by Danny Haiphong
In the final analysis, the nation’s First Black President has been a “great protector and arbiter of the racist state.” Not only has Barack Obama refused to indict killer cops, he won’t even compel the cops to keep track of who they kill. “Obama only began to pay attention when the movement for Black Lives forced policing and prisons into the national spotlight.”
The Obama Legacy Part IV: Protecting the Racist State, Scorning Black America
by Danny Haiphong
“Obama’s attempt to frame himself as an advocate of criminal justice reform in the closing days contradicts his extensive record of protecting the police and obstructing prisoner release for unjust convictions.”
It is only fitting that the movement for Black lives has grown out of the concluding years of the Obama era. Throughout the entirety of his Administration, President Obama made it a point not to address the particular condition of Black people in America. A narrative was devised by the elite's thought merchants, and heavily supported by Obama himself, that the first Black President was elected to serve all people, not just Black people. This so-called color-blind conclusion inferred that Obama would serve Black America equally to white America. But the needs of Black America were not only thoroughly ignored, but also strongly opposed by Obama’s two-term servitude to the racist state.
Nothing made the antagonistic stance of the Obama Administration to Black America clearer than its handling of the police. As thousands of Black Americans were being gunned down by local law enforcement each year, Obama was granting the police immunity from federal prosecution. In 2014, military vehicles and SWAT teams rolled through the streets of Ferguson after the murder of Michael Brown. Obama's first response was to allow the Grayson Amendment to die in Congress. The Grayson amendment would have halted Pentagon transfers of military weaponry to local police. A year later, Obama adopted the amendment as an executive action to score political points. However, Obama also signed the "Blue Alert" Act in the same year which mandated the DOJ create an alert system to trace "threats" against the police.
“The needs of Black America were not only thoroughly ignored, but also strongly opposed by Obama’s two-term servitude to the racist state.”
In complete contempt for slain Black Americans, the Obama's Attorney General Loretta Lynch explained to the corporate press in 2015 that the police should not be forced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to keep statistics of their murder victims. Yet it was found in 2015 that nearly 1134 Black men alone were murdered by US law enforcement – or, one every eight hours. Obama's DOJ not only refused to use its executive powers to indict killer cops, but it also failed to force local police departments to keep accurate records on its murderous practices. Black America thus could never expect President Obama to bring justice down on the armed occupation army of the Black community. Perhaps this fact explains why few in the incipient movement against Black Lives have demanded Obama do much of anything since it caught wind in 2014.
Obama didn't merely protect the police during his Presidency. He protected the entire racist state. In February and March of 2016, Obama commuted the sentences of 248 individuals sentenced to harsh prison terms for possession of crack cocaine and abolished solitary confinement for juveniles in the federal prisons system. However, Obama's Department of Justice actually obstructed the enforcement of the Fair Sentencing Act in federal court in 2011. This denied the release of thousands of mostly Black prisoners convicted under the 100-1 racist ratio between crack and cocaine convictions outlined in US drug law. Obama’s attempt to frame himself as an advocate of criminal justice reform in the closing days contradicts his extensive record of protecting the police and obstructing prisoner release for unjust convictions.
“Obama's Department of Justice actually obstructed the enforcement of the Fair Sentencing Act in federal court in 2011.”
Obama only began to pay attention when the movement for Black Lives forced policing and prisons into the national spotlight. Yet these issues present a national crisis for Black America. US law enforcement not only kills Black Americans at a daily rate but also imprisons them in record numbers. One of every eight prisoners in the world is a Black American. The US holds 25 percent of the world's prisoners and possesses just five percent of the world's population. Black American children are three times more likely to be impoverished than whites. Black males are two a half more times likely to be killed by police and six times more likely to be incarcerated than their white American counterparts.
Obama should be labeled the great protector and arbiter of the racist state for his vile response to the conditions of Black life in America. While his Administration put in very little effort to make material changes to the Mass Black Incarceration regime, Obama himself made plenty of time to conduct an ideological assault on Black people. In 2008, the newly elected Obama took a great deal of time in his speech on Father's Day to scorn Black men for being inadequate and absent fathers. In 2013, Obama gave a speech at Morehouse College, serenading Black graduates with a neo-liberal swan song about "personal responsibility." Obama demanded Black Americans stop making excuses for the legacy of slavery and racism and to be good fathers to their children. Such neo-liberal mythology would never have been uttered to a graduation class with a majority white student body.
“Not once did Obama lift a finger to fight for the needs and rights of his most loyal constituency.”
Obama's words to Black America should come as no surprise. He stated plainly in 2012 that he was not the President of Black America, but all Americans. Throughout his two terms, Obama claimed to be fighting for a "post-racial" society. The incipient movement for Black Lives forced him to comment on the murder of Trayvon Martin and the abuse of Black Americans in the criminal justice system. However, not once did Obama lift a finger to fight for the needs and rights of his most loyal constituency. The prisons remain full and the police maintain their murderous occupation of Black communities.
Obama's aversion to Black Americans and his maintenance of the mass Black Incarceration regime tell a different story than the one spread by the corporate media. The corporate media branded Obama as a President of all the people who just happened to be Black. However, his policies and politics only comforted the racist state and its loyal servants, mainly White Americans and careerists in the Black misleadership class. President Obama's legacy as the protector of the racist state is part and parcel of the job description for the executive branch. He was selected by the ruling class to stabilize the racist state and nothing more.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at [email protected]