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March 30, 2008

Flashback: Obama 1995 [Nice Deb]

I was doing some googling to see if I could find some info on Obama and the Million Man March he reportedly marched in and helped organize, and I found this interview of Obama in the Chicago Reader from December 1995, after he (yes!) attended the march. What stands out to me is his unapologetic love affair with collectivism. I guess that’s not surprising for a Democrat, but still…..wow!
Here are some highlights:



John Wayne = Typical white guy:

“In America,” Obama says, “we have this strong bias toward individual action. You know, we idolize the John Wayne hero who comes in to correct things with both guns blazing. But individual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations.”

Organize and mobilize more black churches:

In an interview after the class, Obama again spoke of the need to organize and mobilize the economic power and moral fervor of black churches. He also argued that as a state senator he might help bring this about faster than as a community organizer or civil rights lawyer.

The Christian right: intolerant, narrow-minded, falsely nostalgic:

“The right wing, the Christian right, has done a good job of building these organizations of accountability, much better than the left or progressive forces have. But it’s always easier to organize around intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and false nostalgia. And they also have hijacked the higher moral ground with this language of family values and moral responsibility.

It’s society’s job to teach children about the left’s version of morality:

“Now we have to take this same language–these same values that are encouraged within our families–of looking out for one another, of sharing, of sacrificing for each other–and apply them to a larger society. Let’s talk about creating a society, not just individual families, based on these values. Right now we have a society that talks about the irresponsibility of teens getting pregnant, not the irresponsibility of a society that fails to educate them to aspire for more.”

Obama goes to the Million Man March:

Obama took time off from attending campaign coffees to attend October’s Million Man March in Washington, D.C. His experiences there only reinforced his reasons for jumping into politics.

“What I saw was a powerful demonstration of an impulse and need for African-American men to come together to recognize each other and affirm our rightful place in the society,” he said. “There was a profound sense that African-American men were ready to make a commitment to bring about change in our communities and lives.

“But what was lacking among march organizers was a positive agenda, a coherent agenda for change. Without this agenda a lot of this energy is going to dissipate. Just as holding hands and singing ‘We shall overcome’ is not going to do it, exhorting youth to have pride in their race, give up drugs and crime, is not going to do it if we can’t find jobs and futures for the 50 percent of black youth who are unemployed, underemployed, and full of bitterness and rage.

“Exhortations are not enough, nor are the notions that we can create a black economy within America that is hermetically sealed from the rest of the economy and seriously tackle the major issues confronting us,” Obama said.

Oh, here it comes…the “mean, cruel” Republicans:

We must deal with the forces that are depressing wages, lopping off people’s benefits right and left, and creating an earnings gap between CEOs and the lowest-paid worker that has risen in the last 20 years from a ratio of 10 to 1 to one of better than 100 to 1.

“This doesn’t suggest that the need to look inward emphasized by the march isn’t important, and that these African-American tribal affinities aren’t legitimate. These are mean, cruel times, exemplified by a ‘lock ‘em up, take no prisoners’ mentality that dominates the Republican-led Congress. Historically, African-Americans have turned inward and towards black nationalism whenever they have a sense, as we do now, that the mainstream has rebuffed us, and that white Americans couldn’t care less about the profound problems African-Americans are facing.”

White America doesn’t care? Does he still feel this way 12 years later?

Cross posted at Nice Deb


UPDATE:

One thing that seemed positive (to me) about the Million Man March was that it asked men to take a pledge to eschew the sorts of pathologies that often plague black communities. (Click here for a Youtube video of Pledge).

But that seems to have left Obama cold:

“exhorting youth to have pride in their race, give up drugs and crime, is not going to do it” …

It appears that Obama’s main criticism of the Million Man March was that it didn’t offer the types of collectivist solutions “for change” that he was so into, (and still is).


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posted by xgenghisx at 08:07 PM

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