Wednesday, December 24, 2008

hip hop president, maybe not.

Hip Hop activist and writer Rosa Clemente just penned an insightful article on the dangers of calling Obama the first 'hip hop president:"

"...I have always followed a rule: never allow someone to become your priority while you become his or her option. For President Elect Barack Obama and the entire Democrat Party leadership in this country, the Hip Hop generation has never been a priority, we have always been an option and that option is used mostly to get out the vote during elections. Efforts like Vote or Die, Generation Vote, Rock the Vote, Respect my Vote, do not empower a generation - they are catchy slogans emblazoned on pretty white tees that offer empty rhetoric. At the end of the day, those G.O.T.V. efforts become guaranteed votes for the Democratic Party and often fail to educate their followers about candidates that run outside of the two-party system."

read more.

(Full disclosure: In my paid work, I'm a member of GenVote, and was part of the massive get-out-the-vote outreach and media planning that went into this fall's presidential election. We also sponsored a project with Rock the Vote called Rock the Trail, where young reporters followed the election.)

Clemente raises the timeless question of whether real political and social change can be wrought in a two-party system. And, generally, I have to agree with her: Obama's image, rhetoric and iconic appeal is due more to astute political maneuvering than a desire to see change happen now. But the problem isn't what he does or doesn't do -- it's our reaction to it. We're looking for superhero's in an age of undeniable -- sometimes painful -- truths, and frankly, that shit just won't work anymore.

Obama's election was a huge symbolic victory, but still a small material gain in the quest for real change (as ambiguous as that word is.)

I think we should all watch this new presidential administration like our favorite season of The Wire. We have a cast of characters who are genreally concerned with the public good but are caught up in a flawed system. Superheros and villians depend on context and perspective -- not to mention that everybody has a little bit of both inside of them.

Some of the best political reporting on Obama have been stories that took a nuanced look at an ordinary dude who had some very fortunate breaks: Making It, for example. Even though I eventually jumped onto Obama's electoral bandwagon, I was initially skeptical. And still am. It's important to separate the man from the image, and in this case the image of part of how politics and culture and notions of 'justice' become profitable.

Now, taking a step back from my bullshit --did that make any sense?

Support Obama, Vote McKinney? Not a Contradiction
Rosa Clemente Interview on WireTap
Obama's 'Post Reality' Appeal(me)
Obama's Victory: Just the Beginning(me)
How Not to Spoil Obama's Victory by Kameelah Rasheed

Rosa Clemente Interview with Rebecca "B-FRESH" McDonald

1 comment:

::[kameelah]:: said...

that makes hella sense :) thanks for posting this...