peas.

Certainly, Obama represents a type of black politics (and so do those with whom he frequently associates). It's the type with Ivy League politicos that talk in broad strokes, stress oneness and are comfortable for the majority to snuggle up to and call buddy. Though it's an important strand of the black political corpus, it does not singularly represent us. Nor should it.

Black politics can be the politics of the general while maintaining specifics of the black experience. The multiplicity is needed because of who — how — black people are.

Patrick, Obama, Nutter, Booker. All of these men represent The Establishment. And this is good.

Still, as long as The Establishment is responsible for oppression and marginalization, there are going to be black politics that don’t feel as warm and fuzzy. Politics that will push against. The likes of Delman L. Coates of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church and his "Enough Is Enough" campaign in Maryland; Kevin Powell, who is running for Congress out of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Donna Frisby-Greenwood, a Philadelphia-based youth activist and director of the city’s Office of College and Career Awareness.

These voices are black politics — establishment and beyond. And though there is evidence of the oft-noted generational shift within it, as long as there is the constancy of racism and the stinging legacy of slavery, black politics will be around. The old-school kind.

So, reacquaint yourself with the likes of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Randall Robinson, Ron Dellums, Maxine Waters — and whoever else you might wish Obama would replace — so you don’t get spooked when "change" comes and it's not the kind you expected.

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Comments [1]

Krystal James

Excellent! You really put the article in perspective. After taking an hour to read that long thing, my overwhelming feeling about the article was...so what? Kind of how I felt at the end of CNN's shallow, offensive, Black In America pieces last week. The nerve. It is a prime example of how the media can create something out of nothing. And, after they raise a non-existent point, they aren't even talented enough to give it full treatment. There are have always been different layers, if you will, of black politicians. And, for that matter, any political strand. There are tree shakers and apple gathers, and it takes both to get a bite at that apple.

Aug. 13 2008 11:58 AM

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