Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Burning Cane: Obama's Crisis - learning from Martin Luther King and Malcolm X

More on Obama's Historic Challenge - from Martin Luther King to Malcolm X - from John Delloro's Burning Cane Blog, a grassroots organizing perspective on social movements and issues of race, class, gender and citizenship.
Activist Historian Scott Kurashige gives historical context to the crisis in the '08 Presidential Race for Obama:

Obama’s Crisis and MLK’s Hard Truths - by Scott Kurashige
Millions of Barack Obama’s supporters are asking, “What does he do now?” Everyone following the Presidential campaign has heard sound bites of his pastor Jeremiah Wright condemning American racism and imperialism in the harshest tone possible. In response, Obama has once again been forced to distance himself from a close associate, but this time he has had to do so more forcefully and urgently.
The first thing we need to do is to put this development into context. On the surface level, it is a critical moment in a bitterly contested campaign that has devolved into a back-and-forth match of denouncing and rejecting surrogates. But on a deeper level, it is a reflection of how Obama’s success has forced him to rise to bigger and bigger challenges. And for this reason, a moment like this was sadly inevitable, for there is no Obama path to the Presidency that does not require him to rise above charges that he is unpatriotic or that he is a Black extremist. Such is the inescapable reality of running for President as a progressive African American whose formative experiences came as an inner-city community organizer on the South Side of Chicago.
When confronting a moment of crisis, great leaders are those who can see through the fog of conflict and contradiction to envision a concrete path forward for the nation. What must also be understood is that great leaders do so not as individuals; they do so with the encouragement, involvement, and constructive criticism of millions of supporters. This is why there is a need not only for Obama and his aides to do some serious strategizing. Anyone invested in the short-term and long-term success of his campaign must do some soul searching and some deep thinking about the past, present, and future of America.
To challenge Obama and his supporters in this way, regardless of whether it is fair to do so, is to provoke an unprecedented debate that escalates the stakes beyond any election in recent memory. In order for his campaign to move beyond this crisis, he must do far more than prove that he does not stand for inflammatory rhetoric. Obama must redefine the meaning of love for America.

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