ST. PETERSBURG, FL — On Friday, August 1, the Barack Obama presidential campaign hit a serious bump in a St. Petersburg, Florida town hall meeting as members of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) challenged Obama on his unwillingness to speak to the interests of the African community.
While demonstrators outside chanted “Obama, McCain, its the same game,” InPDUM members inside raised a banner that read “What about the black community, Obama?”
InPDUM International Organizer Diop Olugbala challenged Obama asking, “In the face of the numerous attacks that are made against the African community or the black community by the same U.S. government that you aspire to lead — and we are talking about attacks like the subprime mortgage that you spoke of that wasn’t just a general ambiguous kind of phenomena, but a phenomena that targeted the African community and Latino community; attacks like the killing of Sean Bell by the New York police department and Javon Dawson right here in St. Petersburg by the St. Petersburg police, and Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina, and the list goes on. In the face of all these attacks that are clearly being made on the African community, why is it that you have not had the ability to not one time speak to the interests and even speak on the behalf of the oppressed and exploited African community or black community in this country?”
After stammering, Obama made the claim that he had addressed all of those issues with public statements, but that he just may not have spoken out in the way desired.
It is well known that he did make a statement after the acquittals of the police who pumped 50 bullets into Sean Bell’s car on his wedding day stating that the unjust verdict needed to be respected.
On the U.S. government’s leaving African people for days to die after Hurricane Katrina he stated on September 6, 2005, “I do not subscribe to the notion that the painfully slow response of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security was racially-based. The ineptitude was colorblind.”
Obama was right that he had not spoken to these issues as would be desired. While he may have conceded that the subprime loans were predatory, he has failed to condemn Penny Pritzker, his national finance advisor, for having made a fortune through the subprime mortgage scheme at the expense of Africans and Latinos.
In fact, Obama’s painting the U.S. as some place on the verge of a “post-racial” society with “race problems” being “90 percent” solved, his opposition to reparations for African people and his liquidating the colonial relationship that African people in the U.S. are held in are disarming. His role as a pied piper — leading African people who are disenchanted with the inability of the U.S. electoral process to provide any solution for them right back to the Democratic Party — is problematic for African people.
His role is one that works against African people’s struggle for self-determination — the loss of which was necessary for the building and maintaining of the United States of America.
The question for African people cannot be confined to whom to vote for in a bourgeois election where freedom and self-determination for African people will never be on the ballot. The question instead must be one of what must be done to win self-determination.