As a Negro boy growing into manhood during the era of racial segregation, the thought of becoming president of these United States never crossed my mind. It was clear then that a people who would deny a black man a seat at a five and dime coffee counter would rather watch its country tumble into anarchy than let any black man occupy the seat of power in the Oval Office.
More than 40 years later, with our nation caught in a chasm of chaos, Iâ€™m beginning to believe that a large segment of white America might still prefer to risk seeing the country slide into oblivion rather than elect a man of color who might have the solutions it so desperately needs. Barack Obama, still the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, continues to believe that the American people wonâ€™t allow that to happen. He expected â€“ and is receiving – resistance from that segment of our society that clings to the bigoted ways that were entrenched in the old south.
But he couldnâ€™t have suspected that Hillary and Bill Clinton, so-called friends of the black community, would appeal to old, racial fears in the most devious ways to derail his bid for the presidency. If the Clintons succeed, the media surely would be dubbed co-conspirators in one of the more contemptuous political coups of recent generations. In this country, â€œWe the Peopleâ€ didnâ€™t apply to blacks before the Civil Rights era, and sometimes one wonders if it does now. White juries rarely prosecuted white defendants accused of any crime against blacks. Most white businessmen, white law enforcement officers, white judges, etc. rarely saw â€œWe the Peopleâ€ when dealing with blacks. The rules of law, fairness and Christian decency just didnâ€™t apply to us then.
Evidently, the Clintons apparently believe such rules still donâ€™t apply to blacks. They seem to believe that established rules governing the Democratic primary can be ignored if their challenger is black. They say Michigan and Florida should count even though she agreed with the party leadersâ€™ decision to exclude those states. They say pledged delegates donâ€™t have to keep their promises. They even say that the popular vote – not the delegate vote â€“ should determine the primary winner.
All rules, they seem to think, should be abandoned because â€œObama canâ€™t win,â€ in the general election. And as Iâ€™ve said before, the-you-know-why need not be mentioned publicly. But privately, the Obama-canâ€™t-win refrain has been shouted repeatedly at any super delegates within range of the Clintons and their surrogates. Like it or not, the Clintons have come out of the closet on the issue of race, and I donâ€™t believe many black and fair-minded white voters like what theyâ€™ve seen. Thus far, the mediaâ€™s role has been less than admirable, as well.
I am especially embarrassed by its role in the primaries. Rather than seek a higher road, the media seem focused only on higher television and radio ratings and greater magazine, newspaper and print internet circulations. They prefer to titillate, not inform; to promote controversy, not clear thinking and to inflame emotions rather than take its audiences down a more inspirational, principled or virtuous path.
When I became a rookie reporter at Long Island New Yorkâ€™s Newsday in 1970, I was so proud to be a staff member at a newspaper which recently had won the Pulitzer Prize for exposing corruption in the form of land scandals in the towns of Islip, Babylon and Brookhaven. Three years later, the Washington Postâ€™s role in exposing criminal acts at the highest level during the Watergate scandal, solidified my belief that journalism was the place to be. However, I now feel more shame than honor about my profession.
As a journalist, Iâ€™m ashamed when I see corporate controlled media giants pay more attention to their stock marketing earnings and not enough time and attention to offering public service data and probes aimed at curtailing corruption and dubious political decisions at local, state and national levels. Iâ€™m ashamed when I see news shows repeatedly run gaffes made by Clintons and Obama or when newspapers run unfounded charges – as the New York Times â€“ recently did against Republican nominee John McCain. With air space to fill and no time allowed to probe or contemplate, Iâ€™m ashamed when I see cable news shows run a story all day, repeating it with a different host or hostess hour-after-hour, but talking to the same â€˜analysts,â€™ eliciting the same responses. The routine is sure to get worse before it gets better. Indeed, if Obama wins the Democratic nomination, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who already has become a household name in the USA, might gain international fame by November.
Iâ€™d like to see Obama survive the Rev. Wright controversy and become the next president because I believe heâ€™s the only person prepared to steer this country away from a destructive confluence of greed and corruption and capable of finding workable solutions to the growing military and economic problems created by a bumbling Bush presidency. Obama is the complete package.
To use a sports metaphor, he is the Tiger Woods of politics. The major difference of course, is that the American people â€“ by their vote – must believe he possesses that level of greatness before he gets to actually show it. If they choose not to, then his greatness likely would forever be deferred, his destiny unfilled. Thereâ€™s one other reason Iâ€™d like to see him win the nomination. Itâ€™s the only way to really test the American peopleâ€™s willingness to elect a president of color. Obama continually has said that he has faith in the American people; he believes they will give him the edge. I say itâ€™s 50-50.
Regardless, if the Clintons steal the race, Iâ€™d have no choice but to cast my first vote for a Republican nominee for president. I suspect that many others â€“ blacks and whites â€“ would follow suit.