Posted by: Deus Ex Machina | December 22, 2008

Obama & Change: Painting the Camero Black

I had to write this sort of Obama redux argument. In many ways this is an addition to the previous post on the paternalism and racism inherent in modern liberalism.  We now have a Black president, so what does this signify? In part it signifies that a large majority of Americans have decided that either race (in regard to the presidency) was not important to them, or that Obama’s gifts outway his curse.

A broader and less discussed topic amongst the general public is what this really pragmatically means for the average Black person.  I have argued in other places that the symbolism and hope that a Black President provides is a non-evaluatable factor, but hugely important none the less.  The simple fact that there is a face that looks like many of us in the White House after the history of this nation is HUGE. I am not an individual that will minimize the social cultural impact of the Obama Presidency. 

That being said, other than as a secondary “He brings us hope” change, is Obama truly representing a systemic change?  When I wrote the Liberal/Racism article a few years ago I did so because I reflected upon its position in relation to us as a race.  What I saw was a lack of empowerment strategies ala’ Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X and instead saw a big tent dole out favors and cosmetic solutions strategy.  Mind you, I am not talking about liberalism as a philosophy, but liberalism as it is practiced under the dichotomist two party system in America.

Now if my argument is true, that liberalism is paternalistic and therefore racist or elitist in that it seeks to be the “father to the child” as opposed to the “empowerer of the weak and disenfranchised” (I haven’t heard a cogent argument now or when I first posted the argument against my assertion yet) how does Obama fit?

If liberalism as it is practiced in modern America is paternalistic and racist or elitist and we now have a President who some would say represents modern liberalism is there not a contradiction? I do not believe so.

In my very strong opinion, racism is systemic and institutional. Systems or institutions be it corporate, political, or social that have been historically structured in such a way that it retains the power imbalance between Blacks and whites are passive forms of racism. If my premise is true then a Black person could (and we are) be engaged in a system that perpetuates racisms without their being systemic change to the system regardless of the Black’s position in the system.

So to the question I asked in the title of the post – If you paint a Camero black does it become a Volvo?  If a Black man is the President of the United States does it change the paternalistic system of liberal politics as practiced by the modern democratic party? On a broader level, does it change the systems and institutions in America the retain the power imbalances caused by years of disenfranchisement and racism in this nation?

So in conclusion I am not arguing that Obama will is a bad “Black man” for not being more militant. I am also not placing the burden of solving the race problem in America on his shoulders. That is simply not fair.  What I am arguing however is that for us to presume that there will be systemic change that truly empowers the everyday Black man is going to be disappointed.  Painting your Camero black may make your car look better, but underneath the hood it has the same engine.

Changes comes from below.



  1. Am I being too idealistic in thinking that having a black man as president, besides it’s symbolic significance, is also transformational (even if it’s just a little) in the minds of ALL people, with regards to recognizing blacks as capable and legitimate in positions of power? Could this be viewed as one more step towards alleviating the “black tax”? In recognizing the average black working man with a little more consideration, capable of having a little more capability or intelligence? And it’s not just about what others think, it’s about what we think of ourselves… Isn’t perception from either side a part of the battle, and would serve sort of as a “reason why” which would fuel grassroots efforts for changes to any given system or institution? Shouldn’t the “symbolic” be seen as part of the process? Or is it just too insignificant to be considered as anything substantive.

    As for Obama’s part in changing things from a systemic or institutional perspective, that can be better determined in another couple of years. I think he’s off to a good start – through many of his choices for various cabinet positions – but no one can know for sure until well after Jan. 20th.

    Generally, I do believe that there are no absolutes in either party – Dem or Repub, and the way to move forward would be to take the best ideas from both philosophies into consideration. Although the evils of extreme liberalism are highlighted in the essay, we’ve lived through the evils of extreme republicanism for the past 8 years.

  2. Remember the article that I posted…and I hate that I lost it, that pointed to the the change in the income gap under each administration. It pointed out who was the majority in control in the white house and congress and the resulting change by percentage points of the wage gap between blacks and whites? What it showed was that no matter who was in office, dem / pub the average change was around (if I remember) .2 percent a year or something obscene like that.

    That is a systemic issue.

    We have to remember that for years Black folks have been visibly running things in all sectors. CEO’s, Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell and more. This has done nothing to materially change the very slow growth in our position here in America. I have no reason to believe that Obama’s election will be any different.

    The reason for this is we live in what is called by some a global / corporatist / instrumental world. Meaning that the primary morality is the ability to make a profit, and the primary evaluator of an individual is his / her ability to be productive in a corporatist environment.

    Because of historic racism, Blacks as a group are the least productive, therefore Black instrumentality as a group is low, meaning we have less value and access to the system. I don’t think the election of 1 Black man can change that system because it is a global system now.

    That however doesn’t mean that he doesn’t benefit us in certain ways.

  3. Ok, I understand… so, if Obama is likely to have minimal-to-no positive influence on the systemic and instutional aspects of racism, in what way(s) does Obama benefit us? Beyond just the symbolic?

  4. I think the symbolism is important as it leads to more self-faith and self-reliance (or it can). But if we as Black folks don’t walk out of an Obama presidency with, let’s say less of a percentage of our brothers in prison and a more than average reduction in the wage disparity gap, will we say he was a successful President for us as a people?

    Or better yet, how will we define a succesful Obama presidency for us?

  5. I suppose this same thinking can be applied to the Oprahs and MJs of the world: How would their fame and fortune translate into substantive (or at least minimal) change – beyond the symbolic – to black folks?

    The primary difference of course would be that those people are entertainers and Obama is a (the most) powerful politician. So, substantive change may come in the form of legislation that would or could potentially deal with systemic inequities, say, in housing or the law. We’ll see.

  6. Merry Christmas brother Dell. Hope your holidays are blessed.

  7. One more question:

    When has there ever been any single person or event that resulted in immediate or significant (within a short period of time) changes with regards to inequity? The civil rights movement was gradual. The Black Power Movement (Huey Newton, Angela Davis, Black Panthers, etc.) lasted for over a dacade… and although there were key players in these instances, no one person was singularly responsible for immediate gains or progress. Everything involved community and was gradual, or generational.

    Should Obama be viewed any differently?

  8. How was the idea that liberalism is paternalistic and therefore racist arrived at? What evidence is there to support this assertion?

  9. I’ll post this again – since apparently Dell missed it the first time around –

    Liberalism and black interest in this country never has been anything but a forced marriage.

    If you believe somehow that Liberal Paternalism draws its roots in some guilt associative race consciousness – then I suggest you spend some time in Appalachia, a Native American “Reservation”, and with Migrant Workers…

    I did all three in a more idealistic portion of my youth.

    Read up on H. Rap Brown for a synthesis (and origin) of the Liberal race guilt fantasy.

    Funny thing about that Camaro – it was an “every mans sports car”.

    You claim – Since the Democrat ideal of social justices is rooted in civic equality and not economic equality its effect is to keep the average African American community in lower economic affluence.

    Which is interesting in light that the very same “Great Society” which existed for exactly 8 years under Kennedy and Johnson, while being thoroughly repudiated and submarined by Rethugly Presidents holding office for 28 of the last 40 years…

    Should have such a death grip hold on conservative imaginations.

    Especially in light of the fact that by almost every statistical economic measure, black folks have made the largest economic transition in the history of this country over the past 40 years…

    And despite the fact that the leading negative economic indicators (unemployment and poverty) go up during each and every conservative Presidency.

    And as you will recall, if you go back to your old site and pull up a few of my posts from 2-3 years back…

    I predicted that conservatism would result in the greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression.

    If Liberal Paternalism is the common cold, conservative incompetence, ingrained racism, and pigheadedness is AIDS for black folks in this country…

    As well as the non-black ones.

    Black folks will bear a disproportionate burden of that failure as that great invisible black middle class appreciably shrinks, losing their principal investments. Exactly the same thing happened after Raygun and Poppy’s misguided Administrations.

    What part of conservatism as economic policy is a failure is still hard to understand?

    As to “Social Justice”, you already know my position is that the only equitable thing is to frogmarch every one of these chicken-fried Rethugly SOBs who sold their country down the river to the nearest light post…

    And hang ‘em.

    Never let it be said that BT isn’t compassionate!

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