Sunday, March 2, 2008
Why Obama Denounced Farrakhan
by Dr. Boyce Watkins
During the recent Democratic debate, I saw Barack Obama getting pushed into the
"black corner". This is the same corner that Hillary and Bill Clinton pushed him into during the campaign in South Carolina. The same corner that caused some Americans to (temporarily) limit him to being "just another black candidate", instead of a potential visionary who can guide our country out of one of it's darkest periods.
This time, Hillary's weapon of choice was Minister Louis Farrakhan. Those who hate Farrakhan usually don't know much about him. Most have never heard him speak, and probably can't tell you anything about what he's done for this country.
Those of us who respect him know exactly why we respect him. We also understand why others respect him, even though he is quite direct and unique in many of his perspectives.
I admire Louis Farrakhan because Minister Farrakhan, quite simply, is the freest black man in America. He makes his own money, and speaks his mind. We listen to him because he is one of the few black men in America who remind black people of what they can really become.
Yes, he has had a problem with Jews, as many Muslims do. While there is certainly room to challenge Israel's oppressive policies against the Palestinians, any form of consistent antisemitism is simply regrettable. Those who've followed him through time would notice that Minister Farrakhan has dramatically changed his language as it pertains to Israel, as well as those who disagree with him. Therefore, he too has grown.
Most importantly, Louis Farrakhan is not only the most eloquent and powerful speaker in America, he is what we all strive to be: Free black men and women. That is, in my humble opinion, why we followed him to the Million Man March. That is why we cry when he speaks. He speaks to the soul of the black experience in a way that is painfully honest and quite direct. He also advocates for the building of a black state in a way that feels necessary in a nation that (through 400 years of economic and social exclusion) allows black children to go to terrible inner city schools and incarcerates black men in holocaust proportions. After living through a 400 year nightmare, we are invited to sit at the American dinner table, as long as we agree to mute any serious discussion regarding how this socioeconomic inequality came to be.
Louis Farrakhan, in one of his most exemplary moments, recently issued a statement telling supporters of Barack Obama not to relinquish their support for Obama in spite of Hillary Clinton's forced denunciation of Farrakhan and his words.
This shows that Farrakhan "gets it". He knew that Hillary Clinton was again, in her typically liberal, paternalistic and ultimately racist way, trying to use Obama's blackness as a weapon against him. She knows that, in America, being black is a liability in the eyes of many white Americans, and the "blacker" Barack is, the more votes he would lose. Her support of black people all these years has been driven through puppy dog sympathy, self-congratulation and opportunism, with the full expectation that we should worship her for being kind enough to associate with the downtrodden.
I see that kind of racism all the time when dealing with liberals here at Syracuse University. For some, black people are somewhat acceptable, but never quite treated as equals, nor considered competent enough to actually lead the organizations with which we've become affiliated. That is why my university, to this day, has never seriously considered a black person to become chancellor. That is also why the vast majority of academic departments have not tenured a black person in over 100 years of operating history.
Unlike my respected brother, Tavis Smiley, Louis Farrakhan sees that Obama's candidacy is not about egos and power. It is about making America better and Black America better in the process. Farrakhan also understands that it is because he is so far ahead of his time, that most of America would not understand why any other Black American might hold Farrakhan in high regard. In fact, we are punished for publicly supporting Farrakhan, as Obama would surely have been attacked.
But the rest of us understand. Obama, in his equally elegant manner, was careful to denounce Farrakhan's words without denouncing Farrakhan. This is exactly why, in spite of the words of some, Barack Obama certainly is "black enough" for all of us. It is also why he is going to be the next President of The United States.
I congratulate both of these men for jumping the hurdle. Their tactics differ, their paths are divergent, but their grace, power and magnificence simply cannot be denied.