Tuesday, July 03, 2007

2008 Is Today


A black man in the White House?
Senator Barack Obama has taken a big lead in the competition to raise political donations for the 2008 White House race. But he has many bridges to cross if he is to become the first black president, not least attracting the support of white southerners, writes the BBC's Nick Bryant

A black man in the White House?

Senator Barack Obama has taken a big lead in the competition to raise political donations for the 2008 White House race. But he has many bridges to cross if he is to become the first black president, not least attracting the support of white southerners, writes the BBC's Nick Bryant.

Black Man in the White House is the title not of some fashionable new Washington parlour game devoted to the notion, once unthinkable, of an African-American occupying the Oval Office, but of a book published in 1963 by E Frederic Morrow, the first black man to serve as a presidential aide.

Martin Luther King Jr, E Frederic Morrow, President Eisenhower, A Philllip Randolph - 23 June 1958
Morrow (at back) was treated with suspicion at the White House
Up until his appointment in the mid-50s, black White House employees appeared either with pristine white towels draped over their arms or cleaning mops in their hands.

Morrow, a successful PR man, had arrived ostensibly to help shape policy, not that his boss, President Dwight D Eisenhower, much valued his counsel.

The former general wanted to attract black support in key northern battleground states - after all, the Republicans were the party of Abraham Lincoln - and Morrow was recruited for mainly ornamental purposes.

Morrow's delight at achieving this striking "racial first" was matched only by the distaste of his new workmates.

White secretaries refused to work with him; and he was prohibited from being alone in the same room with any female employee, lest he sexually molest them.

Fifty years on, Senator Barack Obama has a plausible chance of becoming the occupant, with whomever he so chooses, both of the Oval Office and Executive Mansion.

Identity search

Before the civil rights era, Washington DC was notoriously unwelcoming to its black residents and visitors.

African diplomats looked on Washington as a hardship posting, because of the difficulty in finding landlords who would allow them to rent suitable apartments
For black passengers travelling from north to south, Union Station in Washington was the point of transfer at which they moved from an integrated carriage to one that was strictly segregated.

African diplomats looked on the city as a hardship posting, because of the difficulty in finding landlords who would allow them to rent suitable apartments.

Even black congressmen, Mr Obama's forerunners, suffered many of the same indignities.

Under an unwritten code of conduct, black lawmakers - there were just two in 1945 compared with 41 today - were barred from using Congress's barber shops and swimming pool.

Black reporters were barred even from the press gallery. No wonder Capitol Hill was often called the "Old Southern Home", and widely viewed as the only place in the US where the south had not lost the civil war.

Freedom Riders at a bus station in Montgomery, Alabama, 1961
Life in the South was strictly segregated when Obama was born
Barack Obama was born in the summer of 1961, the year that the famed "freedom riders" encountered the brute force of southern racism as they tried to bring about the desegregation of "Dixie" bus terminals.

But he was born not in the states of the Old Confederacy, the cauldron of the civil rights struggle, but in Hawaii. His parents were Kenyan and Kansan, and his step-father Indonesian, hence his Jakarta primary education.

His teenage years became a search for identity rather than a struggle for equality. And in the use, and abuse, of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, Barack Obama found a way to "push questions of who I was out of my mind", he reflected in his 1995 memoir.


Mr Obama's true identity remains to this day a subject of conjecture. The campaign cliche has it that Mr Obama is an African and an American, though not an authentic African-American.

True, Mr Obama became a community worker in the mid-80s helping Chicago's underprivileged, many of whom shared his skin colour.

But his civil rights credentials pale in comparison to other black lawmakers, most notably Congressman John Lewis, a battle-hardened veteran both of the freedom rides and Selma's Bloody Sunday in 1965, when civil rights protesters were savagely beaten by police.

Barack Obama and Bill Clinton at 25th anniversary commemorations for Selma
Bill Clinton is sometimes known as the 'first black president'
So Sen Obama's highly-publicised appearance in Selma in March to mark the 42nd anniversary of Bloody Sunday had the feel of a job applicant looking, at the last minute, to embellish, even rectify, his resume.

By joining Mr Lewis and other civil rights legends, he was pursuing a strategy of association aimed at siphoning black support from Hillary Clinton, the wife of a politician once described by novelist Toni Morrison as America's "first black president".

Historical irony

But as Mr Obama well knows, there are electoral pitfalls in aligning too closely with the civil rights struggle.

Once known as the "Solid Democratic South", the states of the Old Confederacy quickly became a Republican stronghold after the landmark civil rights reforms of the 1960s, when it harnessed what came to be known as the "white backlash".

Barack Obama in front of the White House, Jan 2007
Just visiting for the time being
Since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, it is no coincidence that every Democratic president has been a southerner: Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton; and, his disgruntled supporters would argue, Al Gore.

Given the vagaries of the Electoral College, successful presidential candidates need to pick up states in the south. And, on the Democratic side, only southern moderates have proved adept at doing so.

So the historical irony is that to become a "Black Man in the White House", Barack Obama will ultimately have to attract southern white support.

In this respect, his challenge evokes the title of another book, of which he is more intimately familiar: his most recent autobiography, The Audacity of Hope.

Nick Bryant is the author of The Bystander: John F Kennedy and the Struggle for Black Equality


Ian said...

I support a black man in the white house. Its about time. What I question though at this time, is he the right man? His past schooling and musslim influences worry me.

stafex said...




Nym Pseudo said...

Why would Muslim influences bother you? The religion of Islam, on the whole, is one of peace. It is humans who twist the words.

The list is just as long when you look at Christianity.

I like Obama but I think he would have to be a Republican to be elected. Colin Powell would be a shoe-in.

Lets-Get-It-Right said...

He would definitely have to move more toward the middle. Right now, I think he would lead any Republican in the Polls. I think the original post is accurate in that he would have to win the hearts and minds of the people in the South. He could do this if he came out and said exactly where he stands on several key issues. Remember, the South is primarily Conservative Christian so he needs to look at his values compared to theirs and speak up on the things they have in common.


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sonnyc44@myway.com said...

You guys would support Barack Hussein Obama for President huh? Jesus, the state of Christiabity in America today is pathetic. I bailed out of your evangelical insanity 7 years ago, and for good reason I see. People like Hammer have warped your brains, if they ere not already dogshit to begin with. Tell me, are you all black, or just 90% of you? Now let's see, despite the fact that Obama has 3 Muslim names, we'll just forget about that, okay? After all, Mohammed Ali had 2...oh, wait, he was a Muslim, and a seriously racist one at that. Never mind, bad analogy. Um, well, forget that he went to a Muslim madrassa as a boy, which he freely admitted in his book The Audacity of Hope. Just because he transferred his allegiance in religion from Islam to "christianity" (if you want to call it that) oes not help matters much. The Trinity United Church of Christ is a racist hotbed of black political extremism, and cultural segregation. They preach a segregated Gospel, a segregated cultural/social politic, and they are NOT Americans, by their own admission. They sport a graphic of Africa on their front page website, they teach as a matter of doctrine that their goal is to emigrate or repatriate back to Africa, and they teach an anti-White ethic. Obama is closely allied with Jesse Jackson and Rainbow Push. "Another person Obama seeks out for spiritual counsel is Illinois State Senator James Meeks, who is also the pastor of Chicago’s Salem Baptist Church and heir apparent to the helm of the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. The day after Obama won the primary in March 2004, he stopped by Salem for Wednesday-night Bible study." http://urbanlegends.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.simplysharing.com/assuringlight/obama.htm

He has also allied hiself with The Reverend Michael Louis Pfleger (born May 22, 1949[1]) a Roman Catholic priest and social activist in Chicago, Illinois. Father Pfleger's methods of dealing with social change may be debated, but one thing can't be debated is his liberal politics and associations which include radical Islamic leaders and socially and morally repugnant Democrats.

Father Pfleger's social activism has brought him recognition throughout Chicago and beyond. He has often collaborated with African American religious leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan.

But let's leave B.Hussein Obama's religious and liberal ties out of this for a moment. What about his work ethic?

Scott Turow writes in Salon:

"Richard M. Daley, Chicago's Democratic mayor, had forged an alliance with the Republican governor, George Ryan, to promote a gun-control bill fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association and the Republican majority leader of the state Senate. Intense pressure was mounted by both sides, and as final consideration approached at year's end in 1999, the nose-counting indicated that a few votes one way or the other would control the bill's fate. Despite being committed to the measure, Obama reportedly ignored entreaties to return from Hawaii, where he was visiting his family. The gun-control measure went down to defeat, and Obama's subsequent explanation for his absence, saying that his younger daughter had fallen seriously ill, did not play well either with the press -- the Chicago Tribune blasted him as "gutless" -- or his fellow politicians, who'd left plenty of sickbeds and vacations in their time for the sake of public duty."

Now, I've known this about you so-called Christians for a long time, but you are reaffirming it for me here. You don't know what the FUCK you are doing. Some of you are out there voting for a candidate simply because he's BLACK, like HAMMER. Like YOU. Some of you are out there voting for the guy because you like HAMMER'S music, BLACK music, and you don't have a clue, or a life. And some of you are out there because you are liberal, you hate America, and wuld wish down your own destruction in an act of stupidity that boggles the mind.

BTExpress said...

I don't care what race you are or gender for that matter. You need more experience than Obama or Hillary to be President.

sonnyc44@myway.com said...

Right on, that's all I'm saying, except that the day they elect a Muslim President is the day Lee Harvey Oswald resurrects from the dead, you can bet your life on that.


sonnyc44@myway.com said...
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sonnyc44@myway.com said...
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MC said...
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sonnyc44@myway.com said...
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MC Hammer said...
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JM said...

i am a white male....
i have a white wife.......

and all i i can say is this...

it's better than a white woman!!! :D
(just kidding around people)

peace, love, unity,....

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