History in the Making

Monday, November 10, 2008

Peniel Joseph, associate professor of African American Studies and History at Brandeis University, contributor to The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and the author of Waiting' Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (Owl Books, 2007), offers historical context for the election of Barack Obama.


Peniel Joseph

Comments [24]

David! from NYC

I couldn't begin to hazard a guess about that one. I took my share of forum beatings during the primaries and pretty much just quit posting after June, with a few exceptions. Even before some of the pundits began expressing it this way, I was wondering (and still wonder) what happens when Obama the Cause becomes Obama the Governor--and intentional use, as Obama truly needs to govern and not simply preside. Rightful governing does lead to unpopular action--not in a Bushesque manner but in something as you suggest, using the office to stand up for all.

I joined another political party and voted for a 3rd-party candidate. I wish President-elect Obama all the best, as he has inherited a ridiculous situation. Nevertheless, his "post-Hillary" actions on FISA, public financing for the campaign, etc., as well as his reluctance to take a stand on Prop 8 in California and the similar props in other states has, in my opinion, generated a credibility gap before he takes office.

Nov. 10 2008 02:48 PM
Peter from Sunset Park


Thank you. I appreciate you saying that. I have learned a lot from WNYC, their reporting and iterviews. I just don't get the reluctance of many to challenge Obama's positions and vision.

Nov. 10 2008 02:16 PM
David! from NYC

Thank you for your courage in standing up for ALL Americans and for clearly stating your opposition to Barack Obama in a forum that I'm certain you know is very highly tilted in his favor.

Nov. 10 2008 02:02 PM
Peter from Sunset Park


Thank you for your comments.

I am not sure I need to find any peace with Obama. He is the democratically elected president. We had a peaceful transfer of power and a fair voting process. This is a wonderful thing. I didn't vote for Obama, but he is my president. I don't want him to fail, because that can't bode well for anyone. But he ran on this whole platform of change and as far as I can see, he is just more of the same with black skin color.

The very day a black man is elected president, our country votes to treat gays and lesbians as lesser citizens. Change takes courage - Obama has shown none.

Nov. 10 2008 01:53 PM
DAT from Nathan Straus Housing Projects

I like Obama a lot.

There is a good feeling that just
radiates from him, even via the television.

Like Midas everything he touches turns to gold.

At least for now.

Nov. 10 2008 01:18 PM
DAT from Nathan Straus Housing Projects

According to a NYTIMES article, by Janny
Scott, when Obama arrived in the Illinois
Senate as a brand new senator, he was greeted with taunts, name calling by his African American colleagues.
Obama's African American colleagues,
held it against him, that he was a graduate
of Harvard and that he was of mixed race,
he wasn't black enough.
They said so to his face.

It got so bad, that a shoving match ensued
between Obama and one of the principal

Stanley Crouch piece in the NY Daily News
"Obama isn't black like me illustrates
the hostility that African Americans in positions of power and influence within
our society had towards Obama.

What about Jesse Jackson's rude comment,
"I want to cut his nuts off"?
Jesse Jackson may have been crying when
Obama finally made it, but were those
tears of joy or rage, because he knows
he could never get it.

Obama is not an African American in the
traditional sense.
There is no Public School in any ghetto
that he attended anywhere in the urban
centers of the USA.
His formative years were spent attending
school in Indonesia.
He speaks well, eloquently, in perfect
command of the English language.

African Americans are coming out of the
woodwork, rallying around the Obama flagpole,
now, but a lot of them didn't do so in
the beginning.

He owes more to the whites in the Senate
that were his friends than the blacks that
turned their backs on him.

I like respect and like Obama a lot.

Nov. 10 2008 01:18 PM
AWM from UWS


You are wrong.

I will not continue with personal attacks.

Your last post was candid, honest and personal. The only way I can respond to it is by saying that I wish you and you family well and hope that you are able to find some peace at some point during an Obama administration. As much as I disagree with your approach you have every right to express thoughts and opinions without being insulted.

Nov. 10 2008 12:35 PM
Peter from Sunset Park


Your silence didn't last long, now did it?

As far as caring about the rights of homosexuals go, I have three homosexuals in my family. My bi-sexual sister (who has dated the same woman for 3 years), doesn’t have the option to get married. If my sister gets into a major car crash, her lesbian girlfriend has no rights to make decisions. So, you may think you know me, but listen up brother: A guy can be unimpressed with Obama and a supporter of gay rights at the same time.

As a Jew, I know what happens when other people view my people as less then human. Obama, as a black American, should have a similar understanding of what can happen when folks see you as less then human.

Using personal attack words like “ranting,” “hysterical” and “phony” must certainly make you feel good, but do not reflect much tolerance of those who have different beliefs then you.

Obama said a few weeks ago that marriage is between a man and a woman. This is clearly gender apartheid and is clearly Uncle Tom behavior.

You will continue with your personal attacks. I will continue expressing my support for human and civil rights for all.

Nov. 10 2008 12:17 PM
AWM from UWS


You may think that using "apartheid" or "Uncle Tom" to emphasize, sorry, exaggerate your conjured up image of Obama as some evil bigot is clever.

It isn't.

It exposes you as someone who doesn't have a grasp of what these terms mean to people who are truly affected by them. And you don't care about the rights of homosexuals, you USE them as a blunt instrument to beat him over the head.

You are a hysterical, ranting, raging phony.

Nov. 10 2008 12:04 PM
Peter from Sunset Park


Of course you are refusing to discuss ideas. Obama is opposed to basic human and civil rights and you are unable to counter the argument because there is no counter argument. Obama tolerates racism, supports apartheid and the only choices left to you are personal attacks and silence. You say you are choosing silence. We will see how long that lasts

Nov. 10 2008 12:01 PM
AWM from UWS


Edits now?

BL Moderator, you are on the case. I'm going to make things easier for you and cease with the obvious barbs. Even though it's fun for me it isn't fair to you to have to "chaperone" these threads.

You may delete this now.

[[BL Moderator Writes: In fact, I'll leave this comment up!]]

Nov. 10 2008 11:55 AM
Peter from Sunset Park


The term Uncle Tom "is commonly used to describe black people whose political views or allegiances are considered by their critics as detrimental to blacks as a group."

Denying gays and lesbian rights hurts us all and teaches intolerance and hate. Intolerance isn't a wave that goes away, intolerance is a wave that ripples on and on.

Obama is an Uncle Tom because his tolerance of apartheid against gays and his tolerance of racism against whites will lead to more and more intolerance.

Expecting any president, especially the first black president, to oppose apartheid and racism is hardly a personal attack.

Nov. 10 2008 11:54 AM
BL Show from Varick St. Studios

[[BL Moderator Writes: Okay, a few comments have been edited and a few removed. Please please keep it civil, and let's move on from the he said/she said personal stuff. In our moderation we try to do our best to encourage and allow for thoughtful, provocative yet civil discussion. This is an imperfect task, but it is a lot easier when we have your cooperation. Thank you.
-BL Show-]]

Nov. 10 2008 11:53 AM
AWM from UWS


I know that "Referring to Obama as an Uncle Tom is not a pesonal attack"... it's a personal attack.

Nov. 10 2008 11:46 AM
Peter from Sunset Park


Referring to Obama as an Uncle Tom is not a pesonal attack. It is a statement supporting human rights and opposing apartheid. Being critical of Obama's shoddy human rights record is harldy a personal attack. The real personal attack is Obama's lack of respect for gays and lesbians.

Nov. 10 2008 11:37 AM
Rick Boyce from Chestnut Ridge, NY

"full measure" in Obama Race speech is probably from Lincoln, Gettysburg Address.

Lot's of Lincoln in that man!

Nov. 10 2008 11:23 AM
AWM from UWS


"Doesn't Obama's ascendency mean the rejection of the 'typical black experience'?"

Only if you think it should

Nov. 10 2008 11:23 AM


Does this mean that black is the new black?

Nov. 10 2008 11:23 AM


Doesn't Obama's ascendency mean the rejection of the "typical black experience"? I mean this man is half white and he was raised by white people. And, he grew up mainly away from black people.

Nov. 10 2008 11:20 AM
Brian B. from Brooklyn

Did he just call NYC "predominantly white?"

Nov. 10 2008 11:13 AM
Peter from Sunset Park


Obama expects gays and lesbians, a full ten percent of the population, to sit on the back of the marriage and equal rights bus. How exactly is Obama exceptional? Exceptionally bigoted? Yes he is. Exceptionally homophobic? Yes he is. Exceptionally uneducated on human and civil rights? Yes he is. Obama is exceptional – an exceptional Uncle Tom.

Obama has tolerated racism in his own church and gender apartheid. And people say that Lieberman is a bad democrat.

Nov. 10 2008 10:48 AM
eric from The District, Washington, DC

In the aftermath of the election, I have heard a number of individuals talk about how they can now look at their nieces/nephews, sons/daughters, etc, and honestly say that they too can be president. However, I believe that this takes away from the exceptionalism of Barack Obama. Make no mistake. This is a huge event not just for Black America but for all hyphenated Americans; and I do not want to take away from it. That being said, Barack Obama is no Joe Six Pack and the utility of his election to President vis-à-vis issues of race and racism in America is being overstated. It may be decades before we see another viable black or minority candidate. I understand that when that moment arrives, Americans can say that they are ready to elect a (fill in the blank) president having elected Mr. Obama. Still, we need to remember that Barack was exceptional and black, not exceptional because he is black. When it comes to politics, there has never been a lack of candidates, minority or otherwise, just a lack of exceptionalism.

Nov. 10 2008 10:27 AM
michaelw from INWOOD

People have to keep in mind that OBAMA is human and there has been nothing in his closet rattling around except for reverend Wright.

Keep your expectations of OBAMA low and you won't be disappointed. Spitzer was squeaky clean and then what happened? He changed his name to John.

Obama is not who people think he is.

There is something lurking and the media is going to do what ever they can to suppress it as long as they can whether it is an affair or some sort of back room deal.

The best case scenario will be another Jimmy Carter administration.

Nov. 10 2008 10:17 AM
Peter from Sunset Park

Please ask Professor Joseph what is historic about a black president who doesn’t believe in gay rights or gay marriage? Why is President elect Obama heralded as a hero instead of an “Uncle Tom”? Why are black human rights more important then gay rights?

Nov. 10 2008 08:04 AM

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