A few people have sent me this video of Cornell West and Julianne Malveaux discussing Barack Obama’s historic acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.
In this interview with Tavis Smiley, the duo express disappointment, felling Obama dismissed the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by not “saying his name.” But their cries are really about Obama not wrapping himself in the Kente cloth of “The Movement.” But their logic is flawed. Obama has never presented himself as part of the Movement. He’s merely the byproduct of it. He never was a Civil Rights Activist, unlike Jesse Jackson, Obama is pure politician. He has some street cred as a community organizer, but his business, by and large, has been the business of any politician who’s aspired for higher office.
This almost returns us to the territory of the “is he black enough” question. It’s true that black people are often enamored with or drawn to political figures who make their mettle by getting into verbal fist fights with the establishment. They want to hear acknowledgment for those who cleared the path Obama has glided down. But when the prospects of becoming the “first black president” still conjures up images of fear in some, (Papa Snob often references Negrophobic nightmares of Michelle and Barack hosting the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for Christmas dinner at the White House, causing some white people to faint away.), Obama can’t afford to appear like the ones who came before him. He has to be different.
As much as I’d love to see him kicking ass and taking names in the name of “The Movement,” I understand today’s political realities. West and Malveaux shouldn’t hold their breath waiting on Obama to talk about “The Movement.” That talk is likely to never come. He cares, obviously, about minority issues, but to win this election, he can’t play on his minority status. He will always be a man bound in his efforts to ascend to the highest office in the land — just like any other candidate.
What do you think of the video?