Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Barack Obama: The Kunta Kinte of 2008

I woke up today thinking about the movie “Roots”. The first scene that jumps out at me is the image of Kunta Kinte being beaten because he wants to keep his real name. With each welt of the whip, he got a little weaker, until he finally changed his name to Toby.

Most of us were hit hard by this scene and hurt by it. I am equally hurt when I see Barack Obama, the political Kunta Kenta of 2008.

With each crack of the right wing whip and even some lashes by Hillary Clinton, Obama is being forced to slowly, but surely rip away everything that has helped him identify with being a black man in America. First he has to put a muzzle on his beautiful, intelligent wife, apologizing for the fact that she “misspeaks” in public. Next, he is distancing himself from Louis Farrakhan, a man with whom he had little prior association. Shortly thereafter, he goes into hiding like a broke baby’s daddy on the date of the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Assassination, all
because he didn’t want to appear “too black” for the American public.

Now we have Jeremiah Wright. After 20 years with the same pastor, Kunta Obama suddenly realizes that he made a mistake. It wasn’t sermon number 14, 122 or 1,107 that led him to that conclusion. It was Hillary Clinton and Sean Hannity who helped him see the light. They helped Barack Obama finally realize what should have been obvious from the very beginning: His radical wife needed to be put in her place, Martin Luther King is an embarrassment and his pastor can’t possibly be a true American. Thank God for Sean Hannity.

By the time Obama is done with this election, he will have fully apologized for being a strong black man in America. At that point, the transformation will be complete and Kunta will have no feet. I am only waiting for Hillary Clinton to force him to denounce Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and Harriet Tubman. After all, they were radical too.

This election surely makes Barack wish that all of his friends were white, perhaps even his wife. Those black people are just too much damn trouble. I might start getting rid of my black friends right now. Can I divorce my mama?

As I see the gobs of email coming in from readers at YourBlackWorld, the division within the black community is in full view. Some are angry at Pastor Wright for “messing up the good thing Obama has going”, while others feel that Pastor Wright should “tell it like it is.” The emails remind me of two women fighting hard over the same lying, trifling man who has learned to play them against one another. Rather than focusing on the real target (the man), the women fall right into the man’s trap, as they both so desperately seek his validation.

The truth is that the women in my example are afraid of being alone. They need him to tell them that they are beautiful. They’ve allowed this vulnerability to be exploited by a socially parasitic individual who preys on the insecurities of others. Black people, and Obama, NEED to be validated by White America. We NEED to get into the White House so that we can feel that we have achieved something. It is this need for validation from whites that leads us to sell our souls and do any tap dance necessary to achieve public approval. The loss of integrity, embarrassment, and degradation are all worth it in order to achieve the ultimate goal. I would not compare it to pure prostitution, because even prostitutes have limits.

Call me crazy, but I personally believe in a good old fashioned commodity called “integrity”. Integrity says that you don’t go denouncing your relatives because they say things that are displeasing to your audience. A high school kid doesn’t drop his little brother because the “cool kids” don’t like him. I don’t fault Jeremiah Wright for being the man he has been for the past 40 years. I only question Barack Obama, who is not the same man he was 2 years ago. I question America, a country so drunk with its own arrogance that it cannot tolerate people of color (Michelle Obama, Louis Farrakhan, Martin Luther King and Pastor Wright) who speak their mind about our country’s inequities. Every country in the world sees America’s racism. The United Nations writes reports about America’s racism. But America cannot see its own racism and those who see it are afraid to talk about it. That’s just a damn shame.

Were Obama not running for president, Jeremiah Wright would not be a problem. Barack would be going to church and saying “amen” like the rest of us. But the continuous game of psychological twister being thrust upon him by the right wing has forced him to lie as much as any other politician. Perhaps a young Barack Obama thought, in some idealistic way, that just being a good American could get him elected. Like many black men in America, Obama thought that doing the right thing, working hard and being a good person would be enough. But like the rest of us, he gets slapped with the reality that being a black man in America is one of the most unpopular positions on the social totem pole. Only a complete apology and full extraction from where you came from will do the trick: NBA players go through it, black professors go through it and politicians REALLY go through it.

Barack Obama, in my opinion, is not going to win this election. But no matter the outcome, his soul will be weary, weak and depleted. Kunta Obama will have no feet, and he may not even get to be president.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is an Assistant Professor of Finance at Syracuse University and author of “What if George Bush were a Black Man?” For more information, please visit


NeonPriest said...

This is a desperate allegory. Kunta Kinte? Barack Obama is not a Black American. He is an African American. What he knows now -- is that Wright is Judas. Wright was probably paid by the Clintons. Let's not forget, he has glad-handed with Bill Clinton. Wright like Farrakhan (sic) is part of the plot to destroy Obama like Malcolm was destroyed with the help of Black Americans. Broken Black Americans who are backstabbers, and will do anything for "butter." He's disappointed know, like Cosby is disappointed in black people -- uncivilized, irresponsible, cowardly, murderous, disrespectful, nihilistic, dishonest, unethical, empty work ethics, mindless, unimaginative crabs in a barrel. We'd better take a hard look at us and become as self-effacing and critical as Jews have been about themselves. You wonder why he may ultimately be disenchanted... we are not respected b/c we do not respect ourselves. As a Tribe, moreover, we are foolish and dim-witted. Disassociate? You damn straight. Obama is on the DL in the light of day – call it idealism or pluck whatever – but don’t cry for him – cry for black women and children in America.

Anonymous said...

I recently saw a documentary about Blacks trying to vote back in the day, when even to register, a test was required of them (only) there were degress of punishment for trying to vote from the KKK...1 A cross burned in your yard, 2 physically assualted, 3 house burned down, and 4 murder. One Black family helped others to vote and the KKK ordered all of them,
1-4 to be done to them. The father died of burn wounds while he stayed in his burning home to return fire as they as they shot up his home so his wife and children could escape. The children did get burned, but survived. I plan to vote, not based on race, but on what the message is, and who I think we'll be a better president.
Too many people have fought, and died for this right, and not just Blacks, and I don't plan to take it for granted. Our choices our HillBilly, McBush, Sen. Obama, or no vote.
I don't care who you vote for , BUT I do hope you vote.