The “Obama Legacy”
Besides Carrying Out War and Aggression All Over the World and Committing Crimes Against Humanity… Besides Deporting Nearly 3 Million Immigrants… Besides Not Only Leaving Intact But Sharpening Up the Repressive Powers He Inherited From Bush…
Barack Obama was America’s first Black president—put in office by a ruling class that badly needed “plastic surgery” internationally and “at home” after the disastrous Bush administration with its blood-soaked and utterly unjustified war on Iraq and everything concentrated in the callous, racist way it handled Hurricane Katrina. He came into office promoting the idea that America had at long last put its “racial problems” behind it, and that it was also now going to be a great friend to the oppressed peoples of the world. We’ll get into the actual war crimes and crimes against humanity that he committed at another time. But right now, particularly at a time when there’s a lot of “nostalgia” for the Obama years, let’s look at what he did about and TO Black people—and let’s include Michelle Obama in that as well, for she not only did things in her own right but also played the role of assuring those who would normally be raising questions, that she was “authentic” and “keeping Obama real.” And particularly at a time when Obama is doing great damage in disarming people about the biggest threat they face right now, it is extremely important to face the TRUTH about this.
1) After Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson, Obama’s BULLSHIT message was, “First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law” and “Our police officers put themselves on the line for us every single day.” When the pigs in Baltimore murdered Freddie Gray and the youth of Baltimore rose up demanding justice—Obama called them “thugs,” while never condemning the murdering cops. Obama’s Department of Justice issued Consent Decrees on police departments around the country—which include reports that acknowledged some of the murderous crimes being carried out by the pigs, but then wrapped all this in talk of bullshit reforms. In Ferguson, for example, the Justice Department report showed widespread, pervasive racism—but then wrapped that sliver of truth in a bigger lie, saying that Michael Brown caused his own death! The actual Department of Justice record under Obama was of supporting literally every single act of police violence that has come before the U.S. Supreme Court. For his whole eight years in office, Obama continually defended murdering pigs gunning down Black and Latino youth—and at the same time both attacked, and at other times misled, those fighting against police murder, telling people to work with the cops.1
2) Obama put the blame for the poverty, high prison rates, poor education, and the whole oppressive situation Black and Latino youth face on the people themselves. He preached that the problem is the lack of “personal responsibility”—”absentee fathers“—(often “absentee” due to being thrown into the prison system on a racist basis!), youth with sagging pants, too much TV, and so on. He completely left out the actual reality of how this system has devastated communities of the oppressed; left little “choice” for millions of youth except the underground economy or the military; how Black people are continually discriminated against in housing, health care, education, and jobs, as shown by study after study, making a mockery of the notion of “equality”; how young Black men are targeted with “stop and frisk” racial profiling and outright police murder; and how millions of them are thrown into prisons, many for minor drug violations. In a speech to graduates from Morehouse College he said, “We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices” and now “There’s no time for excuses.” And who better than Barack Obama, the first Black president, to deliver this message to Black youth for their plight? If George Bush or now, Trump does this—Black people, at least many, would more readily see this as racist. But when the first Black president did it, it was able to get people to swallow this poison. And this is a big part of WHY he was brought forward and supported by the ruling class as president—to promote the LIE that America was “post-racial” and that if Black people were having problems “it was their own fault.” 2
3) Obama promoted the notion that Black people should be part of joining the military and going all over the world to kill other oppressed people in the interests of U.S. imperialism. In June, 2015 he made a big deal, posthumously awarding two World War I “heroes” with the Medal of Honor; one to a Jewish son of Russia immigrants and another to one of the all-Black “Harlem Hellfighters” who he said had both gone “unacknowledged and uncelebrated.” This was like celebrating the Black “Buffalo Soldiers” who after the Civil War helped the U.S. Army steal the land of and carry out the genocide of the Native Americans. While Michelle Obama made supporting military families and spouses her personal mission, Barack Obama, as the first Black president provided a “role model for Black people”—commander in chief who reaffirmed the policy of indefinite military detentions; who presided over torture in Guantánamo; who oversaw a weekly “kill list” and escalated the use of Predator drones, killing countless innocent civilians. Obama waged war on seven countries and supported Israel TWICE in its genocidal onslaughts against the Palestinian people in Gaza. Decades ago, looking at all that U.S. imperialism did around the world, Malcolm X called “Uncle Sam” a “bloody-jawed wolf”—Obama is just another one of those wolves, and if anyone can’t see it, it’s because they don’t want to see it!3
4) Obama continually attempted to, and too often succeeded in, politically neutering prominent Black intellectuals and artists, as well as other artists and intellectuals with progressive reputations, promoting the illusion that they had “one of their own” in the White House—covering up that no matter who is in the White House he (or she) must serve “the bloody-jawed wolf” of U.S. imperialism, and thereby enlisting them in the crimes against humanity carried out by the very empire which built itself in the first place on slavery and genocide. It is a very sad commentary that very few prominent Black intellectuals or artists besides Cornel West continually and forcefully condemned Obama for his wars of empire and military aggression against other oppressed peoples, as well as the extremely dangerous effect he was having on the struggle against the oppression of Black people as a people.4
5) After a cold-blooded white supremacist massacred nine people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina… because they were Black… after they had opened their doors to him… Obama went to South Carolina and delivered what was supposed to be a eulogy for the Black people who had been slaughtered. And right there, at the funeral, in front of the loved ones of those who had been killed, he actually had the nerve to say that this murder was part of “God’s plan”—and that the main thing people needed to learn from this horrible thing was the “power of forgiving”—when in fact if anything, what the so-called “power of forgiving” has taught the people over and over and over again, is that it has enabled nothing but the people learning to and being forced to live with oppression. As for the ridiculous notion of this being part of “God’s plan,” then why not chalk up ALL the horrors of the Middle Passage, centuries of slavery that make the mind and heart ache and boil to even think of them, the decades of lynching, and now the hell of mass incarceration and criminalization in every sphere—why not chalk ALL that up to “God’s plan” rather than the workings of U.S. capitalism-imperialism, its institutions of white supremacy, and the horrible way that they have conditioned all too many white people to act? Because everyone except someone like Ben Carson would recognize what a lie that was, that’s why!! And by the way, as long as we’re on the topic of (the nonexistent) “God”—why would anyone worship a god with a “plan” that fiendish and cruel??!?5
6) When Obama ran for president in 2008, he threw Jeremiah Wright not only under the bus but off the goddamn bridge for saying a little bit of the truth about America. Wright had given sermons where he had said things like: “[The United States] Government lied about their belief that all men were created equal. The truth was they believe all White men were created equal” and “The Government lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq being a threat to the United States’ peace. And guess what else? If they don’t find them some Weapons of Mass Destruction, they gonna do just like the LAPD and plant them some Weapons of Mass Destruction. Governments lie…” Obama gave an entire well-publicized speech trashing Wright, who had been his minister in Chicago, saying Wright had “a view that sees white racism as endemic,” and that his thinking was “divisive” and draws people away from the problems of “two wars, a terrorist threat, a failing economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change.” In this way, in a phrase, Obama covered over how there is systematic oppression of Black people and an entrenched system of white supremacy running through every institution of America and at the very core of the country. This kind of “cover-up” continued throughout his presidency.6
7) Obama did some high-profile things, like visiting prisons and releasing some prisoners to give the impression he was actually doing something about the horror of mass incarceration in the USA—which is an international scandal where America is known for its “addiction” to imprisoning Black and Latino men and women under the guise of the “war on drugs”—part of what amounts to a slow genocide that can become very fast at any time. Obama implemented some policies aimed at reducing the prison population like getting rid of some of harsh minimum sentencing policies that led to the shortening of sentences and/or the early release of thousands of prisoners. Obama commuted the sentences of over 1,000 prisoners. But this is thimble-full in an ocean of blood—in a prison system where over 2 million people are behind bars. And consider this: If the trend set by Obama of reducing the prison population were to continue—and this is a big IF, now with Trump in office—it would take 80-90 years (!) to get to where the prison population was in 1980. The fact that Obama did anything at all was consistent with the whole point and purpose of his presidency—to give a “fresh progressive face” to America after the horror of the Iraq War and the open torture of the Bush regime along with the scandal of its massive prison system that had tarnished America’s reputation—and its ability to dominate—around the world. And the fact that this was bullshit cosmetics, designed to fool the inattentive, was ALSO consistent.7
8) In the face of a horrible situation where masses of youth are killing each other in Chicago and other cities, as well as rampant random (or “white-on-white”) slaughter more generally in America, Obama has covered over the real reason this is happening—refusing to point the finger at what and who really is causing this. Once again he, along with Michelle Obama, has led the way in preaching that the problem is “gun control” when the shooters are white, and gun control plus a lack of “personal responsibility” when they are Black or Latino—when in fact, the problem is that these youth have been left with no future, that they have been trained in and acting on the very dog-eat-dog outlook of this system as it translates into their circumstances, and that the only way out of this is the radical overturning of this system and a whole new economic and political system and, in the case of the “mass shooters” phenomenon, that this sick and twisted society is unique in the sheer amount of people that it evidently conditions and drives to carry out such monstrous things.8
9) Black people were especially hard hit by the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. Predatory subprime loans, which had much higher interest rates, affected people of all nationalities, but the banks deliberately targeted Black and Latino people in particular. It came out in court that loan officers at Wells Fargo referred to these subprime loans as “ghetto loans,” and referred to Black customers as “mud people.” Foreclosures severely affected Black and Latino communities at much higher rates than whites. According to a 2008 report this led to “the greatest loss of wealth to people of color in modern U.S. history—between $164 billion and $213 billion for loans taken during the past eight years.” (State of the Dream 2008: Foreclosed) Across the nation, more than 240,000 Black people lost homes they had owned. But Obama did NOTHING to aid Black people who were devastated by the crash of 2008. The programs Obama introduced intended to help some of these homeowners are now widely considered failures. (See: “Obama Failed to Mitigate America’s Foreclosure Crisis”9)
10) Perhaps worst of all, Obama became the “normalizer-in-chief”—paving the way for the fascist Donald Trump. He literally told people, “it’s gonna be alright,” reiterating over and over again that it was of utmost importance to have a “peaceful transition of power”—which in effect meant telling people to ACCEPT FASCISM. He did absolutely nothing to sound an alarm about the real and urgent danger looming over the world or to rally people to resist this. He did the opposite. He said, “I committed to President-Elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition”—which meant paving the way for this fascist to come into office without massive opposition, especially from Black people and other oppressed peoples.10
In fact, it is this normalization that gives us the best clue as to WHY Obama so deeply put the knife into the backs of Black people. Remember when Obama came out after Trump won, a few days later and said: “We are now all rooting for his [Trump’s] success in uniting and leading the country. The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy… [W]e have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first….” So he TOLD us straight up why he did this—that he is on the same team as Trump!!!
Think about that. Are YOU on the “same team” as Trump? Here’s someone who’s going to take the masses of Black people into a far lower circle of hell. Are YOU on that team? Is that what YOU are fighting for? Well, he’s told you that HE is on the same team.
Shit is way too serious now to harbor any illusions, to cover over any of the hard edges of what the masses face. This Trump is going to speed up what has already been a slow genocide. And if he gets away with it—and this Party is determined he will not, and we want to unite with everyone else who wants to stand up against this foul fascist pig and his regime of monsters—but if he does, history will rightly condemn Barack Obama as his number one accomplice.
1. From revcom.us: Obama Addresses Police Forum: Cosmetic Changes, Increased Repression; Five Lies in Obama’s Speech After Darren Wilson Went Free; Obama’s “Let Legal System Work” = Let Murdering Police Walk; Post Racial My Ass! ON THE ARREST OF HENRY LOUIS GATES IN HIS OWN HOME! By Carl Dix [back]
2. From revcom.us: Straight Talk About Obama and the Oppression of Black People; Six Ways That Obama Has Been Worse Than Bush; Youtube of Obama Speech at Morehouse College [back]
4. From Bob Avkian: BA on Obama: Let’s Be Real Here: As Bad As Bush Was, In Many Ways Obama Is Worse… [back]
5. From Bob Avakian: THE NEW COMMUNISM: The science, the strategy, the leadership for an actual revolution, and a radically new society on the road to real emancipation, by Bob Avakian. (online) page 131
From revcom.us: Of Liberation and Love: Why Obama Embraced Forgiveness—and Why We Should NOT [back]
6. “Jeremiah Wright controversy,” on Wikipedia
From revcom.us: The Morning After the Elections: The Promise of Change… and the Change We Need [back]
7. From revcom.us: What Will It Take to Really Get Rid of Mass Incarceration? [back]
8. Chicago Tribune: An emotional Obama flexes his executive muscle on gun control.
From the Revolution Club, Chicago: A CALL FROM CHICAGO COME TOGETHER—TRUCE—TO STOP THE TRUMP-PENCE REGIME [back]
9. From revcom.us: Subprime Mortgage Crisis: Nightmare of the “American Dream” for Black and Latino People
From Nathalie Baptiste: Them That’s Got Shall Get: Two years after we last investigated the foreclosure crisis in the most affluent black county in America, things aren’t exactly looking up—except, maybe, for the banks by Nathalie Baptiste
From Mother Jones: The Great Eviction: Black America and the Toll of the Foreclosure Crisis
From the Atlantic: Obama Failed to Mitigate America’s Foreclosure Crisis [back]