Dorothy Height

President Barack Obama honoured one of the civil rights movement’s leading females Dorothy Height, who passed away yesterday at the age of 98, but while he may honour her with his words he certainly does not honour her with his deeds as America’s first black president.

Dorothy Height participated in the historical marches with Martin Luther King in the 1960s. She became the head of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years and continued to fight against racial inequality up until her death.

It was Height who encouraged President Dwight D. Eisenhower to desegregate schools and it was Height who encouraged President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint African American women to positions in government.

Obama’s break from the civil rights movement message

While President Obama’s historic election has been placed within the lineage of the civil rights movement it can be argued that his actions are far from the message which Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders often spoke of.

Barack Obama’s rise to political super stardom has arguably been unprecedented throughout American political history since John F Kennedy in that he is supposed to represent real revolutionary change for American politics, Americans, and indeed the world.

More importantly however, Obama represents over a century of black political struggle in America and his presidency has had huge implications for black and other non-white communities not only in America but on a global scale.

Obama’s political campaign was spurned on by a host of America’s top celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Steve Wonder, Usher, Ludacris, of the Black Eyed Peas, Talib Kweli, Barbra Streisand, Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg, Will Ferrell, Jodie Foster, Jamie Lee Curtis and many more.

Few people however have asked the question whether Obama really represents a change from previous American foreign policy overseas which has its roots in white supremacy, and was rejected by Martin Luther King and other civil rights movement campaigners.

Obama, much like former U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice is different from the early civil rights leaders in that he is subjected to an already existing system of imperialism that has been passed down from the founding fathers to the current president of the United States of America.

Rice and Powell was part of a Bush administration which invaded Iraq in contrary of international law in order to secure future U.S. strategic and energy interests. Rice and Powell was also party to policies in Africa which seeks to allow U.S. corporate companies to control African resources.

Rice and Powell have merely presented western imperialism in black faces, much like how Obama is the black face of American imperialism today.

Obama already distanced himself from the spirit of the civil rights movement when he condemned his former pastor of twenty years, Jeremiah Wright who spoke in a sermon after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Commenting on an interview of former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck he saw on Fox News, Wright said, “I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday. Did anybody else see him or hear him? He was on Fox News. This is a white man, and he was upsetting the Fox News commentators to no end. He pointed out…that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Muhammad was in fact true — America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”

Wright also spoke about the acts of terrorism that consecutive United States governments have carried out against other people. It was from this context that Wright said, “We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye…and now we are indignant, because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”

If Obama can distance himself from a man who wishes to challenge and question the actions of the U.S. government, then he could easily distance himself from speeches made by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X which are similar to what Wright spoke about.

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King delivered a speech at the Riverside Church in New York City, condemning the war in Vietnam as unjust and an international crime and equally condemning the United States as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Would Obama distance himself from Martin Luther King if he said those words today?

In 1964, Malcolm X spoke about the Israeli-Arab conflict, and said, “Did the Zionists have the legal or moral right to invade Arab Palestine, uproot its Arab citizens from their homes and seize all Arab property for themselves just based on the “religious” claim that their forefathers lived there thousands of years ago?…” (Taken from the Egyptian Gazette, 17 September 1964)

Would Obama distance himself from Malcolm X if he said that today and condemn his speech despite a legitimate question been asked?

The answer to both these questions is yes he would, if we are to take into consideration his reactions to Jeremiah Wright’s comments on the 9/11 attacks; therefore Obama may honour great civil right movement leaders like Dorothy Height, but if Height was to condemn America’s role overseas Obama would distance himself from her as well.

Obama may honour civil rights movement heroes with his words but he certainly does not honour them with his deeds.

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