Black Prophetic Fire
By Cornel West with Christa Buschendorf
Review by Dr. Herbert L. Calhoun
The black prophetic tradition is made up of the kind of black courage that has sustained us over a history of almost continuous violence and insurmountable odds in a hostile terrain called the United States of (White) America. This book showcases both heroes and villains of this long tradition.
Among the heroes are the familiar names and stories of Frederick Douglass, WEB Dubois, Martin Luther King, Ella Baker, Malcolm X, and Ida B. Wells. Among the villains are Booker T. Washington and Barack Hussein Obama. The lists could be extended in either direction as, arguably, and sadly, that tradition is made up of as many cowards as heroes.
The reader will discover more quickly than I did, that all that needs saying is said in the conclusions that appear on pages 161-166. These conclusions adequately summarizes the substance of the book and are all by themselves worth it's price.
In these conclusions, the authors give four reasons that explain the irony of why there is a decline of the black prophetic tradition on our first black president's watch:
First there is the shift from prophetic voices of black social movement leaders, to politicians who act as caretakers and gatekeepers of the oppressing neoliberal system. These neoliberal elites side with the oligarchy against the poor, and can symbolically mimic the emotions of the black prophetic tradition, leaving us symbolism without substantive programs that address our needs.
Second, this shift creates a "reality show-like cultural milieu" of raw ambition and instant success that instantly incorporates politicians into the system as whores for the neoliberal causes and regime.
Third, the neoliberal regime contains a viciously repressive apparatus that targets, surveils and then neutralizes all strong leaders and activists, including especially through political assassination.
And fourth, a controlled media is used to keep public discourse distracted, deodorized and narrow.
The "Age of Obama," has been predicated on this shift from a black prophetic tradition to a presidency that has been complicit in Wall Street crimes, neofascist police state tactics (such as use of the Patriotic Act, drone attacks against US citizens, unwarranted surveillance, and cracking down on whistle-blowers), and on an unwillingness to attack the new Jim Crow of massive over-imprisonment, unequal justice, and massive under, and, unemployment.
As a result, almost as if by design, the state of black America in the Age of Obama, has been desperation -- due to increased suffering; confusion -- due to the conflation of symbol for substance; and capitulation -- due to a perceived need to protect our first black president from criticism.
But none of this has phased Mr. Obama, as he has doubled-down on helping Wall Street at the expense of Main Street and the poor, refusing to even put a priority on raising the minimum wage. Altogether, his dilatory Machiavellian tactics towards blacks has raised the crowning question of the Age of Obama: Does the color of the boot on your neck really matter? Five Stars
The May, 28, 2016 review
Are we still not fiddling while Washington DC burns?
Here, even before we get to a discussion of Malcolm X, the authors seem to have settled on two alternative models of activism: the emotional model, of the Ella Baker sort, or the charismatic model, of the Martin King sort.
However, may I respectfully suggest that the available evidence points to the fact that we are still fighting the last war -- while our adversary, the criminal thugs that run our government -- are fighting the next war. For, right before our own lying eyes, we have Mr. Obama, arguably, a "CIA-put-together" fusion of the authors' two models, presently running our government? Does that not tell us all we need to know about their tactics?
To wit: Mr. Barack Hussein Obama (BHO), who comes from a family of spies (his grandfather and grandmother Stanley and Toots Dunham, were card-carrying CIA agents; while his mother, Anne Dunham, worked for AID her entire life. And BHO's "real father," Frank Marshall Davis (not the fake stand-in from Kenya) was an Agent Provocateur for the FBI, whose best friend was none other than Mr. Obama's grandfather, Stanley. The man with this family pedigree is the man who followed junior as president of the USA?
Now you do the math? Given that BHO has all these hidden parts to his resume, in which he just "pops" up in Chicago one day to become a "community organizer," and then to marry Michelle Robertson. And the next thing you know, Viola! he is being elected President of the United States of America? I certainly would not bet against him as having been "sheep-dipped" in US intelligence somewhere along the way, would you?
The point however is not to pull the wool off of Mr. Obama's obvious intelligence connections, but is this. We are in an arms race with the criminal thugs that run our country, and they are winning even as they run scared. They are winning because, not only do they have all of the power and resources, but they also are "out-thinking" us -- even as all of their jerry-rigged schemes fall apart.
Let us not kid ourselves, the burning issue of our times, the only issue that causes our collective nightmare and heartburn, is who killed John Fitzgerald Kennedy? Until we find an answer to this question, the US remains in the minds of all Americans, just an illegitimate nation run by a gang of criminal thugs, and no more.
Now that J. Edgar Hoover, himself one of the co-conspirators, has let the cat out of the bag in his memos that point out clearly that George Herbert Walker Bush was one of the operational managers of the gang of 20 that ordered and carried out JFK's assassination, the cabal of homicidal thugs has been exposed, and ever since, they have been in "fight or flight" mode. The best evidence of this is that, after junior, a mulatto CIA undercover brother, was put up as president of the USA.
Yet, while the iron is hot, while we have a clear chance to expose the illegitimacy of our own criminally corrupt government, and force reform upon it, our best minds are arguing over whether the "emotional" or "charismatic" model of activist leadership is best? Is this not like fiddling while Washington DC burns?
Before either the reality show billionaire idiot, or "the Wall Street Whore" is elected our next President, instead of sitting back arguing over how many "charismatic" or "emotional" angels it takes to dance on the head of a pin, why don't we make placards out of Hoover's memos and peacefully parade them outside each political convention, demanding that in light of Hoover's expose, that the Kennedy Assassination be reopened -- only this time with "we the people" as part of the investigative team.
We cannot continue pretending that the Warren Commission's or Bill O'Reilly's version of history is correct. If we do, we are no more than cameo actors in "The Trump/Hillary Reality Show." Five stars
Editor's note: This review was written by Dr. Herbert L. Calhoun and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.