Tuesday, August 26, 2008

No, he's not

Just watching CNN, where one of the talking heads said Barack Obama was "the first post-civil rights baby" to be nominated. Uh, no. This is only true in the sense that Barack Obama was born in Kenya or is a practicing Muslim.

Let's do some looking here: Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961. The Freedom Rides had just begun that summer, and SNCC was about 18 months old.

Martin Luther King Jr. has been organizing for years, but was still 2 years from being arrested in Birmingham (where he would write his famous letter.)

The March on Washington, where King shared his dream, would happen just after Sen. Obama's second birthday.

The Mississippi Freedom Summer would take place in the months leading up to Sen. Obama's third birthday, where activists tried (and largely failed) to dislodge the entrenched racism of the Democratic Party by organizing a desegregated Mississippi delegation to the DNC of that year. In the process, white southern racism finally did something to outrage white northerners: kill white kids. The uproar allowed Johnson to pass the Civil Rights act July 2, 1964. The Voting Rights Act would be passed by the US Senate the next year, on Barack Obama's 4th birthday. (Johnson would sign it two days later.)

Okay, so was Barack Obama an active participant in the Civil Rights movement? No, of course not. But just as obviously he's not "post-" Civil Rights, given that the Civil Rights movement's next big fight (after the battles in the South) took place in the North and Midwest, trying to desegregate northern towns and schools. (Look up forced busing.) And in many ways, the fight continues today -- schools in America today are effectively as segregated as they were in King's day. And sure enough, if your school is blacker, it's poorer.

There's this tendency to try and remove Barack Obama from history, as if he sprung from the head of Zeus sometime in 2002 or something. It's an insult to history, and it's often just wrong -- factually wrong.

Better pundits, please.

No comments: