Young vs. Old: The Great Barack Obama Debate

Jena 6 protesters in Washington, D.C. in 2007 and Civil Rights protesters in 1960s Seattle, Wash.

I found this comment lurking in the latest Bossip post (“JFK 2.0???“) on Obama, highlighting the Kennedy endorsement. It’s by someone going by the moniker “Crazy Black Lady.”

“Motor Mouth” Maxine Waters just (sic) endored billary clinton for president. These niggers need to get out the way and let us have our moment.

Now I respect people’s opinions but I see comments like these popping up on black topical blogs all the time, sidestepping the fact that the whole point of the Civil Rights Movement was to give people opportunities and choices. I wish Waters had backed Obama, but I respect her choice. Plus, I feel like these comments contradict the message Obama is trying to send. After all, the same people who are backing Hillary Clinton, like former NYC Mayor David Dinkins and Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York, will all, most assuredly, back Obama if he gets the nomination.

Arguing that black people should solely support Obama based on traditional black fidelity is just as ridiculous as whites backing various Republican nominees based solely on religion or whiteness. I want people to be for Obama because of his credentials, background and policy ideas along with the pride many feel about Obama being a symbol of black achievement and potential.

Also, brandishing African Americans who have fought tirelessly for the rights and concerns of African Americans as “sell-outs” is beyond ridiculous. These people aren’t Alan Keyes, JC Watts or Armstrong Williams. Although I also don’t feel like we should stamp scarlet letters on the chests of Black Republicans for going against type. Even some of the sell-out claims levied against them are unwarranted and I consider their actions and views far more dangerous than Andrew Young’s shameless defense of the Clintons.

I also think there is a degree of naivety with some young African Americans on the level of racial progress. Many were outraged and sympathetic to the plight of the Jena 6, but are now arguing that the racial conflicts that have existed since America’s inception are no longer relevant; that older blacks are still waging wars of the past. But how can racial rifts be healed when African American men make up half of the prison population when blacks are only 12 percent of the country? How can things be healed when blacks are still disenfranchised across the south, when most blacks attend inferior schools and run higher poverty rates than whites? The racial divide is deep and is felt throughout society. One can argue that the methodology of many Civil Rights Era fighters is out-of-date and inadequate (which in a lot of ways, it is), but one can’t gloss over the serious problems within the black community and the serious issues many whites still have regarding black people.

Once again, the Jena 6, are a good example of this. Young African Americans banded together and used social networking groups on the internet and radio personalities to get the message out and organize one of the largest protest marches in recent history. There’s no denial of that. When the mainstream media peppered long time activists Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton on how the protest was organized both were forthright in pointing out they largely had little to do with it and attributed the success to others. The young were able to use the media of today to update and modernize Civil Rights protests. This was a wonderful step in the right direction. But I feel like both the young and old need each other to get things done. I just don’t believe in bashing people who have fought and sacrificed on our behalf. Frustration and anger is OK and criticism is warranted and needed, but I’d rather see younger blacks try to lobby their elders to Barack Obama’s campaign than spit invective in their faces for playing it safe with Hillary Clinton.

It’s like cursing out your own grandmother because she doesn’t like your dreadlocks. Your grandmother may be woefully out of touch but she’s still your grandmother. Politely disagree with her, keep your dreds and allow love to overcome a generational divide.

I don’t know. Am I wrong because I don’t want to throw my grandparents under the bus? These people may be nuts but like it our not, they’re our nuts.

6 thoughts on “Young vs. Old: The Great Barack Obama Debate

  1. BS-I’m learning more and more that you are rarely wrong (maybe I feel that way because I agree with you so often). So, the simple answer to your question is no. You’re not wrong.ummm….But…..Yes, but. Some of our grandparents should indeed be thrown under the bus. (Or maybe gently placed there). Not because they are old and out of touch. Quite the contrary. (What we need more than anything these days are old and out of touch folks to temper the stupidity of the young and too touchy). No, some of our aging leaders should be thrown under the bus because they are acting like anything but the wise old stewards of an important, but bygone, era. The problem isn’t that Waters and folks like her are supporting Billary. The problem is why. Now, I don’t claim to have insider knowledge as to Waters’ thought process — who could (or would) claim that?But, it has likely crossed the minds of a few that some black leaders are feigning skepticism of the junior Senator from Illinois for selfish reasons.What, you might ask, is wrong with that? After all, politics is essentially about scarcity, that is, allocating too few resources among too many folks, right? Well, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it: if somebody is struttin’ around gleefully wearing the crown of king, queen, or at least a royal relation of black America, then that person should have eschewed a politics of personal-gain long ago. Sadly, we know that this is not the case for many of our fearful leaders. Enter the great (light-skinned) black hope.Obama will bring with him a new era of leadership, not just in America, but also in black America. If Sharpton gets on CNN and says something to which President Obama disagrees, Sharpton loses. Obama will be the rightful heir, not of JFK, but of MLK. Obama speaks for Negroes, not Sharpton. The same goes for Jackson, Waters, Lewis, and any number of Chicago, Detroit, and New York so and sos.This is terrifying for that lot because Obama is VERY unlikely to talk about racism being the cause of one thing or another. And how would you like it if somebody took your bread and butter and placed it swiftly and neatly under the nearest city bus.You wouldn’t like it one bit. Therefore, Obama must be stopped. Not at all costs mind you. Must be savvier than that. He must be saddled with doubt is all. And really that should be enough.Except it’s looking more and more like it might not be. He might win. Giving us our second black president, but our first Negro one.And if one of the things standing in the way is that dear ol’ granny doesn’t want to take her lumps then I say too bad — how ’bout a ride to the bus stop?

  2. I think the main reason why older blacks and many blacks in politics are supporting the Clintons for largely pragmatic reasons.The Clintons are well connected in politics. They know everyone. Everyone knows them. As a senator from New York and an ex-president team they have a lot of cache. So basically, Waters and her ilk are making a strategic move. Politics, especially Washington, is about who you know and who has the ability to call in favors and get black congressional districts what they need in the form of legislation and earmarks.Obama is a newbie to the senate and is not as connected as the Clintons.BUT, Obama is getting the endorsement of many establishment Democrats and that will help counter the claim that Obama doesn’t have the cache, the leverage to twist arms and deliver on promises.Politics is a game of who knows who and who can vouch for who. For these pragmatist black Democrats they are sticking with the couple who have delivered legislation and earmarks that helped their districts and states. That’s where that loyalty comes from.It’s easy for someone with as much clout as Teddy Kennedy to break away and bank on Obama, he doesn’t need anyone for anything. He can operate above the fray in D.C., but most black legislators cannot. They have to form strategic alliances to counter the road blocks to meeting their needs.So that’s why, I think, Waters, Rangel and a lot of other legislators have backed Clinton. They are playing a numbers game that has been played by countless politicians before — Betting on the familiar rather than the unproven and unknown.So basically, as you said, they are doing this for selfish reasons.But I don’t think these endorsements are cast in stone. I believe all of them will back and fight hard for Obama if he is the nominee. The Democratic party will not be successful in the fall without the black vote to put them over the top in crucial bellwether states like my own Missouri.As for the throwing grandparents under the bus thing, I think we need to negotiate a smooth transition of power. I think Obama, at some point, will have to deal with the Congressional Black Caucus and outdated institutions like the NAACP (God, I could write a book about how useless they’ve become) and develop the same alliance the Clintons pressed for nearly 16 years ago.The Dems can’t get things done without these people. Both sides need each other to get legislation past and form alliances. So basically I’m saying, you can’t throw all of them under the bus because you might need their help at some point to get things done. Obama’s not going to be able to clean house in Washington without help from the base. And that base is full of Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangels.Oh, and a lot of Grandmothers have been converted to the Obama camp by getting those grannies out of the house to hear him speak live in person, or by turning their TV sets to one of his speeches. Don’t give up on granny! She can be converted.Unless she’s Andy Young. If Barack ever gets his endorsement he should just politely say, “Um, thanks. But how about you never say anything about me and never speak on my behalf, and basically support me by saying ‘no comment’ a lot?”

  3. Good post as usual. I second your concerns regarding language. I am particularly disturbed by the combination of hatred and ignorance I find in extended comment sections where the invective is directed toward Barack. All I can conclude is that he has moved into the realm of celebrity and messianic vibes that spell ongoing danger. He was wise to get protection early (last May). We need him but we also need to advocate for serious protection for folk who champion change in this country.Since I am 71 and seriously for Barack, do I qualify as young? 🙂

  4. I feel you on this one. As a person who was raised by my grandmother, her siblings and lived among my great gran, it’s painful to hear this.I agree that we need to work together and throwing folks under the bus is no good at all. I still love Miss Maya nothing will change that. I do question her endorsement as well as Maxine Waters and any other black person given the race baiting tactics of the Clintons. However, I will not call these folks out of their names and disrespect them.

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