Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How Long Will Obama-mania Really Last?

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By Dr. Boyce Watkins

During my recent trip to New York, I was stunned after watching US Airways passengers standing on the icy wings of an airplane floating on the Hudson River. It was only after looking at my cancelled ticket that I realized I was scheduled to fly out of the same city, in the same airport, with the same airline on the same day, at the same time as the people on that flight. They were going to Charlotte and I wasn’t, but that’s still too close for comfort.

In spite of invitations I have to speak and live in big cities, I stay isolated here in Syracuse so I can search for my personal perception of truth within the deepest components of my heart. I seek ideology that is disconnected from hype, politics, financial compensation or other tools used for the tainting of souls and manipulation of minds. I chose not to go to the inauguration and I’ve rarely watched television, all because I wanted to figure out how I feel about recent events without allowing CNN or anyone else to tell me how I should feel.

This morning I watched a Black man….a real brother, Barack Obama, stand and take the oath as President of the United States. When I endorsed Barack long before he appeared to ever have a chance of winning, it was honestly just wishful thinking. I supported the campaigns of Barack, Jesse and Al, mainly because I never believed Bill Clinton to be (as some called him) the First Black President. I also saw something in Barack’s eyes and mannerisms that made me trust him. My “brother radar” gave security clearance, and I knew that only a real Black man would marry an amazing woman like Michelle Obama (the woman I came closest to marrying is actually a beautiful attorney who reminds me of Michelle). I also saw something in Obama’s poise and intelligence that made me believe that he would be good for our nation. My only concern was that I was not sure if a nation willing to elect incompetent men like George Bush would have the vision necessary to choose the best man or woman for the job.

I don’t do media appearances on Fox News anymore mainly because I was disappointed by their attacks on Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright. I was even more upset with Bill O’Reilly’s statements about having a “lynching party” against Michelle Obama, and the light-hearted death threats made by Fox News Analyst Liz Trotter, who stated that she would “take (Obama) out if she could”. I love Barack Obama, and I was inspired by his ability to make the impossible possible. Like all of us, I was happy to sacrifice to help get him into the White House.

But while I support Barack Obama, I never let myself get into Obama-mania.

While I felt the need to show up and vote, I never chose to “Barack the Vote”.

My position has always been simple: Falling in love with a politician can be a very dangerous thing, and I simply wasn’t going to do it.

Like Barack Obama, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was another President who took over our country during a tough economic time. When Black leaders met with Roosevelt to discuss their justifiable indignation over Civil Rights abuses throughout the nation, Roosevelt simply told them, “I agree with you and I want to do it. Now go out and make me do it.”

The interpretation of Roosevelt’s words is that after the celebrations are over and we’ve come back to reality, we must be sure to do what is necessary to effectively utilize this opportunity. Barack Obama is a good man, I know this from speaking to my contacts on the South Side of Chicago. But we must work hard to ensure that Barack THE MAN aligns squarely and firmly with Barack THE POLITICIAN. We must always be aware of the difference between BARACK OBAMA and the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION.

BARACK OBAMA believes that public schools should get all the funding they need and that education is critically important.

The OBAMA ADMINISTRATION knows that children don’t vote or pay taxes.

BARACK OBAMA knows that 30 – 40% Black male unemployment is an economic tragedy.

The OBAMA ADMINISTRATION knows that being too closely aligned with issues effecting Black men is neither politically productive nor popular in a country that still doesn’t like Black people all that much, especially if they are poor.

BARACK OBAMA knows that, in spite of having a Black President, institutionalized racism in wealth and income levels, health care disparities and other areas will take at least another 100 years to eradicate. He is also intelligent enough to know that reparations are long overdue.

The OBAMA ADMINISTRATION knows that talking about racism using the same language as the United Nations (who states clearly that America continues to maintain a two-tiered society) is something that many Americans simply do not want to hear.

So, as we live in the bliss of “Obama-mania”, please consider this:

The dictionary defines “mania” as “A severe medical condition characterized by elevated moods, energy, unusual thought patterns and sometimes psychosis. Some symptoms are fixation, madness, compulsion, craving, craze, delirium, dementia, derangement, disorder, fad, fancy, fascination, fetish, insanity, lunacy and obsession.”

Like bottles of strong liquor, mania feels good. However, it should only be temporary. You also need designated drivers to keep the political house party under control and get everyone back home safely. Those who remain “high” and detached from reality are easy targets for emotionally void and disturbingly rational political administrations. Any good politician with constituents living in the midst of mania logically understands that there is very little work to do. No one campaigns in the regions they already control.

So, as Roosevelt explained in the example above, we can best show our love for President Obama by being politically intelligent, diligently resourceful, well-organized and focused on the issues. Political engines like the Obama Administration only understand those with the power to churn those engines. The easiest trick in the world is to make us think that racism is over because we have a Black President. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University. He does regular commentary in national media, including CNN, BET, ESPN and CBS. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.

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