Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The End of Black Politics?

The first thing I thought when I saw this piece was, is this really the best idea for an article the New York Times can come up with?

Then I thought, when Obama proved he was a serious contender for the Presidency, and when he won the Democratic nomination, I don’t recall anyone asking if this signalled “the end of white politics”.

Actually, the article raises some interesting points, despite its absurd title.

There is a divide between the old guard and the new guard. Probably always has been.

Harriet Tubman had to deal with people who believed they were better off in slavery.

In my book, Black Success Stories, René Carayol MBE tells of an argument he had with Reverend Jesse Jackson, who insisted on the futility of trying to bring about change. Similarly to those quoted in the article, he had learned this negative view through his own bitter experience. Until recently, part of me would have agreed with him.

Like Senator Obama, I did not grow up in a slum. But on our TV screens when I was a child in th e’60s, there were scenes of people being beaten by police because they wanted to sit at a lunch counter. Being attacked by police dogs because they wanted to vote. These things were not happening to me or to anyone I knew, but they had an effect on me. In New York City, we experienced subtle racism of the kind we have here in London.

We have a similar generational divide in the UK. Some of the young people think they can fit in and be accepted anywhere they want to go. And to a certain extent, they are right. Some of the discrimination their parents and grandparents faced in the 1950s was the same stuff any group of first-generation immigrants has to deal with.

But some of it was racism.

Black children are still disproportionately being excluded from school, leaving school without qualifications, and as a result, getting involved with crime and entering the prison system.

The fact that Oxford and Cambridge, as well as many major financial institutions and other British firms, are now actively recruiting African Caribbean applicants does not alter these bleak statistics.

We must remember that we have made progress only because of the work, dedication and sacrifices of those who went before us. This is what the West African Adinkra symbol of the Sankofa bird tells us – we must learn from the past in order to progress towards a better future.

It may be that Obama will usher in a whole new era of possibility. I would not have said that six months or a year ago.

But I will never forget the contributions of those who went before me. It would be politically naïve to do so. Those of my generation, and those younger than me, including Senator Obama, only have the rights we enjoy because others were willing to fight for them.

To answer the question, of course this is not the end of Black politics. It may be a new beginning, but we must always remember and honour the past.

I hope you will join us for my Obama phone-in on 19th August. Click here for details.

Here are some other interesting blogs on this piece:

Black Spin

Jack and Jill Politics

Black Snob

1 comment:

Clarence Coggins said...

It is yet to be seen how being Black in a Post Obama world will play out. It is amazing that when one principles have changed how self interest is redefined.

Clarence Coggins
Crown Prince of Web 2.0