Friday, January 23, 2009

Barack Obama and Shirley Chisholm


On the evening of November 5th in Brooklyn, you would have thought
that Juneteenth and
the Fourth of July had occurred. Cars were
bars were full, White Folks, Black Folks and Asian folks
were happy that their
candidate won. D-boys that I had never seen
on my block, who hustle
behind closed doors had their big red cups
out. They were
elated that a Black president had been elected.

I felt a little bit different, as I spent the evening reading Paula Giddings
phenomenal book "When and Where I Enter."

Tracey Rose told me that, in Bed-Stuy a young Black man told her that he
that he could do anything. She also mentioned how older Black
women were reaching out to her
and simply being more expressive
and emotionally available.
I didn't think of anything of it at the time
because I connect with
people all the time when I am out and about.
I make it a point to.

However, when I thought of others, instead of focusing on myself,
I realized how important the collective mood can be when we are
focusing on the positive or for that matter, on the negative.

I have been reluctant to write about Obama's election largely because
I haven't wanted to steal anyone's joy

However I realize that, as a writer and thinker, I am not doing anyone
any good but censoring myself.

The point that I am trying to get at is that I am skeptical about
"The Change"
and I am more concerned about "The Power."
When I mention this to friends and colleagues, the responses range
from disagreement, to cynicism, to understanding.

I get the feeling that people, some middle class Black folks that I know
are more interested in doing some good, you know Wu Tang is for
the kids
and all, but ultimatly they want to get closer to "The Power"

I am not so concerned with President Obama's ability to govern, as I think
he will be as clear thinking leader
of the free world in as much as we have
had previous leaders of the free world.

My issue is with our unwillingness to ask the hard questions of ourselves,
about the Economy, about Healthcare, about Education and how we
treat every day human beings based on "The Power" and "The Change."

I mean, look at the consumption spurred by the campaign. We really
appear to be a people who think that we can buy our way to social justice. I wonder
if the discipline that is required to be the change and to analyze "The Power"
is within us. The next time you read the news paper and you see an article
on the economy, ask yourself whose interests are being served by
whatever topic is being discussed, ask yourself why its being discussed
at all. This is the way that I go about trying to analyze "The Power."

Nationalizing Citibank? Bernie Maddoff is on house arrest?

I sometimes get the sense that in our desire to get rich or die trying we
are willing to overlook the way in which power works in our society

because of our sincerest hope that we may one day benefit from it.

Power is the ability to right a wrong and make yourself whole
after you have suffered a setback. Power is the ability to find another job
after you have been laid off. Power is the ability appeal and win a
dismissal from your University, Power is the ability to make the same
amount of money that your colleague of a different gender or race
earns for the same job, Power is the ability to tell the police that
they WILL NOT search you on your own block.
Power is the ability
for a Black mother to keep her son from
being put in Special Ed in the
first grade.

On November 5th, as I sat reading "When and Where I Enter", I was
reminded of several things, one was the history of the law
as it pertains to human beings and the other Shirly Chisholm's campaign

and the Black male response to her campaign.

In 1972,
Chisholm became the first major-party black candidate for President
of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic
presidential nomination.

"When and Where I Enter" sets forth the argument that the first
African Americans who arrived here were indentured servants,
not chattel slaves. Meaning that that their enslavement was NOT
based on their race. It was purely based on labor needs.

It wasn't until the slave owners and the law makers decided that
they needed to make as much as possible from the labor of Black
and white indentured servants that that race based

slavery arose. The laws changed to reflect this need. Think
about it, in a Patriarchal society, the identity of the child
is tied to his or her father. This is why we take on the fathers
last name, for heir reasons. The law changed so that the mothers
status dictacted the status of the child. An Enslaved mother and a Free
or Enslave father created an enslaved child. This is the way that
the law changed to reflect the new needs.

White women were sold into slavery as well for having sexual
relations, or having children with Black men. It's deep.

With regard to Chisholm, Black male politicians responded
to her decision to run for for president with cynicism and benign
hatred. Giddings writes,

Chisolm's candidacy would suffer even more at the hands of
Black leaders, who by the early seventies were almost exclusively
men. Black politicos explored several options in 1972. On was to run
favorite sons in several states; another was to throw support behind
McGovern; and a third to support a single Black candidate. None, however,
it seemed to include Shirley Chisholm. She became vividly aware of this
after hearing the results of a Black strategy meeting that took place
outside of Chicago which included Julian Bond, Imamu Amiri Baraka,
Percy Sutton, Richard Hatcher, Jesse Jackson, Roy Innis, Willie Brown,
Basil Patterson and Clarence Mitchell III.

What was really bothering the Black males at the meeting was...more directly
hinted at by a Washington Post reporter (anonymously): "In this first serious
effort of Blacks for high politcal office, it would be better if it were a man."

"From the beginning....her campaign was plagued- by charges that
she was captive of the women's movement. In 1972 association with an
organization like NOW was enough to dampen the kind of Black grass
roots enthusiasm needed to transcend the other obstacles in her campaign."

In Black Macho and the Myth of the Super Woman, Michelle Wallace
goes on to describe the ways in which Black male politicians viewed
Shirley Chisolms presidential candidacy in 1972. Wallace writes,
Around the time that Shirley Chisholm was running for President in 1972,
Redd Foxx....made a joke about her. He said that he would prefer Raquel
Welch to Shirley Chisholm any day. The joke was widely publicized in the
Black community, and thought quite funny. There was something about
it that made black men pay attention to it and savor it.

Every since then it really baffled me to hear black men say that
black women had no time for feminism because being black came first.
For them, when it came to Shirley Chisholm, being black no longer came first
at all. It turned out what they really meant all along was that the black man
came before the black woman. And not only did he come before her, he came before her to her own detriment. The proof is that, as Shirley Chisholm
announced her intention to run, black men pulled out their big guns and aimed
them at her. They made every attempt to humiliate her, not only as a politcal
being but also as a sexual being.
That Aunt Ester and Chisholm have a resemblance isn't
lost on me. The fact that Red Foxx both insulted
Aunt Ester on the regular and made a joke about Chisholm as
well isn't lost on me either.

That being said, given the way Black male politicians responded

to Chisholm, and the history of how the laws have been used to structure
society to ensure that labor needs have been met and to keep those who have
The Power with The Power, I wasn't surprised by the passage of Prop 8.

If a country
can simultaneously enslave millions of African people, while
it stages a fight against
it's own oppression (ie. The American Revolution),
then why was it so inconceivable that Californians could vote against gay
marriage and for a Black president?

The Change or The Power?
Any Thoughts?


the prisoner's wife said...

interesting. before i got to the end of this, my head was already on women have got to choose. even during the Dem campaign of 08, we were EXPECTED to ride for Obama not because of his world view, but because we were supposed to fall in line w/ our race. we couldn't entertain thoughts of Hill (or whomever), lest our blackness come into question. but i digress...

the civil rights/black power movements were both revolutionary and oppressive to black women. we were expected to show solidarity in "traditional" (marginal) ways. i'm so glad there were women like Chisholm that refused to accept the easy route. i'm just sadden that we are still expected to fall in line, and at times, to our own detriment.

the prisoner's wife said...

oh and to answer your question...The Change or the Power.

i don't think people REALLY want Change. change would be too difficult, require too many self-sacrifices. the Power on the other hand, allows you to make the decisions and tell OTHERS will sacrifices they must make to fit your agenda.

Model Minority said...

I wrote a response to this.

Blogger ate it.


Power on the other hand, allows you to make the decisions and tell OTHERS will sacrifices they must make to fit your agenda.
AMEN. I am going to use this for 100 Visionaries. NON FAIL!

jermain said...

I almost was finished when I lost my comment Arrggh Merky Merc..

I read ur post round 2 AM and I was struggling with it till 4 AM.

**I have been reluctant to write about Obama's election largely because
I haven't wanted to steal anyone's joy.**

Why?? What made you flip it on 'em??

You remember how I questioned Bell Hooks?
I didnt know her, you introduced her to me, but I wasnt doubting her merits. I was questioning her decision to be silent, she couldve been that ' Beacon Of Light' for lots of us.

It was like the 'Blacktuals and Thinkers were so afraid to touch Obama and this whole campaign .
Too shook to put a spotlight on Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. Just like Chisholm they were spitted on,they were portrayed like crazy fools.

Too scared to critize the fixed Presidential debates

Like they feared that it would hurt his chances to become president.
Foolish to me..
By protecting him they protected the same old power structures that allowed him to become the 44th president under their rules with a 5% to 7.5% margin of Change...

and Prisoners Wife is correct..
They not ready to sacrifice..
they want that 'Silver Spoon-fed Sacrifice'

As for Change or Power
i dont want change , thats like a Remix.
Gimme a brandnew record..

I want that Power.. that Power that when we switch on the TV we see Bernie Madoff being forced to put his g+ddamn shackles on.

Model Minority said...

I want that Power.. that Power that when we switch on the TV we see Bernie Madoff being forced to put his g+ddamn shackles on.
I got a homie in Boston that runs w/millionaires.

When I mentioned my Maddoff theory, she said,
"of course he is being protected", if we really got wind of the people he was associated with and what they were doing, all hell would break loose.

I nodded in agreement.

I am not Star Jones said...

You are on point with your post.
The fundamental change required to gain the kind of power most people say they want
asks for too much.

Model Minority said...

@Not Star

Thank you for stopping by. I have had this post in my heart for a HOT minute.

Feels good to get it out. You know?

How you been?

I always looked at the McKinney situation sideways because it wasn't clear to me what she had to do the Green Party in the first place, in terms of having a background grounded in environmental policies.
@ Jermain
You know you are my favorite international reader? Big {Teef} Smile

Black folks criticized Obama. The old Black guard kept questioning whether or NOT was Black.

I hesitated because I wanted to have something meaningful to say and I wanted to NOT sound immediately negative.

I also know that as a writer it is one of my goals to MEET people where they are and PUSH them.

After seeing the inaug, I figured it was about that time.

Commish CH said...

"Make you cooperate with the rhythm, that is what I give em, Reagan is the pres but I voted for Shirley Chisholm..."
-Biz Markie

Model Minority said...

The Biz has always been lighthearted and on point.

Anwar said...

Power is the ability to right a wrong and make yourself whole after you have suffered a setback. - true words..

a girl named Rock. said...

I think the "real" change is in giving people -- no children hope. The fact that the little boy VERBALIZED that he now felt he could do ANYTHING is not something to be taken lightly.

What's astonishing is that I have heard so many children say this. Many children are/were hopeless because many adults were hopeless.

Now that they are given hope it's time to nurture that so that in 10-15 years they CAN still say "I can do anything."

Whether you believe, feel, see, understand that most black folks in this country have felt so downtrodden that they have lost hope (hope is fuel of progress) is not important as you are the choir.

But the significance of the congregation finally being able to smile from within rather feel like mules is vital to our growth.

Also, did you see Unbought and Unbossed? It chronicles Chisholm's run for president. In it, she sums up her run best, "Black men didn't like me because I was a woman. Women didn't like me because I was black." It's a powerful movie. See it if you have not.

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