November 10th, 2012

Via Black Agenda Radio:

There is a popular myth which explains President Barack Obama’s reluctance to stand up to Pentagon militarists, Wall Street banksters and corporate greedheads. This myth excuses the president for ignoring massive black unemployment and not providing his promised path to citizenship for the undocumented, for not using presidential authority to halt the foreclosure epidemic, or curbing the hyper-incarceration of black and brown youth. The myth of course, is that President Barack Obama really does want to do all these things and more, but if they haven’t happened it’s because we the people have abandoned our responsibility to somehow “make him do it.”

The myth stems from the apocryphal story of a meeting between African American labor leader A. Philip Randolph and President Franklin Roosevelt back in the 1940s. Randolph laid out black America’s list of demands for economic and social justice. In response, Roosevelt said he wanted to do all of it, but that Randolph and the movement of that time would still have to “make him” do these things.

Applied to the Obama presidency however, “make me do it” is a popular myth. It’s popular because the president and his lackeys repeat it endlessly. It’s a myth because it’s not true. Longtime activist Harry Belafonte, who played a key role in the Freedom Movement of the fifties and sixties, exploded the myth in a Democracy Now interview broadcast on May 16.

Belafonte was asked by host Amy Goodman whether he’d used his occasional access to directly share his many critical and valuable public policy insights with the White House. Belafonte replied that his only access to the president has been for a few seconds at a time, not long enough for any substantive discussion. But, he said, at one such event President Obama approached him to inquire when Belafonte and Cornel West were going “to cut me some slack.”

“What makes you think we haven’t?” Belafonte replied to the president? At this point the brief encounter was over.

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