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To make himself acceptable to whites, Obama finds it necessary to shout

out how unacceptable he finds the conduct of other Blacks. As could

have been expected, corporate headline editors had a field day

 

 

Obama Insults Half a Race

By  Glen Ford

 

The Democratic presidential nominee-apparent seldom speaks directly to Black people, but when he does it is usually to denounce individuals once close to him or to criticize The Race in general for some moral failing. Thus it was no surprise that Barack Obama used the occasion of Father's Day to give Black males the back of his hand, no doubt to the delight of millions of potential white supporters. Black males have "abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men," said Obama, citing statistics on female-headed households. "You and I know how true this is in the African-American community."

Even the New York Times could see through Obama's transparent bid for white approval at Black people's expense. Reporter Julie Bosman noted that Obama "laid out his case in stark terms that would be difficult for a white candidate to make"—terms (such as boy?) that "his campaign hopes [will] resonate among white social conservatives in a race where these voters may be up for grabs."

In effect, Obama is following an established American electoral tradition of running against Black people. He claims to be teaming up with Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh to promote legislation to combat a "national epidemic of absentee fathers." However, Obama's church rant was anything but "race-neutral"—it was targeted directly at Black males. By selecting the politically conservative (in Black terms) Apostolic Church of God as the venue for his blanket Black male denunciation, Obama also reminded whites that he is no longer a member of Trinity United Church of Christ, formerly pastored by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, also located on Chicago's South Side.

To make himself acceptable to whites, Obama finds it necessary to shout out how unacceptable he finds the conduct of other Blacks. As could have been expected, corporate headline editors had a field day: "Obama Tells Black Fathers to Act Like Men" (AFP), "Obama Calls on Black Men to Be Better Fathers" (U.S. News & World Report), "Black Fathers Missing From Too Many Lives" (The Age), "Obama Calls for More Responsibility From Black Fathers" (NYT). Words like these are music to the ears of those who blame African American "pathology" for the ills of the ghetto and the nation as a whole, especially the "Reagan Democrats" Obama so shamelessly woos.

Can one imagine Obama or any other presidential aspirant repeatedly hectoring any other ethnic group on moral issues? Singling out Jews for excessive materialism? The Irish for excessive drinking? Of course not; that would be unfair and politically suicidal. But there are large regions of the white body politic in which it is not only acceptable, but damn near required, that politicians demonstrate their impatience with the alleged moral shortcomings of Black people. Barack Obama trolls for votes in those foul waters, at the cost of Black people's dignity.

Obama's two young daughters were seated in the church, upfront, to hear their father call other Black men "boys" with no sense of responsibility. Ironically, a key Black rationale for supporting Obama is that he is a great "role model" for Black children. Imagine that: an ethnic role model, whose ostensible purpose is to make The Race proud, yet who with great fanfare periodically sneers at the supposedly debased morality of his own people. That's close to the definition of sick.

Black-Basher, Power Worshipper

Obama goes race-specific-negative on Black people whenever it is useful in attracting white electoral support. Otherwise, he is studiously "race neutral"—a cynical device he deploys to avoid recognizing the pervasiveness of racial wrongs against African Americans. The candidate periodically offers loud and specific criticisms of Blacks, but prescribes no programs—not one—to address specific Black grievances. He feels quite secure with this cruel and crooked campaign posture, confident that no significant complaint will emanate from African American quarters - they are loyal, no matter what. And for that reason, they need not be respected.

The Black burden is even heavier than that. African Americans are expected to circle the wagons at the merest hint of racist threats to the candidate. Any slight to Obama, real or imagined, must be met with massive Black response, while Obama's disregard of Black priorities and sensibilities is endlessly forgivable. At the commonsensical level, the entire Obama-Black folks relationship is so bizarre as to seem insane. The candidate has been imposed on the African American polity by corporate forces in the Democratic Party, of which he is a loyal, Harvard-vetted operative. He constantly swears fealty to the white American civic religions of American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny, both rooted in race supremacy. He has proven his devotion to this ghastly Euro-American mythology and worldview, through public denunciation of liberation theology and ritual separation from one of its major institutions. He bows to imperial power and its endless expansion, fully aware that, as Dr. Martin Luther King phrased it 40 years ago, the military will "draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube," draining all hope for creation of a just society.

"Obama bows to imperial power and its endless expansion."

Obama is no Prince of Peace—more like Damion, of The Omen. His peace-savaging declaration earlier this month that "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided" expressed a position that no U.S. government has ever taken, that no Arab government can accept and, as Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery has written, "has disappeared—quietly, almost secretly - from the arsenal of official [Israeli] slogans." Translation: Obama is more hyper-Zionist on Jerusalem than the Israelis themselves, more than successive American governments that have never formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital or as wholly Israeli. He is emphatically outside the possible parameters of peace in the most volatile region of the planet. Obama is not a peace candidate.

To point up how hawkish Obama has shown himself to be in his groveling before the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), no less than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was dispatched to Jerusalem this past weekend to caution the Israelis against building further housing for Jews in the western part of city, lest they have "a negative effect on the atmosphere for the negotiation" with Palestinians. Obama is to the Right of Rice, who had to journey to Israel to try to clean up the mess he made at the AIPAC meeting in Washington! Predictably, the Israelis rebuked Rice. After all, they can look forward to an even more pliant Obama administration.

Obama has expressed willingness to militarily violate the sovereignty of Pakistan—home of the A Q Khan nuclear proliferation racket and, along with Israel, among the wildest nuclear cards in the planetary deck—and to launch "surgical" strikes against Iran, a catastrophe of unimaginable dimensions.

Is he John McCain? No, and that's literally as much as can be said with any degree of certainty.

Phony ‘Movement'

Most of the commentary and pseudo-reporting about the campaign amounts to ramblings of the insane. Insanity is the logical product of a culture rooted in plunder, genocide and slavery. There are no guarantees that social structures marinated in such evil can ultimately be made habitable. Madness in, madness out. Only the most courageous, sustained popular struggle can even hope to distill civilization from its opposite. The Black Freedom Movement, embedded in the history of The Americas, could have been - and might yet become - the great engine of general liberation.

But no transformation is possible if the Great Diversion and Illusion of Obamamania chokes the sense and consciousness out of Black America - a true pathology that has already rendered folks previously considered among the "best and brightest" among African Americans deaf, dumb, blind and at the feet of their utterly false Messiah.

The general African American rush to touch Obama's garments is understandable - not rational, but explicable - as the product of 400 years of frustrated yearnings for "deliverance" by "our own" hands. Add two parts willful self-delusion plus eight parts corporate public manipulation (the "hope" mantra, which conjures up totally different visions in the minds of different consumers), and a full blown dream-savior appears.

Black "leadership," especially on the left side of the African American political spectrum (which, as a polity, is distinctly to the left of the white American spectrum), has shamefully packaged Obama as a progressive, knowing full well he is not. This is cowardice: the "leaders" fear having to tell Black folks the truth, which would require that they provide real and risky political direction that challenges Obama, the Man Who Would Like To Be Called Joshua (see Obama, Selma). Black leaders would have to disabuse the people of their illusions, and explain that Obama's/Joshua's destination for the multitudes is not Black self-determination, true racial justice and peace—about which he fundamentally differs from the Historical Black Political Consensus—but a one-day trip to the ballot box to benefit himself, followed by four years of even more malign neglect than he has shown Blacks heretofore in the campaign.

"A true pathology has rendered folks previously considered among the ‘best and brightest' among African Americans deaf, dumb, blind and at the feet of their utterly false Messiah."

Having led no one anywhere recently, the Obama-backing "leaders" pretend that the candidate's popularity in the presidential race is the equivalent of a "movement." It is no such thing, and they and Obama know it. Obama's claim to be at the head of a movement is no surprise, part of his slick M.O., signifying nothing. The last thing any politician wants is to be bothered with movements. They are, at the very least, distractions to the smooth running of governments, which seek to be unencumbered by meddlesome popular demands. More to the point, Obama doesn't see any need for a specifically "Black" movement, since African Americans have already "come 90 percent of the way" to equality, as he proclaimed in Selma, last year.

He made clear in his Philadelphia "Race Speech" three months ago that Black-centered complaints are "divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems—two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all."

Obama wants to shut down what's left of the Black Freedom Movement. He's getting help from panicked and unprincipled Black Left misleaders who contort their former politics beyond recognition in order to attach themselves, mostly uninvited, to a corporate campaign that tries to masquerade in movement clothing. They meekly offer insubstantial but nevertheless unwelcome advice to unhearing campaign operatives on how to make the campaign appear more like a genuine people's mass political vehicle, as if Goldman Sachs and the other Wall Streeters who made Obama the early money frontrunner would tolerate interference in their behind-the-curtain rule.

McKinney Candidacy Plus People's Movement

There is a presidential candidate who is Black, a proven progressive, a person of courage and unchallenged integrity. Cynthia McKinney, running on a Power to the People platform for the Green Party nomination, wants to rebuild a real movement. Peace and racial and social justice cannot be achieved absent a popular movement, which in the United States must be led by African Americans. Presidential aspirant Barack Obama has never faced movement scrutiny, because Black "progressive" leaders rolled over like puppies (minus the cuteness) without initially presenting even strong policy suggestions, much less demands, to Obama's corporate campaign. Not satisfied with neutering themselves, they encouraged Black people as a body to become irrelevant. Now, they are objects of derision, fare game for Obama's piercing scowl.

A vote (and/or contribution) for Cynthia McKinney, the former congresswoman from Georgia, signals that you have not been fooled by the corporate handmaiden, Obama, and his "progressive" apologists. It means you are ready to build a movement in which periodic electoral politics is a secondary appendage to 24-7 mass struggle.

It means that you support a woman who genuinely loves people and would never defame half a race on Father's Day.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com

Source: BlackAgendaReport

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Responses

Barack Obama's Father's Day Speech (video): Note the prepared speech is not the same as the spoken speech

First of all, Barack Obama's speech is a betrayal of trust. He put himself forward as a new breed of politician and as soon as he wins the primaries, we get the same old stomp-down-black-men trope. Why is it that every political candidate, including Barack Obama, feels free and obligated to take pot shots at black men standing before media cameras. Every political candidate hungers for his  validating Willie Horton moment. It's not just fathers but the emphasis on black fathers that Obama takes his shots, primarily poor black fathers. Are there no black fathers besides himself (and poor) who meet their responsibilities? Why from these high profile celebrities we never have congratulatory remarks about black fathers, whether living with the mothers of their children, or not? Like in the Coates book The Beautiful Struggle? If such an address was made by a white candidate there would be cries of racism. But Barack Obama gets wings for his remarks. His audience was primarily black women so I suppose he received several standing ovations. If he becomes president I suppose we can expect more disparaging self-help commentary. The next time it will be all black communities under his sights.—Rudy

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Hey there:

Of course all black fathers are not spectacles; however, enough are missing in action and have been for many years that it has caused a crisis in our community.  It is no secret - the statistics show it and our communities validate that there is a problem.  I do not see a problem with people calling it out.  It does not appear that Obama’s father was too  involved in his life and he is probably calling on his experience concerning his own father and looking at the obvious problems in the African-American community.  Who should stand on the wall and tell men to be men?  Too many have been silent and it is about time that somebody speaks out.  (Yes, and I like how Bill Cosby stands on the wall too) Someone has to do it. The truth is a mirror and we don't also like what we see or hear but it is what it is. I hope that you are well.— Jennifer

*   *   *   *   *

Who should stand on the wall and tell men to be men?—Jennifer
 
No man who is a millionaire or a billionaire can stand on the wall and shout insults at the poor and the oppressed for their failings. That kind of behavior cannot be tolerated from above. Context is everything. Absent black dads in less than a bourgeois role is not a cultural or moral problem in large measure, as implied by Obama's speech. The condition of black men is an economic problem that didn't begin yesterday. It is a historical problem of racial oppression that began with the slavery of black men and has persisted until today in double-digit unemployment, low wages, and high incarceration rates.

This is not an excuse. This is the harsh reality of black life, one in which Obama grandstands to woo the perpetrators of these conditions. That Obama desires to divide the black community along gender lines is politically inexcusable. Moreover, to say "black fathers" are acting like "boys" is pointing the finger at all black men. Obama is not talking about all fathers but rather about all black men. That is the political problem, the racist problem, of his speech. And this guy is supposed to end divisiveness!

That one is unable to afford a household does not determine manhood. And we do not need an Obama to determine what are the contours of black manhood. I regret that so many black women find the "responsibility" argument so plausible and believable. But that divisive seed has been growing since the 80s. Obama watered it by his church-based speech. The crisis of the black communities that you note is a sign of the growing political repression of black communities, caused mostly from without because of an economy that has an uneven economic impact based primarily on racist responses of employers and government. I was certain that I was going to vote for Obama in November. Now I am not so certain.—Rudy

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Hey Rudy:

I understand your point; however, I still stand by what I have said. And if the person is a millionaire, billionaire, or dirt poor let her or him stand on the wall.  I do not think that it is right to put down all black fathers (I implied that before) but the ones who are trifling, shiftless, and do nothings need to get it together and I am not angered by a black man who tells them to do so - hopefully he too has his fatherly duties together.  Have you emailed your concern to the Obama camp?  If not, I suggest that you do so—they need to hear your concern. Luv ya back!—Jennifer

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As I warned in 2006 in my review of The Audacity of Hope:

This tame tome was ostensibly carefully crafted with the intent of enabling Senator Obama to be all things to all people. Unfortunately, it ends up reading like little more than the transparent game plan of a guileful politician. When discussing racism, he comes off as no liberal, but more in the “content of your character” camp as advocated by African-American neo-cons like Shelby Steele and John McWhorter. In this regard, he has no problem putting the onus on blacks to accommodate themselves to the mainstream culture, because “members of every minority group continue to be measured largely by the degree of our assimilation.”

Obama goes on to conclude that “the single biggest thing” we could do to reduce inner-city poverty “is to encourage teenage girls to finish high school and avoid having children out of wedlock.” If these sort of simplistic “blaming the victim” pronouncements are truly Barack’s best ideas on how to reclaim the American Dream, I suggest he keep dreaming.—Kam

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Obama is of African descent but he is not an African American of African descent, like Michelle. He does not understand that he can't begin a conversation with American Blacks with that "My life used to be just like yours" gambit. Why not? Because that is the very same opening that people who speak down to African Americans use. Even though it is not his intention to speak down to them, nonetheless he is also not speaking up to them: he is not reaching for solutions but for attitudes. Someone one day is going to ask him where his attitude comes from? Or perhaps he'll learn in time.—Mackie

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Why do these negro men object to the reality of our grossest behavior?. A negro man murdered my sister, a negro man murdered my youngest daughter. You want to excuse this with fear of exposure. Just stand up, for all of our sakes!—Amiri

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I do not excuse gross behavior. But you mix apples and oranges. Black fathers killed neither your sister nor your daughter. Those men who committed such crimes should be punished for their individual behavior. All black men should not have to pay their debt. You must read Obama's statement more carefully:

"Barack Obama celebrated Father's Day by calling on black fathers, who he said are "missing from too many lives and too many homes," to become active in raising their children. "They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it," the Democratic presidential candidate said Sunday at a largely black church in his hometown."

It is more than "a fear of exposure." These kinds of racist accusations have been going on since the Moynihan Report of 1965.  On this issue of Obama's Father's Day Speech you have taken the wrong stance.Rudy

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Dear Rudy,

I don't know what is on Obama's mind, but I never expected that his election would in any direct way have anything to do with me.   In fact, his election might or might not work to my disadvantage. If more black men had stable, self-interested economic relationships, they would have the basis for participation in families, churches, and other institutions.   If black men were not, by and large, systematically shut out from self-interested economic institutions, they would be more capable of long-term bonding, and more adept at forming socially profitable institutions.  The most important institutions are economic, and American Negroes were not brought to this country to participate in self-interested economic institutions.Wilson

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Rudy, Barack has lately spoken of himself as being an imperfect human being. No, he does not have all of the answers or solutions to very complex problems which we face in the 21st century. It will take just one error in judgment for us to drop him like a hot potato.—Herbert

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"Imperfect"—such political calculation goes beyond Obama's imperfect modesty. This kind of appeasement of white male racism is odious and stinks to high heaven. I expect more of the same in that he has gone to Congress to legislate punitive measures against poor black dads. He wants to enlarge the black prison roles, don't you understand what his political move is? Black men to be sacrificed on the political auction block for his winning the presidency—Rudy

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With all due respect, please stop sending me this foolishness. As a black father, Obama has every right to speak on absent black fathers in our community, and it is the appropriate and responsible thing to do with the platform he currently has. This is not taking a "pot shot," this is stating the obvious and voicing what many of us, men and women, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, and all the other extended family members think and feel as we struggle to raise these men's children *without* them or their positive input or resources.
 
If the shoe don't fit, please walk on proudly, walk on, or better, instead of yangyanging about why he's speaking out, please share new ideas and insights on how we can better assist families. For example, how do fathers who have been absent from a significant part of their children's lives, make that important journey back? What strategies can they use to help establish and build trust with their children? What are realistic expectations and responses and how do they navigate this emotional terrain? What organizations and resources are available to help strengthen their return to their children? How do they establish contact if their children's mother or other family is resistant to their involvement?
 
I could go on, but I hope this is received in the spirit in which it is given. All Best, SRT

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Sheree, social work is not the answer but rather part of the problem. The daddy problems are historical, economic and political, as I stated before, rather than moral or ethical or even a matter of will.

Look, dear hearts, my mother back in the 40s and 50s and 60s had problems keeping a man in her household to support her children. Her choice in men were limited largely to those poor and black. In the 1890s and early 1900s it was the same for our Grandma Mary, a farmhand for a white farmer and the daughter of a slave, who had eight sons out of wedlock (by six different men), three of them by married deacons of the Baptist Church, and one by her white employer, who did not acknowledge his son. Race and a cold heart caused him not to meet his economic responsibilities.
 
I do not know why there are those who think the inability of black men or other poor men to sustain the lives of their children, whether they are in the house or not, is recent news. It is now less hidden and the conditions have become worse.
 
Obama was looking pass his immediate audience to the white cameras. It was not a church matter, for black men on the whole have abandoned an institution that has long abandoned them. The problematic black fathers were certainly not in that church audience. The problem of the speech is not complicated. It was politically calculated to appeal to racist white voters.
 
I am quite disappointed that so many black women are overtaken by the slick talk of wealthy charismatic politicians like Barack Obama when it comes to assessing the dignity and integrity of black men.
 
What would your response be if Obama had said that black women (that 70 per cent living without a man in the house supporting them)were irresponsible welfare queens?  There are many who would applaud that kind of statement as well. But black men are an easier mark than black women. Don't you understand that? Do you remember Bill Clinton's attack on Sister Souljah. Well, it's the same kind of political gambit, again.
 
I am not a one issue observer. But this indictment of black men is so broad and sweeping and so public it is mind blowing. I gave him a pass on the Palestinians. But I cannot give him a pass when it comes to my brothers. He must find a way to amend or apologize for his insult. For a historical first I cannot stand idle while Obama shames and insults my brothers. A line must be drawn; we blacks cannot tolerate politicians so brazen and unafraid of the consequences of their speech.
 
Do this nation and its employers have any economic responsibilities to black men? On the whole I indict them for their irresponsibility. And now Obama is supporting legislation that will be more punitive against black men. We cannot have any half stepping on such issues.
 
I am looking hard at Cynthia McKinney, hoping that she'll be on the ballot in Virginia.—Rudy

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Obama No—He's a vacuous opportunist. I’ve never been an Obama supporter. I’ve known him since the very beginning of his political career, which was his campaign for the seat in my state senate district in Chicago. He struck me then as a vacuous opportunist, a good performer with an ear for how to make white liberals like him. I argued at the time that his fundamental political center of gravity, beneath an empty rhetoric of hope and change and new directions, is neoliberal. His political repertoire has always included the repugnant stratagem of using connection with black audiences in exactly the same way Bill Clinton did—i.e., getting props both for emoting with the black crowd and talking through them to affirm a victim-blaming “tough love” message that focuses on alleged behavioral pathologies in poor black communities. Because he’s able to claim racial insider standing, he actually goes beyond Clinton and rehearses the scurrilous and ridiculous sort of narrative Bill Cosby has made infamous.Adolph Reed Jr.

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Obama and the Criminal Justice System

Barack Obama delivered another masterful speech Sunday. The news report I saw made it seem like he merely did an impersonation of Bill Cosby, but he was more subtle and sophisticated than that. Nonetheless, it was a speech that Cosby would be proud of since it did endorse Cosby’s arguments.

Obama said that yes black communities needed more jobs and better schools and that past injustices did play a role in the absence of fathers in black homes, but that black people could not use those things as excuses. He said that black men should not be languishing in prison when they should be out looking for a job.

There are too many issues here that should be unpacked and discussed for me to deal with all of them at this point, but I’ll tackle a few.

The injustices are not only in the past. Our current criminal justice system is biased by race and class as I illustrated last week in “Whites, Blacks and Illicit Drugs”. If we had different criminal justice policies there would be fewer black men in prison. We need to work to eliminate the race and class biases in the criminal justice system. We need to expand opportunities for drug treatment. We need to use alternative, community-based sentencing for certain non-violent offenders. If we had elected officials who were committed to reforms of this sort, there would be more black men available to be the fathers that Obama and Cosby would like to see.

This is a very real issue for black women in the poorest black communities. Even the conservative (by my standards) scholar Isabel Sawhill admits that “for certain subgroups of African-American women” she “did find a shortage of eligible men” for them to marry. We simply can’t improve the rate of two-parent families in the poorest black communities without dealing with the present racial injustices in our criminal justice system.

Obama argues that blacks should not use issues like the lack of jobs, the high rate of poverty, the high degree of economic inequality as excuses for the absence of men in black families. But there is a growing body of research that identifies the lack of jobs, poverty and economic inequality as important causes of the higher rates of crime in black communities.2 If we want to keep black men out of prison, we will also need economic policies to address these issues.

The economic development of poor black communities is also important because black men who are unemployed are probably less likely to marry. Poor black women are probably not interested in marrying unemployed black men. Unemployed black men are probably reluctant to marry if they cannot contribute financially to the household.

The more education one has the more likely one is to marry. The issue of the separate and unequal education that black students receive is, again, not simply an excuse. If we improve the educational attainment of blacks, we will likely increase marriage rates.

If Obama wishes to increase the marriage rates in black communities, he needs to (1) recognize the racial disparities in our criminal justice system as one of the current injustices facing black America, (2) institute policies that lead to good jobs for blacks, and (3) improve the quality of black schools. Is Obama able to recognize the importance of these policies? Will Obama be willing and able to deliver them, if he does?
Thora Institute

posted 18 June 2008 

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

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#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

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#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

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#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

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#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

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#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
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#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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Ratification

The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly). Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.—Booklist

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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Hopes and Prospects

By Noam Chomsky

In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky surveys the dangers and prospects of our early twenty-first century. Exploring challenges such as the growing gap between North and South, American exceptionalism (including under President Barack Obama), the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza, and the recent financial bailouts, he also sees hope for the future and a way to move forward—in the democratic wave in Latin America and in the global solidarity movements that suggest "real progress toward freedom and justice." Hopes and Prospects is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the primary challenges still facing the human race. "This is a classic Chomsky work: a bonfire of myths and lies, sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky is an enduring inspiration all over the world—to millions, I suspect—for the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him." —John Pilger

In dissecting the rhetoric and logic of American empire and class domination, at home and abroad, Chomsky continues a longstanding and crucial work of elucidation and activism . . .the writing remains unswervingly rational and principled throughout, and lends bracing impetus to the real alternatives before us.—
Publisher's Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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