From Langston Hughes to Lupe Fiasco, it has been evidenced time and again that art forms are often the most effective modes of expression. Manning Marable maintains that “Probably the greatest intuitive insights I achieved came from those writers who are the most removed form social science—the poets.” – . It is this influence that if tapped into, should ideally work towards effecting positive change, and not against it.
In a recent interview Lupe Fiasco proclaimed “President Obama is a terrorist”
This remark is not only counterproductive, but irresponsible and misplaced. I think that his comments reflect his feelings about politics and politicians in general, and maybe he thought by attacking Obama he could make the biggest statement. But that said, doing so is not only shortsighted, but lazy as well. Although it is encouraging to see evidence of what we call consciousness among rappers today, I personally do not see the advantages of attacking the first African American president, whose main goal is to help poor people. The man is clearly working tirelessly to do things like lessen the gap between the rich and poor, provide us with universal healthcare, and create opportunities in the form of jobs and less debt for college students, all in the face of intransigence from the grand old party.
After eight years of President Bush who for all intents and purposes accomplished the exact opposite of this, how do we not see Obama as anything less than an illuminated beacon of hope, the last bastion in the war against complacency? As citizens we are too often times guilty of sitting by and letting things happen. Few times in the history of this country have we come across a galvanizing figure who has the innate ability to inspire; someone who can bring together people from all walks of life (I recently saw a poster that said “rednecks for Obama” and I had to smile) and unite them in pursuit of a better future for us all.
To me, it would seem that there are other more useful and impactful ways to express our disgust with the injustices of the earth.
This is not to say that criticism our current president is unfounded. Prominent Black scholars of today such as Cornell West and Tavis Smiley have also publicly criticized him, and many times with good reason. Our president has been conspicuously quiet on social justice issues domestically and worldwide. In a world where 50% of 7 billion people survive on less than two dollars a day and 25% on roughly one dollar a day, why isn’t our biggest concern world hunger? Why does the new season of American idol get so much more attention than the bombings and mass killings in Gaza and Sudan. Some would argue that Obama deserves a pass for his seeming neglect to address these crimes against humanity. I’ve heard people say that he can’t risk losing the presidency by becoming too radical. I myself reject the notion that opposing genocide is radical; losing a seat in office seems a small price to pay when people are losing their lives.
And Lupe’s general hatred for politics is not a new idea. In fact some scholars have written that it is inherently unethical for a Black person, as a member of the oppressed to pursue a career in politics, because nothing could ensue but puppetry. In 1982 Black scholar Manning Marable had this to say about the state of Black politics
“There is something essentially absurd about a Negro politician in racist / capitalist America”
“The Black politician is locked in a world of meaningless symbols which perpetuate the hegemony of the white ruling class. The Black elected official is essentially a vicar for a higher authority, a necessary buffer between the Black majority and the capitalist state, a kind of modern voodoo priest, smelling of incense, pomp and pedigree, who promises much, but delivers nothing”
Mayhaps it is naïveté, but I would venture to say that this is no longer the case, and that there are many Black politicians who are fighting the good fight, truly striving to effect change.
But what did we realistically expect from President Barack Obama in this presidency? He was inaugurated in the middle of two wars, given an economy that had gone to the gutter, and faced with so much opposition that policy gridlock was all but inevitable. And with all of these obstacles, Obama has done more than anyone could reasonably expect. How did we manage to get affordable healthcare after we let the republicans take the house majority in 2010? Obama. How have we managed to implement more tax cuts for the poor, when lobbyists and interest groups make huge political donations to ensure tax cuts and loopholes for the rich? Obama. And how did we finally pledge to end the war in Iraq and get an official date when all of our troops would be home? OBAMA! And to top it all off he goes and takes out public enemy number one Osama bin Laden in his first term as president. If we had elected John Mccain as president in 2008, it is certain that he would have stayed with Bush’s failed policies, and the world might still not have ended by 2012, but we would see the demise of our country.
Never have we seen a president of the United States do more with less. He is motivated by purely altruistic intentions on par with Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. We are talking about a man who matriculated at Harvard Law, was president of the review, and could have had any job he wanted at that point, but instead chose to go to the south side of Chicago and become a community organizer. And this is the man Lupe chooses to call a terrorist. I dissent.
It may be so that no true revolutionary could stomach the song and dance lifestyle that is politics, but if we are to truly fight evil, and change is our goal rather than shock factor. I urge Lupe and others to avoid making blind attacks against those with common goals. Instead let us work together to reach this goal.
“See I fell asleep, and I had a dream, it was all Black, Everything.” – Lupe Fiasco