The Age of Katrina - Not Obama
Barack Obama supporters would have you believe that their candidate's presidential nomination is the glorious, straight-line culmination of the Black Freedom Struggle whose previous high-water mark, they believe, was the 1963 March on Washington, the 45th anniversary of which coincides with this week's Democratic National Convention. Obama's public relations agents attempt to bracket the history of modern
To the most hopelessly besotted Obamites, their candidate's speech on Thursday will herald a crack in time, after which posterity will speak of Before-Obama (BO) and After-Obama (AO) eras, and the transcendental Age of Obama.
Having conjured up a nonexistent "mass movement" to describe what is actually a corporate financed and directed electoral campaign that has not championed a single issue worthy of historical note (don't dare cite partial Iraq withdrawal and for-profit health care schemes), the Democrats now patch Dr. King's speech into the prologue to the Book of Obama for the purpose of consigning real mass agitation strategies to the past, for all time.
Yet, the unedited version of history - the real deal - commemorates another imminent anniversary, one that starkly illuminates the true political character of the age: Katrina. The events that followed the hurricane's arrival in
"If Black America fails to configure its human, organizational and material resources to effectively resist the theft and ultimate disfigurement of
The "the man-made disaster in the Gulf" provided what may have been "the last chance to build a real Movement, encompassing the broadest sectors of Black America." Certainly, a critical mass of "the people" were eager to intervene. Hardly a Black church was without some Katrina-aid project, thousands of students journeyed to
"The Congressional Black Caucus, which claims to be the ‘conscience of the congress,' has shown itself to be an appendage of the white House leadership," I wrote in February, 2006. "They slavishly followed Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's command to make the Democratic Party look good - as opposed to the Republicans - rather than directly address the crisis that was affecting their own people.
"Forty-one of the forty-two Black members of congress obeyed Pelosi's edict, that the House Committee on Katrina be boycotted. They accepted the order that Democratic legislators would not attend the meetings of the Katrina committee, because it was stacked against the Democratic Party."
Only Cynthia McKinney, who was soon to lose her House seat from suburban
Katrina, that horrific assault on Black humanity, dignity and civilizational rights - the Right to Return and participate in the reconstruction of their city - was (and remains) the greatest test of Black leadership since the days of generalized White Terror in the South, following the collapse of Reconstruction. As the world watched, hundreds of thousands of African Americans were effectively evicted from their city and have since been prevented by every foul and evil means possible from returning.
There was method to this madness. The hurricane had simply provided "disaster capitalism" with an instant route to gentrification, a goal that takes years to accomplish by the usual methods of public and private urban coercion. As I wrote in May, 2007, corporate Power had shown its hand:
"Corporate planners and developers believed they had been blessed by nature when Katrina drowned
Human rights lawyer Bill Quigley, who has documented the river of crimes perpetrated against the people of
Local, state and national forces, public and private, have conspired relentlessly to keep
Is it any wonder that only 11 percent of families have returned to the Lower Ninth Ward? The Katrina crisis continues because Power is determined that the Black and poor will not be permitted re-entry.
Barack Obama denies that racism plays any role in this. "There's been much attention in the press about the fact that those who were left behind in
For three years, Power has ensured that the New Orleans Black Diaspora remains scattered. For the forces of organized racism, it is a success story; there's nothing inept about it. Barack Obama will do nothing to facilitate the return of Black New Orleans, since no "malice" was intended. "...I see no evidence of active malice, but I see a continuation of passive indifference on the part of our government towards the least of these." But Obama is worse than "passively indifferent." By denying the reality of racism, he transforms the monumental injustices of Katrina into motiveless mistakes that somehow continue to replicate themselves to the disadvantage of the same group of people.
There is no reason for the Black New Orleans Diaspora to expect any relief from an Obama presidency. In fact, there is no reason to expect anything historically unusual or unique from a President Obama other than his physical Blackness.
Katrina, on the other hand, is the most dramatic manifestation of an implacable racism coiled deeply in the ruling structures of American society, primed to remove concentrations of Blacks from places of value. This overarching imperative to "Negro removal" can become aggressively active in an instant - as we learned in the days following August 29, 2005 - or proceed about its work block by block over years, until the offending population is eliminated. Fast or slow, the end results are the same: seven of the top 12 cities in Black population saw a loss in African Americans as a percentage of total residents between 1990 and 2000. (See BAR "No Black Plan for the Cities, Despite Lessons of Katrina," May 9, 2007.)
The pattern becomes clear. As we reported:
"...the seven cities that became less Black in the Nineties [
Slow-acting Katrinas in the form of gentrification are what Black folks can expect - and must find ways to resist and defeat - from the ruling Lords of Capital for the foreseeable future, Obama or no Obama. There will be no "age" named after the handsome, articulate and oh-so-slick, but otherwise ordinary corporate candidate for president who used to call himself Barry. This is the Age of Katrina, and Barry is part of the problem.