Revolution#122, March 9, 2008

If You Think Barack Obama Will Challenge White Supremacy...

If you think that Barack Obama will challenge white supremacy because he’s Black, listen carefully to why he says he would have advised the civil rights movement back in the sixties not to focus on laws banning interracial marriages.

Obama spoke about this at a gay issues forum last August in Los Angeles. In response to Obama’s call for “civil unions” instead of legal gay marriage, a gay activist asked him, “Can you see, to our community, where that comes across as sounding like ‘separate but equal’?”

Obama replied, “When my parents got married in 1961, it would have been illegal for them to be married in a number of states in the South.” And then Obama went on to say, “If I were advising the civil rights movement back in 1961 about its approach to civil rights, I would have probably said it’s less important that we focus on an anti-miscegenation law [laws against interracial marriage] than we focus on a voting rights law and a non-discrimination and employment law and all the legal rights that are conferred by the state.”

The era of outlawed interracial marriage was the era of lynching. You couldn’t oppose lynching at that time, without opposing its legal twin—anti-miscegenation laws. Lynching was justified by vicious racist mythology about the need to control the so-called “lust” of Black men for white women (while at the same time widespread rape of Black women by white men was largely unpunished). It was a package—lynching and anti-miscegenation laws—reflected and reinforced in mainstream culture like D.W. Griffith’s influential 1915 movie, Birth of a Nation (which is still called a “classic”). Lothrop Stoddard, a ruling class racist ideologue in the early and mid-1900s wrote that “White race-purity is the corner-stone of our civilization. Its mongrelization with non-white blood, particularly with Negro blood, would spell the downfall of our civilization. This is a matter of both national and racial life and death and no efforts should be spared to guard against the greatest of all perils—the peril of miscegenation.”

The racist so-called “protection of white women” logic got enforced through lynching, like the widely publicized lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi, in 1955, brutally murdered because he whistled at a white woman.

The oppression and exploitation, the subjugation of Black people as a people is a pillar of this society. And this could not have been accomplished and maintained without carving these divisions and this subjugation into law, without the terror of lynching enforcing it and without the racist ideological onslaught accompanying and justifying all of it.  If people back then had stood aside from taking on the laws against interracial marriage—as Barack Obama would have advised them to do—they would have failed to take on and expose the real problem—the whole setup of racism, segregation, discrimination, and lynching; they would have accommodated themselves to the whole setup.

Yes, “race mixing” was a touchy issue for bigots, crackers, white supremacists —and the system that produced and profited from this oppression.

So? What are you going to do about that? Not touch it?! You could not challenge white supremacy, the laws, the prejudice, and the lynchings then without taking on the anti-miscegenation laws and the whole logic behind them. You could not be for real, back then, if you tried to oppose the lynching and the segregation while trying not to offend the segregationists and their backers who saw “race mixing” as a mortal threat to their whole setup.

And you won’t, and can’t, go up against the white supremacy built into this system and even achieve equality and any kind of justice  (much less liberation and putting an end to the oppression of Black people) with that kind of mentality either. Barack Obama says, “There is no white America, there is no black America...” How full of shit is that!? Yes there is! Black people are oppressed in this country by a white supremacist system that promotes and is bolstered by white racism. Uncomfortable as it makes some people, threatening as it is to this whole exploitive and oppressive setup, white supremacy has to be called out loud and clear if anything is going to change.

Today, new forms of violent terror against Black people go hand-in-hand with new forms of racist mythology and unjust laws. The lynch mob has been replaced by the trigger-happy police, who shoot down young Black people for holding a comb or a cell phone. Today, one out of every nine Black men between 25 and 29 is locked up. Schools and housing are extremely segregated, as the Supremacist Court overturns even the pretense of school integration. And this is all justified by today’s updated version of racist lies—like that the problem is the “pathological criminal mentality of Black people.” This updated racist mythology justifies the way the system has stripped the inner cities of economic and cultural life, shut down educational opportunities, and created conditions where crime and prison are the only options for millions of youth.

You cannot and will not challenge, much less end, the oppression of Black people by pandering to white supremacy. You will not change anything by “finessing” whether or not this is a racist country. You cannot change anything if your bottom line is making sure that nobody feels uncomfortable about being a white racist.

When people do go up against white supremacy, they also challenge a big part of the economic and ideological glue that keeps this world-oppressing system together. And you know that Barack Obama is not going for that. He is campaigning to be the best one to lead the U.S. empire.

Barack Obama can express sympathy and empathy for Black people, and make promises about this or that injustice, but his whole logic of not touching the foundations of white supremacy boils down to justifying and backing up the oppression of Black people.

People always were and always will be the foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics until they learn to discover the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. The supporters of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realize that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is maintained by the forces of some ruling classes.

V.I. Lenin

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