By Khesha Duncan
I’m SOOOOOOOO heated right now – still, after reading an article in the Redding News Review a couple days ago, titled “Andrew Young explains why he is not supporting Obama,” forwarded to me by one of my many fellow Obama-ers. So heated, in fact, I’ve just decided to coin a new phrase called “The Haterade Syndrome!”
For quite awhile now, I have been trying my absolute best to ignore the comments that I’ve been reading and hearing throughout the campaign, from some members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other current black leaders with their assortment of old school reasons for why Senator Barack Obama can’t be President of the United States – yet.
But what I read this week takes the cake, and is a sad commentary indeed, because Andrew Young has opted to join them. Young’s ignorant remarks in this piece sound more like those of a high school dropout than a Howard University graduate, saying that Barack can’t be President now because,
“You have to have a protective network around you… Leadership requires suffering. And I would like to see Barack’s children get a little older, see, because they’re going to pick on them.”
Is he serious? This from a man who has a Bachelor of Divinity Degree From Hartford Seminary, in Hartford, Connecticut, and is a former Executive Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)? One would want to believe that this combination of education and professional Christianity would give him more depth in his faith than that, but apparently not.
Granted, I recognize that Mr. Young was one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest protégés and allies, and that he was there (literally) when Dr. King was tragically assassinated. Nor can I even begin to imagine what it must have felt like, witnessing the murder of his friend, or the significance of its impact on his life from that point on. And what I’m saying here is not intended to, nor could it, ever minimize any of that. However, to fast forward almost forty years later, and say that Barack Obama can’t be President today because they’re going to pick on his children suggests that he may be living in a time warp. What Andrew Young seems to be forgetting is that the same concerns and apprehensions he has about Senator Obama running for President in 2007 are the same ones that leaders before him had of he and Dr. King during their civil rights endeavors. In the 1950s and 60s when the fight was about more basic human freedoms, like being able to enter buildings through the front doors, and sitting in the front seats of city buses, and the right not to be hung from a tree just because you were black, Young and others responded with marches, boycotts, demonstrations, lunch counter sit-ins en masse, and the like – all very appropriate actions for what was happening then. Their strategies yielded positive results that benefited the collective whole at that time and for the next generation – Barack Obama’s generation.
But some MAJOR progress has been made since then. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, integration occurred, and affirmative action was implemented in the early 70s. The game changed, and it was no longer about where you could shop, eat or use the bathroom. The questions then became about where we could work, attend college, what neighborhood we could live in, if we could get a bank loan, or run for public office. And as the doors opened and we walked in, over the course of the next twenty years black folks accomplished, excelled and achieved in all these areas. Here, it appears, is where the problems with black leadership, and more importantly, the disintegration of black unity began, that we are experiencing today.
Which brings us to Mr. Young’s next series of comments:
“Barack Obama does not have the support network yet to get to be president. To put a brother in there by himself is to set him up for crucifixion.”
Additionally, he said that Hillary Clinton is surrounded by quite a few black advisors while Obama has very few. Well guess what? He wouldn’t be by himself if Young and other so-called longtime black leaders would form the support network Young says he doesn’t have. Here’s an idea. Instead of droning on and on about why Senator Obama can’t win the Presidency now, why doesn’t he call him up and ask what he can do to assist with his campaign efforts to ensure that he does? I’ll tell you why; drinkin’ too much haterade! Sounds juvenile, I know, but I can’t think of another reason why Andrew Young, with his years of experience in the civil rights movement, having been attacked and jailed after protesting for this very right, of a black man to be able to run for President, wouldn’t want to do all he can to help Senator Obama. After all, whether the playa haters want to acknowledge it or not, there is absolutely no denying that Barack Obama is the most viable African-American candidate this country has ever seen, perhaps with the exception of Dr. King. But Dr. King wasn’t sent to us to run for President. His time spent here was meant to serve a different purpose, to move us forward to the next step. And the one thing we can deduce about history and progress of any kind is best stated in the old adage, “timing is everything.”
Without a doubt, Senator Obama’s time is now. Barack Obama is currently the ONLY black member of the Senate. It is important to note that he shares this honor with a very short list of only five in our history; the first, Hiram Rhodes Revels, was elected way back in 1870. However, this is just his most recent outstanding accomplishment. Barack Obama has been on this prestigious path since his career’s inception. A graduate of Columbia University, he took a job in south-side Chicago as a community organizer after just one year of working in corporate America. This public service experience compelled him to Harvard Law School. There, in 1990, he was elected the Harvard Law Review’s first black president ever in its entire 104-year history!
So, when the question is asked, “Is America ready for a black President?” I would contend that, given this historical accomplishment, the question has already been answered with a resounding YES! Upon earning his law degree from an Ivy League School (magna cum laude, I might add), Barack Obama could have easily returned to corporate America to enjoy a huge salary with lots of company perks. Instead, he chose to return to Chicago’s south-side to lead voter registration drives and practice civil rights law. Then after three years of representing discrimination claims, community organizers, and voting rights cases, he went back into the classroom, this time as a teacher. He was a lecturer and constitutional law scholar at the University of Chicago Law School until his decision to run for the U.S. Senate in 2003.
Andrew Young’s candid non-support of Senator Obama is particularly ironic to me because there are several pointed similarities between them. For example, as a civil rights activist in the early 1960s, Young played a key role in the conflicts in Birmingham, Alabama, serving as a mediator between the black and white communities. Obama has the same talent and track record for mediating effectively between the Democratic and Republican parties as the Senator of Illinois. In 1970, Andrew Young lost his first race for Congress, but ran again in 1972 and won that race plus two more. Likewise, Obama had an unsuccessful first run in a House of Representatives race before being reelected to the Senate twice more.
During Young’s three terms in Congress he was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and was involved in several debates regarding foreign relations, including the decision to stop supporting Portuguese attempts to keep their colonies in South Africa. His effective skills in this area were a major factor in President Jimmy Carter’s decision to appoint Young as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1977. His greatest contributions in this critical role were helping to end segregation in Zimbabwe, Rhodesia, and improved U.S. relations with Nigeria. Senator Obama is also a Congressional Black Caucus Member, and serves as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, traveling extensively to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South Africa, addressing the issues of global terrorism, genocide in Sudan, and current and post-policies regarding the war in Iraq.
When Andrew Young was Mayor of Atlanta from 1982-1990, he gained national notoriety for the city by encouraging international investment, which improved the Atlanta economy after it was hit hard by recession. In his book The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Senator Obama proposes a series of initiatives similar to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Programs implemented during his Presidency after the Great Depression of the 1930s, as a strategy for how we can begin to restore America economically after the Bush Administration vacates.
So, to hear Mr. Young make statements like that about a candidate whose plethora of qualifications mirror so many of his own, is all the more puzzling and disturbing — especially at an event held IN Atlanta, birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. If we can’t count on the black leadership in Atlanta, dubbed The Black Mecca, to support Barack Obama, the wrong precedent gets set, and gives the rest of us very little to hope for in the way of support for him across the rest of Black America.
Finally, it is difficult and painful to even dignify Young’s last remark with a response:
“Bill is every bit as black as Barack,” he said. “He has probably gone out with more black women than Barack.”
First of all, what the hell does dating black women have to do with running the country effectively?!? Aside from the notion that if, in fact, Bill did date black women that’s probably who he learned most of his leadership game from (especially how to balance a budget), pretty much absolutely nothing! It really doesn’t matter anyway because the bottom line is, if and when Bill Clinton was done dating the sistas, he quickly returned home to one of his own when it was time to choose a wife. That’s just what we need, a black man in Andrew Young’s position bragging about how his white homey friend has probably dated more black women than a real brotha, and issuing him a “black card” with a lifetime membership as a reward to boot! Mr. Young stated that leadership requires suffering. I think his comments made here have taken care of a substantial amount of that already, don’t you? Far more importantly, though, is that Bill Clinton isn’t even Senator Obama’s opponent. However, Hillary Clinton is; yet, Young failed to share any of his assumptions about her dating history, regarding race or gender.
Let’s just hope, though, that with any luck — and a lot of prayer, Andrew Young’s foolish remarks won’t take root with the masses. Let’s hope that the majority of Black Americans are more evolved than we thought, and that we’re intelligent enough to realize that the diversity and uniqueness of Senator Obama’s background and upbringing are just two of many reasons why he’s exactly the perfect candidate who can take us to the next level in 2008.
For those of us who do get it, who have had to assimilate and adapt, whether we like to think about it or not, in order to survive in our predominantly white workplaces, and still remain committed to the cause that made affirmative action necessary in the first place, we have to challenge and educate the rest. We have to teach others that while Andrew Young was making economic breakthroughs as the Mayor of Atlanta, GA, Barack Obama was at Harvard Law School making record-breaking history as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. And how every action he has taken from his undergraduate college career to date has prepared him to become the next great black leader of our time.
I am so proud to be a Barack Obama supporter. My #1 reason for supporting him is that I sincerely believe he is the most qualified person for the job. However, I am also fully aware of what his Presidential candidacy represents for me, black people, and every other member of an ethnic or minority group. With respect to where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and how very far we still have to go, Senator Obama really is the chosen one. The fact that he’s black is a bonus, and yes, it does make me even more proud.
Some unsolicited advice for Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and all of the other black leaders who haven’t given Senator Barack Obama the respect and/or support he deserves – stop being part of the problem and become part of his solution! By not standing together, black people continue to lose, and we have lost way too much already, of which we’re constantly reminded with overwhelming statistics about our continued spiral downward in every area of life by which success is measured.
Because when Senator Obama becomes President Obama (and he will become President), remember whose support and approval you’re going to need to advance your next agenda. In the meantime think about this: when you talk to the press about the Billary duo, or the powerful Clinton machine as if they’re running a Presidential candidate team, the real message you’re sending to everyone is that it takes two Clintons to beat one Obama! And that, my friends, deserves a tall glass of haterade!