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Hypocrisy is fundamentally different in France and in the United States. It is not easy to decide which is more

vicious, especially as the American brand has Eurocentric features.  Non-Americans embrace Obama in just

the fashion the British and the French embraced the tragic Sara Baartman, the so-called "Hottentot Venus."



Books by Jerry W. Ward  Jr.

Trouble the Water (1997) / Black Southern Voices (1992) / The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)  / The Katrina Papers

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Where is the French Obama?

Thoughts for Today

By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Dillard University


My friend Jessica B. Harris, a scholar of culinary cultures, sent me an English translation of Guy Numa's article "Where is the French Obama?"  I welcome this new ingredient for the benign genocide soup I am cooking. Numa's opening sentences signify powerfully on the deceptiveness of French thought:
There is something hypocritical in the "Obamania" that is sweeping France: Obama, Black, young and un-cunning, is the archetype of the kind of person that the French political class invariably fails to produce. This is typical in France, where one likes to extol the merits of recipes from abroad without doing anything to concoct them "at home." Only those who live in France and its overseas departments can provide a fair response to Numa's implicit questions. But I, an outsider, an etranger, will hazard an unfair one.
As an American, I believe there is not now, nor will there ever be, a "French Obama."  Barack Obama is, if we recall words from William Carlos Williams, a pure product of America, a Harvard-polished product.  One does not concoct an Obama.  One grows him.  And despite the success Richard Wright had in growing American vegetables in French soil, French dirt is not manured for nurturing what the American post-colonial plantation can in abundance.
Like the United States, France has a long history of speaking with the forked tongue of 666.  Both nations are racist.  Both dress ideas about democracy in fine political costumes, the French ones being more expertly tailored than the American.  Do not inspect too closely the underwear that the costumes mask. The merde, the ca ca will shock you.
Hypocrisy is fundamentally different in France and in the United States. It is not easy to decide which is more vicious, especially as the American brand has Eurocentric features.  Non-Americans embrace Obama in just the fashion the British and the French embraced the tragic Sara Baartman, the so-called "Hottentot Venus."  Many American gliberals have conceptualized Obama as the great white hope who will sanction the erasure of history and give credibility to the post-post-modernity of post-race.  But even those enthralled by myth and fairytale would do will to be more critical of Obama's foggy success and of McCain's threatening presence.  Consider that nothing is essentially serious in contemporary politics except the rising cost of living.  It is all obscene carnival, a forecast of the damnation of the earth.
No doubt 2008 is a miracle year in the history of the United States, a death-bound year. The miracle is oddly negative. Beware as bad faith ascends.  I would say to Professor Numa that it is not surprising that a "phenomenon" like Obama has not occurred in France.  In the swamps of racism and sexism and classism, it is well known that no French woman who has mated with an African has given birth to an Obama.  Why would she want to do so?

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Where is the French Obama?—The practice of conferring ministerial posts on Blacks (Caribbean or Africans) or to people of North African origin is nothing new: others who come to mind are Léon Bertrand [former tourism minister who is French Guyanese], Roger Bambuck [former minister of youths and sports], and former secretary of state for integration Kofi Yamgnane [French Togolese … ]

During the waning years of the colonial era, personalities like [the first president of Senegal] Léopold Sédar Senghor in 1955-56, [former assistant secretary of state] Hammadoun Dicko in 1957, Modibo Keita in 1956-57 were also named ministers. Keita even became Vice President of the National Assembly. One can also include, among others, Gabriel Lisette, councilor-minister to between 1959 and 1961—or a woman, Nafissa Cid Sara—between 1957 and 1962.

It's therefore urgent and necessary to redouble the discussion about the scope of Obama’s candidacy. In this connection, I must concede my surprise at the relative silence of the Representative Council of Black Associations. I would have liked to hear the organization explain the meaning of Obama’s candidacy for Blacks in France. In any case, I expected more than a press release. WorldMeets

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Black Skins, French Voices: Caribbean Ethnicity And Activism (David Beriss)—In Urban France About 337,000 people of French Antillean Origin live in metropolitan France today. Unlike immigrants from North Africa, Turkey or sub-Saharan Africa, Antilleans are French citizens with deep roots in French history. Indeed, the Caribbean Islands they come from have been a part of France for over three centuries. Antilleans were for many years an invisible population, dispersed throughout the Paris region, with few community organizations and little political activism. Beginning in the early 1980s, however, activists in the Antillean community began to recognize that their status as citizens would not protect them from the growth of racism in France. From neighborhood groups interested in promoting traditional Martinican and Guadeloupan dance and music to politically charged associations, these new cultural militants denounced French colonialism, challenged racism, and demanded political representation. Black Skins, French Voices is situated at the intersection of changing French ideas and policies regarding ethnic diversity and Antillean demands for recognition. It shows the creative and exciting struggles of Antilleans to remake French culture on their own terms.

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Where is the Israeli Obama?—We can respond to that only with embarrassed silence. We cannot point to anyone in the Israeli political arena who is ready to take on this task.

But an optimist will give another answer: only yesterday you did not have an Obama either. He appeared, because something happened deep down in the "national psyche" of the United States. There was an expectation and there was a longing for a person who would speak the language of hope, audacity, change. And when he appeared, the indifferent public rose and followed him enthusiastically. All the more so because the situation was bad and it was clear that the old road just leads to worse.

That can happen here, too. Our Obama can appear suddenly when there is a demand for him. When people get finally fed up with all those politicians, devoid of vision and courage, who pack our stage today. When the demand for change is so strong that it passes from the phase of griping at Sabbath-eve parties to the phase of mobilization and deeds. Then it will become clear that we, too, have a young generation and that our indifferent public can change radically.

The victory of the American Obama may well give a big push to the emergence of an Israeli Obama, hopefully as charming as the original. The victory in America should mean for us, paraphrasing a Hebrew poet: If there is an Israeli Obama, let him appear at once!

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Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

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The Katrina Papers is not your average memoir. It is a fusion of many kinds of writing, including intellectual autobiography, personal narrative, political/cultural analysis, spiritual journal, literary history, and poetry. Though it is the record of one man's experience of Hurricane Katrina, it is a record that is fully a part of his life and work as a scholar, political activist, and professor.  The Katrina Papers  provides space not only for the traumatic events but also for ruminations on authors such as Richard Wright and theorists like Deleuze and Guattarri. The result is a complex though thoroughly accessible book. The struggle with formthe search for a medium proper to the complex social, personal, and political ramifications of an event unprecedented in this scholar's life and in American social historylies at the very heart of The Katrina Papers . It depicts an enigmatic and multi-stranded world view which takes the local as its nexus for understanding the global.  It resists the temptation to simplify or clarify when simplification and clarification are not possible. Ward's narrative is, at times, very direct, but he always refuses to simplify the complex emotional and spiritual volatility of the process and the historical moment that he is witnessing. The end result is an honesty that is both pedagogical and inspiring.Hank Lazer

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 16 August 2008




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Related files: The Narrative Does Not End   “The End of the Black American Narrative”