Saturday, January 26, 2008

Obama: MLK's dream come true?

Imam Zaid Shakir's article says it all. Excerpts below:

While it is certainly heartening to see such a strong candidacy from an African American, Obama’s run for the presidency sheds light on the nuances of race relations in this land in ways that many who admire or support him might not wish to discuss. It also sheds light on the way Dr. King’s legacy has been shaped in a way to make many of the forces that were extremely uncomfortable with him at the end of his life, “accept” him in his death. Those are the same forces that are willing to “accept” Obama, as long as he stays away from the sort of issues that probably cost Dr. King his life.

At the end of his life, Dr. King was anathema to those interests and individuals who collectively form the ruling coalition in this country. His strident opposition to the Viet Nam War, his fearless advocacy for the poor, for the unrepresented and the underserved of this country, and his increasingly bitter condemnation of both the apathy of the white middle class, and what he saw as the hypocrisy of the Christian establishment all earned him the ire and the vehement condemnation of powerful whites, along with a significant number of African American leaders who felt he was going beyond the tame demands of the Civil Rights movement.

Herein lays Dr. King’s legacy, an uncompromising struggle against the “giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism.” That aspect of his work and teachings is unmentioned in the mainstream media. Instead his baritone refraining of “I have a dream” fills the airwaves. After his death, the struggle against those evil “triplets” was not allowed to exist as his enduring legacy. Instead, that legacy has been whitewashed, sanitized and rendered “acceptable” for white middle class sensitivities.

What does all of this have to do with Obama? Obama is a viable African American candidate because he has steadfastly refused to deal with the issues Dr. King was dealing with at the end of his life, even though they are just as relevant today as they were forty years ago. That refusal has seen him distance himself from his activist pastor, Minister Jeremiah Wright. It has seen him avoid any public identification with Rev. Jesse Jackson, a fellow Chicagoan, or similar leaders who are identified with African American civil rights advocacy, and it has seen him ignore issues of relevance to African Americans and the urban and rural poor today.

That he has taken such positions is not just an indictment against Obama. It is also an indictment against American society which has deemed that an open advocate for such issues is unfit to lead this nation.

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