Why WEB Dubois Felt that Black People Should Not Vote

 

In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. –W.E.B. DuBois

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Dr. Boyce: Should Black Americans Expect More from Obama Than Any Other President?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I’ve heard people say that the expectations on Barack Obama are greater from our community than they have been for any other president.  When someone highlights the fact that black unemployment has actually worsened under the Obama Administration while improving within the white community, the quickest reaction I typically hear is “He’s president of all of America, not just black America,” which appears to be an excuse for him not to do anything.  There is no question that President Obama has bigger issues to worry about than us ‘lil old black folks,’ but we seem to become pretty important to the White House around election time.

While one might argue that some black Americans expect more from Obama than any other president, we must also remember that we supported him more than any other president. So, I argue that if we are being asked to expect the same from him that we would anyone else, then we should give him the same support as any other Democrat on election day.  In other words, don’t ask for more if you are not prepared to give more.  Extraordinary benefits and expectations are a double-edged sword.

Has the Obama presidency been good for black America?  It depends on who you ask.  But what I ask, quite simply, is that we focus on tangible results and not symbolism when making our assessment. Singing Al Green songs might seem pretty cool, but it’s not so cool when black Americans are singing the blues in the midst of foreclosure, poverty and unemployment unlike anything we’ve seen in the last 25 years.

I long for the day that the leading reason to support the Democrats in the next election doesn’t simply amount to, “Well, the Republicans are going to be much worse.”  That’s like a woman choosing to work for the pimp who beats her or the one who steals all of her money.  Perhaps she should remove herself from prostitution entirely.

Three years ago, the Obama Administration made it clear that they would not have a targeted policy to deal with racial inequality in wealth or unemployment.  The president said that he believed that “the rising tide will lift all boats,” implying that targeted policy would not be necessary to deal with inequality.  My Finance PhD led me to interpret these words as a racialized-version of trickle-down economics, another failed policy of the Reagan Administration.  The notion that racial inequality will simply “fix itself” is socially lazy, naive and counterproductive.    The same government that played a role in solidifying inequality in our society must also play a part in correcting that inequality – we didn’t get to this place by ourselves.

Well, the facts have made it clear that the “rising tides” policy has been a miserable failure.  Over the last three years, white unemployment has improved, while black unemployment has gotten worse. During the last two months, when the Obama Administration celebrated improved employment numbers for the economy, the fact was that these improvements missed the black community entirely. During the past year, white unemployment has dropped from 8.3% to 7.5%, while black unemployment has risen from 15.2% to 15.8%, more than double that of white Americans.

Supporting a black president is very important.  But the same courage that it takes for us to get out and vote for the president must be returned with courageous policy that reflects the interests of those who support him.  You can’t ask for extraordinary support and then turn around and say, “Hey, I’m just a regular guy.”   Also, avoiding favoritism toward the black community is very different from the abandonment of political responsibility.  There are times when it seems that the administration works so hard to avoid appearing biased that it goes to the other extreme – sort of like when a father hires his son and then treats him worse than everyone else.

At the end of the day, the proof must be in the pudding.  If the numbers on unemployment, foreclosure and wealth inequality show that Obama has done a good job for black Americans, then we should support him.  But if the numbers do not justify his re-election, we should not allow anyone to play the race card to convince us to vote blindly.  In fact, I don’t even blame those who choose to sit out of the election in protest.  Al Sharpton, Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Melissa Harris Perry or other Obama surrogates should not be making the decision for you – taking care of a few select members of the black community is not the same as taking care of the community itself.  We must be sure to vote intelligently.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracusef University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. 

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Yvette Carnell: Justice Clarence Thomas Doesn’t Care If Your Attorney Runs Out on You

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Dr. Boyce: Eddie Long’s Little Boys Keep On Speaking Out

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Red Tails is Kicking Butt at the Box Office

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Dr. Boyce & Yvette: What if Newt Gingrich Were a Black Man?

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Madam Prezident: Sherri Shepherd Has No Problem calling Her friends “Nigga”

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Watkins: Students must embody MLK with their actions, not just words

by Anna Johnson, January 11, 2012

The change America needs isn’t going to be easy, cheap or comfortable, and it will not come without controversy.

Boyce Watkins, the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Program, urged students, faculty, staff and community members to take action and follow through on King’s ideals and values instead of just talking about them.

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Pres. Obama Sings Al Green for Black Audience

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Newt Gingrich’s Wife Says He Wanted an Open Marriage

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Yvette Carnell: Lessons in Tokenism from Juan Williams

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Dr. Boyce: Why Michelle Would Have Made an Even Better First Black President

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Woman Goes to Jail for Recording Officer Covering Up a Crime

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Pres. Obama Shoots Down the SOPA Bill

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Stop the Corporate Takeover of the Internet

Dear Thomas,

Since the dawn of broadcasting, our free speech has been dominated – and largely controlled – by the powerful corporations that control public airwaves and the shows they carry.

Real free speech on the Internet is a profound, existential threat to these media giants and the politicians they own. So they are desperately trying to seize control of the Internet with obscure bills called "SOPA" in the House and "PIPA" in the Senate.

Tell Congress: Stop the Corporate Takeover of the Internet

SOPA and PIPA would wreak havoc on the technical infrastructure of the Internet, and threaten thousands of Internet businesses which are truly creating jobs.

More importantly, these bills would give big corporations and the Attorney General the power to shut down websites large and small that somehow link to copyright violators, whether through their own posts or even visitor comments.

How on earth can a website – ours included – monitor thousands or millions of links that accumulate over the years? And why should a single link be sufficient to shut down a website or force a bankrupting legal battle with a giant corporation?

Tell Congress: Stop the Corporate Takeover of the Internet

No corporation should have that power. And no Attorney General should either – just think of Alberto Gonzales, who abused his vast powers by authorizing warrantless wiretaping and torture, then lied to Congress about it.

Websites large and small are fighting SOPA/PIPA, including Wikipedia and Google. Some are even going black for a day of protest.

President Obama opposes "legislation that reduces freedom of expression" and urged Congress to pass a bill that narrowly and carefully targets foreign piracy.

We’ll reserve judgment on any future "compromise" bill. For now, we must tell Congress loud and clear:

Stop the Corporate Takeover of the Internet

Thanks for all you do

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Dr. Boyce: Why We Might Want to Listen to Tavis and Cornel on Poverty

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Yvette Carnell: What Would the First Lady Want for Her 48th Birthday?

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Professor Boyce Watkins to deliver Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast address

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HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Dr. Boyce Watkins, a nationally known expert in financial psychology, educational motivation and black social commentary, will deliver the address for Monday’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast.

Watkins, who holds a master’s in mathematical statistics and a doctorate from Ohio State university in finance, is the author of several books, including "What if George Bush Were a Black Man?" a statement on social and racial inequality.

 

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Yvette Carnell: Republican Debates Continue to be Racist

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Dr. Boyce: Martin Luther King Was Not a Super Hero – Let’s Stop Waiting for Superman

by Dr. Boyce Watkins – Your Black World

As I leave the Martin Luther King Unity breakfast being hosted by the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity in Huntsville, AL, I am reflecting on the legacy of Dr. King himself.  In the midst of my airport inner-ranting, I realized something that I should have understood more thoroughly in the past:  Martin Luther King was nobody’s hero.

Dr. King achieved extraordinary things, no doubt.  But for some reason, we have turned him into something that he would not want to be:  A bionic, all-powerful, unstoppable civil rights machine who could leap tall racists in a single bound.  In a few years, Dr. King will be shown wearing a cape and punching out evil villains, while the rest of us simply watch in admiration.

Dr. King, according to legend, is only meant to be worshipped on your wall, studied in class and honored at an annual dinner.  In no way, in your right mind, should you EVER have the audacity to believe that you can achieve even a fraction of what this man accomplished during his life.  He was an icon, a symbol, a prop in a McDonald’s commercial; he never felt fear, he never made mistakes, and he never had moments of weakness. Martin Luther King was perfect.

This modern-day rendition of Dr. King, quite honestly, makes me sick.

To allow one of our greatest freedom fighters to be politically neutered and turned into a product of Marvel comics is downright shameful.  Dr. King was not Superman, Spiderman, Iron Man or the Incredible Hulk.  Dr. King himself would say that he was not even intrinsically great.  In his quest for equality of all mankind, Dr. King never wanted us to think that he was any better than the rest of us.  He propelled himself to greatness by boosting up the rest of us, not by standing on top of our heads.

Dr. King quite simply, was something that all of us can be:  an average man who put extraordinary effort into nearly everything he did.  He faced his challenges head on and confronted the ostracism, humiliation and danger that came along with doing what was right.  When God told him to do something, he didn’t ignore the message.  Even when he felt fear, Dr. King didn’t allow this fear to cause him to buckle toward that which was most comfortable, convenient and socially acceptable.

Dr. King was human, just like the rest of us.  But he made the conscious effort to take his limited years on this planet and turn them into something worth celebrating.  He also ran the first leg of a long relay race, and some of us have dropped the baton entirely.  When we choose not to continue what Dr. King started, we are disrespecting the depth and breadth of his sacrifice.  It took our nation 400 years to get here, and no one person, speech or presidential election is going to get us to the promised land overnight.

When you go to an MLK dinner, you’re likely to hear a speech that sounds something like this:   “Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream about unity, harmony, coming together, loving one another and serving others.  He believed that all of us should be kind toward our fellow man regardless of the color of his/her skin.  He taught us that we are all God’s children, and that America is the land of opportunity.”

This statement is not incorrect, Dr. King did believe all these things.  But when we tell the story about the peaceful, sweet, kind little man who was nice to those who tried to kill him, we must supplement the remarks with an even more accurate speech that sounds like this: “Dr. King battled tirelessly on behalf of the oppressed, fought against the establishment when necessary, demanded socio-economic equality, faced controversy head-on, endured tremendous unpopularity for his beliefs, openly confronted white supremacy in America and put his life on the line for black people.  He demanded that the American capitalist war machine be altered and that African Americans be given access to economic and social equality by any means necessary.  In other words, Dr. King was not a passive little punk.”

As it stands, Dr. King would see almost nothing about America that reflects the essence of his dream.  He would see a country where the rich have hoarded the wealth at the expense of the American worker, where we are declaring war on other nations just to take their oil, where black men are being herded to prison like cattle, and where 40% of all black children are in poverty.   This is no great society, at least as far as Dr. King is concerned, and to suggest otherwise would be downright delusional and disrespectful of what this man stood for during his life.

Let’s not let Dr. Martin Luther King be taken away from us.  Reconnecting with Dr. King means remembering that he was no better than what the rest of us can be, and it also means not allowing others to rebrand him as a soft, polite, eternally gleeful corporate puppet used to sedate the masses.  Dr. King’s modified legacy is used to control African Americans in a manner that is similar to how the bible was used to control slaves on the plantation.  Martin Luther King was a fighter, and there’s no getting away from that.  We must start finding ways to honor this man properly.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. 

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