[News] Selma, Obama and the Colonization of Black Resistance

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 13 12:10:33 EDT 2015

Weekend Edition March 13-15, 2015


*The Master of Propaganda *

  Selma, Obama and the Colonization of Black Resistance


    “To cleanse history in the name of a false patriotism that
    celebrates a new illiteracy as a way of loving the United States is
    a discourse of anti-memory, a willful attempt at forgetting the past
    in the manufactured fog of historical amnesia.”

    /— Henry Giroux/

I tried! In my capacity as a member of the Center for Constitutional 
Rights’ Board of Directors (CCR), I traveled to Selma on Friday to 
attend the induction of Arthur Kinoy and William Kunstler, two of the 
founding lawyers of CCR, into the Selma National Voting Rights Museum. 
And even though I knew that I would have to endure Obama’s presence in 
Selma on Saturday, my plan was to stay in Selma until Sunday to catch up 
with friends and participate in the peoples’ crossing of the Edmund 
Pettus Bridge on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

But I never saw the sun come up in Selma. Before Air Force One ever 
entered Alabama airspace, Obama’s presence overshadowed the 
commemoration. In conversations on Friday, I heard over and over again 
about how Obama was coming to town to symbolically “close the circle” on 
the struggle for voting rights. And though it shouldn’t have, I could 
not shake the deep sadness that I felt every time I heard this and 
similar comments from so many of my people who still had so much 
invested in this cheap pro-imperialist hustler that after the induction 
on Friday I found myself on Highway 80 heading out of Selma toward 

I made the right decision.

Obama’s presence on Saturday severely crippled most of the 
people-centered discussions and activities that were scheduled for that 
day. And as the master propagandist that he is, he gave a magnificent 
performance blending themes of “American exceptionalism” with the black 
middle-class version of black history and black struggle to give an 
emotionally charged twist to an otherwise trite and familiar narrative 
of racial uplift and progress toward a more perfect union.

In fact his performance was so effective that very few seemed to 
remember that just two days before the Selma speech his Department of 
Justice announced that it would not indict the Ferguson killer-cop 
Darren Wilson.

And none of the mainstream commentators seem to notice the irony in 
President Obama proclaiming progress toward a more perfect union the 
morning after another unarmed black teen was gunned down by a cop in 
Madison, Wisconsin and that Selma and the civil rights movement 
reflected the importance of non-violence as a principle to resolve 
social conflicts, while 600 members of the 173^rd Airborne were in the 
air traveling to Ukraine to train the neo-Nazi Ukrainian national guard 
to wage war against their own citizens.

Malcolm X once said that the black freedom movement wasn’t integrated by 
white liberals and their Negro collaborators but was instead 
infiltrated. That programmatic and ideological infiltration was on full 
display in Selma on Saturday. In the 1950s and 1960s, the political and 
ideological space was created for liberal infiltration because of state 
repression in the 1950s.  A major target of the post-war national 
security state in the 50s was the radical black movement and individual 
black radicals. Dozens of radical black activists were prosecuted, 
jailed, forced out of the country or confined to a form of national 
house arrest by having their passports seized. Some of the more 
prominent names associated with this repression included W.E.B. Dubois, 
Claudia Jones, William Patterson and Paul Robeson.

However, radical human rights organizing and resistance continued, 
especially in the South. Building on the work that took new 
organizational forms in the 1930s, a solid social base of organized 
resistance was established that, while it suffered in the repressive 
environment of the 50s, nevertheless, provided the social base for what 
was renamed as the “civil rights movement” reflecting the growing 
hegemony of more conservative elements of the black freedom movement 
that started to garner more liberal institutional support.

The elevation of Dr. King after he was chosen by labor leader E.D Nixon 
to be the face of the Montgomery Improvement Association’s bus boycott 
and the subsequent creation of the Southern Christian Leadership 
Conference (SCLC) that provided Dr. King a broader organizational base 
was facilitated by powerful white allies. Dr. King and SCLC didn’t just 
give voice to ongoing struggles throughout the Southern region but in 
many cases they were grafted onto some of those struggles that had a 
more militant, independent working class social base and set of 
objectives. And while the racial caste system mitigated the disperate 
class perspectives and interests within the movement in the 50s and 
early 60s, the experiences of the Lowndes county Black Panther Party, 
the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and the influences of 
Malcolm X, Robert F. Williams and the Revolutionary Action Movement 
(RAM) as well as other radical black organizations, progressively 
sharpened the class and programmatic contradictions of movement by the 
mid- 60s.

It was precisely the intensification of the black struggle for 
democratic and human rights that resulted in the state concession 
reflected in the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965. But it was the 
systemic contradiction of ongoing colonial/capitalist reality of the 
black poor and working classes in the South and the urban areas where 
blacks had migrated during the second great migration that facilitated 
the explosion in Watts just five days after the passage of the VRA. The 
rebellion in Watts was the first in over three hundred urban rebellions 
that would take place over the next few years.

This was the context that facilitated the placement of Dr. King and SCLC 
by powerful elements of the ruling elite on front of, and in some cases 
on top of work being carried out by local organizations, including 
attempting to displace the national influence and work of the Student 
Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Today Barack Obama in his role as the President of the U.S. and chief 
spokesperson for the white ruling class, and as a representative of the 
“new” black professional-managerial class, has been assigned the task to 
explain and legitimate the ongoing subjugation of the black poor and 
working class five decades after the reform legislation of the 60s.

The speech in Selma, with all of its pro-“American” and settler 
colonialist sentimentality was delivered with a world audience in mind. 
Its ideological objective was to counter the idea of an irreconcilable 
black opposition by co-opting black resistance and imposing a 
conservative meaning of black oppositional politics.

The presence of George Bush and the imagery of Bush and Obama with the 
masses of black people behind them as they jointly crossed the bridge 
was meant to symbolically close any gap between the policies of the Bush 
and Obama Administrations’ that may have existed in the imagination of 
people outside of the U.S. related to black people and their loyalty to 
the U.S. state.

The message that Obama’s speech was meant to convey was that despite 
killer-cops, mass incarceration and grinding poverty no one should be 
confused: you will not split black folks away from the state because 
these black folks /belong/ to us.

And judging by the paucity of criticism or even discussion of the 
Department of Justice’s decision last week not to indict Wilson and the 
unrestrained praise of Obama’s speech in various black media outlets, it 
is once again mission accomplished for the propagandist in chief.

/*Ajamu Baraka* is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political 
analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy 
Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist 
for the Black Agenda Report. He is a contributor to “Killing Trayvons: 
An Anthology of American Violence 
<http://store.counterpunch.org/product/killing-trayvons/>” (Counterpunch 
Books, 2014). He can be reached at info.abaraka at gmail.com 
<mailto:info.abaraka at gmail.com> and www.AjamuBaraka.com 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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