President Obama is just a wolf in sheep’s clothing to Chairman Omali Yeshitela of the African People's Party, or as he describes him “White power in black face.”
Yeshitela, along with other members of the African Socialist Party, also known as the Uhuru Movement, discussed their stances on President Obama’s second term as a part of their “Black Resistance, White Solidarity” conference being held at the Party’s longtime headquarters, the Uhuru House in St. Petersburg on Monday night. The Party has a long history of activism ranging internationally to locally, with Yeshitela starting the movement following the Civil Rights movement.
Obama’s quick ascension to power and connection to corporate and political interests is highly suspicious to Yeshitela, who says it seems strange that the first black president is named Barack Hussein Obama as opposed to a common African-American name. He also feels the problem isn’t so much racism as it is Western style capitalism, that one factor in Obama’s rise and subsequent popularity is that he represents that “everybody can make it” idea purported mainly by the Democratic Party.
While Obama had solid connections in the Democratic Party, especially the Chicago machine, Omali is critical of his lack of connections to any key players in the black community. Obama instilled a sense of pride in most African-Americans simply because of his race, all while being un-beholden to black interests Yeshiteli says.
“The thing that he had going for him was that he did not have any connections to the African community, no base in the African community to be accountable to. He didn’t have to make any promises to Africans; all he had to do was be black and show up. Then this uninformed, underdeveloped nationalism took over from there. We were so proud of him because he looked just like us.”
Throughout his speech to the members of the Party gathered in the Uhuru house, Omali was fired up against the idea that Obama is supposed to end the idea of racism and usher in a new era of racial harmony. To him racism isn’t as much of a factor than what he calls “imperialism”, the economic inequality that persists among most notably the African and Hispanic community.
“Every time you look up the data there’s a concrete manifestation of the attitude that America has for black people, one out of eight every human beings on this Earth in prison being an African in this country. …black people who have been defined as slaves and bestial with every offense committed against us being justified by being naturally normal because of some pathology that affects our community, how in the hell after 200 some odd years of that in this country, all of the sudden America wakes up and is so progressive that it’s going to elect a negro president of the United States?…Did Jesus come back when I was asleep?”
President Obama is known for his oratory and connection skills, which helped lead to his victory in 2008 and subsequent re-election in 2012. To Yeshitela he’s “slick”, noting how he seems to purposefully change his appearance and mannerisms to appeal to the African American demographic. This is just a front to continue policies that harm Africans to Omali.
“He winks at Negroes every now and then, while cutting our throats at the very same moment.”
He also says that the community needs to wake up and accept some criticism of the Obama administration, and that while he doesn’t necessarily agree with them, that the only criticism against the President primarily come from the conservative (and predominantly white) right and that the African community instinctively “circles the wagons” as they see it as racism. Black voices need to come out against him for the change to occur says Yeshitelia.
“For many people he represents us..vicariously we’ve gone to power as a consequence of Obama’s election. Although you find that that support for Obama is just skin deep. Once you begin to challenge that from the African community that will start to capitulate.”
Imperialism is at the root of Western capitalist culture to Yeshitela, and that multiple approaches have been used through out our history. Prior to Obama, he says that the idea was the neo-conservative method of “spreading democracy” and that it was simply a forceful way to control Western economic interests.
“The problem is that one way that capitalism most recently tried to deal with this, and (when) I say capitalism I mean the ruling class I know it’s not homogenous. One representative of this was the presidency of George W. Bush, who saw using the gun to just control and reconquer the world, and it didn’t work.”
The Obama administration is just a new plan in Yeshitela’s opinion to encourage Western style capitalism (imperialism to him), but in a new way that appeals more worldwide. The increase in drone strikes and foreign policy posturing in the Middle East (and increasingly in the Pacific) is proof to him that Obama is the same kind of American “imperialism” but in a friendlier package. He notes that if these kind of actions were taken during the Bush era you’d see “people in the streets”, especially the African and liberal community, but Obama’s appeal diminishes the chances for that.
“So now Obama is another face, another expression of a way to resolve a contradiction by seducing the people, because white power has such a nasty impression in the minds of people around the world. So now somebody who looks just like the oppressed is the representative of the most powerful imperialist country in the world.”
He notes that while drones and foreign policy strength have increased, the housing and stock markets are still down and that the economic situation is still dire for many Americans. This is leading to more questioning of our current economic system, something that he feels is the first step in accomplishing resistance to imperialism. The increase in protests and movements worldwide is a sign that people across the globe are moving away from what he describes as imperialism.
“I’m extraordinarily optimistic..because in part the actual foundation of capitalism, which is colonialism, the ability to take resources from oppressed peoples around the world, that foundation has now been taken away from it. Our possibilities are greater than they ever have before.”