Barack Obama’s election to the presidency was supposed to usher in a “post-racial” era in American life. This, at any rate, is what the former Senator and his supporters in the media tried to sell us.
It was nothing short of a lie.
The President never had the slightest intention of using the visibility of his office to improve race relations between whites and blacks. Moreover, if an improvement in race relations is what we were after, then there couldn’t have been a worse person for us to have elected than Obama.
The reason for this is simpler than one may think: Obama is a “Blackist,” an adherent of “Blackism.”
Blackism is a racial ideology. In this respect, it is differs sharply from black culture. It also has little to do with mere skin color, biology, or genetics.
Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, a black right leaning commentator, once told Sean Hannity in no uncertain terms that there are absolutely no substantive differences whatsoever between Obama, on the one hand, and such notorious race baiters as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, and Jeremiah Wright, on the other. They are all of one mind when it comes to their view of “white America” and the place of blacks within it. More specifically, they regard America as a bastion of “white racist oppression” and perpetual black suffering. Their commitment, first and foremost, is to extracting reparations of one form or another from whites to give to blacks.
Peterson was correct. Obama’s ever growing list of alliances and appointees—from Wright, Farakhan, and Harvard professor Derrek Bell, to Van Jones and Attorney General Eric Holder—reads like a rogue’s gallery of white America’s enemies.
And it is hostility toward whites that we should expect from any proponent of Blackism.
An ideology invariably consists in a small number of abstract concepts systematically linked. Through these few ideas, the ideologue filters every conceivable aspect of reality. An ideology isn’t just a theory, mind you. Theories spring from consideration of this or that subject matter. Ideologies, in contrast, are comprehensive. The ideologue lives by his ideology alone. There is nothing to which he will not bring it to bear.
Now, Blackism is an ideology. The Blackist sees the entire world, from “the beginning,” so to speak, to the present, in terms of racial categories, yes, but, more importantly, from the perspective of black deprivation. Race is the organizing principle of his schemata, but “Blackness” is the category to which he ascribes most significance; all others are subordinated to it.
Yet we would be gravely mistaken if we assumed that it is with mere color that the Blackist is preoccupied. Not unlike any other concept, that of Blackness is not self-interpreting. For the Blackist, membership in the Negroid race is a necessary condition of Blackness, though it is far from sufficient. Blackness signifies commitment to the advancement—“by whichever means necessary,” as the Blackist par excellence, Malcolm X, famously stated it—of the ideology of Blackism.
In his book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Obama references Malcolm X numerous times. There is no person who appears to have more influenced his thinking.
Again, the ideology of Blackism is not to be confused with black culture. This, though, isn’t to suggest that there is no relationship between the two. There is: the former is a caricature or abridgment of the latter. That is, like any other ideology, the ideology of Blackism is an abstraction from a complex, concrete, historically-specific tradition. In this case, the tradition in question is that of what we call black culture.
Blackism, like any other ideology, supplies for its adherents a method, a relatively few basic principles or rules to which any black person living in any place and at any time can subscribe. To put it more clearly, unlike so-called black culture, Blackism doesn’t require immersion in a traditional form of life. Fluency in a culture is like fluency in a language; it is a hard won achievement that can be had only after much practice and over an extended period of time. Mastery of an ideology, in glaring contrast, is something that can be gotten within no time, for the rules or principles of an ideology are propositions that readily lend themselves to memory.
The difference between learning a culture and learning the ideology that is abstracted from it is the difference between, say, devoting time to the study of a literary classic, on the one hand, and, on the other, reading the cliff notes on it. The difference between culture and ideology is the difference between a living faith and a static creed.
Those who have mastered a tradition engage in it effortlessly. Whether it is dancing, a martial art, or cooking, the professional dancer, the martial artist, and the chef seem to ply their respective crafts with all of the unselfconsciousness of a bird in flight.
Things are otherwise, however, with those who aspire toward a connoisseurship in these areas (or any areas). The aspiring chef relies upon a cookbook (his “ideology”) and the aspiring martial artist and dancer too may very well consult books delineating “step-by-step” lessons accompanied by photos and illustrations.
The cooking student is to the chef what the Blackist is to the black person who was reared in black culture. The cookbook was written for the amateur cook; the chef has no need of it. Similarly, the ideology of Blackism was written for those blacks, and only those blacks, for whom black culture is an alien entity.
Blacks like Barack Obama are most in need of Blackism. Obama was raised by whites a world away from America’s ghettos. Most of his friends growing up were his white classmates from the prestigious, private institutions that he attended.
The ideology of Blackism was made for people like the President. And he has unapologetically embraced it.
Obama may be only half-black. But he is 100% Blackist.
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.