By Colin Benjamin
WASHINGTON (RushPRnews) 01/20/09–President Barack Obamaâ€™s Inauguration as Americaâ€™s 44th president is an achievement built on the shoulders of many icons that fought for freedom justice and equality.In truth, Obamaâ€™s incoming occupancy of the American Presidency is but another large step in the long suffering pilgrimage of African Americans from slavery, brutality, and paradoxical “invisibility” to the doorsteps of the pinnacle of U.S. political power. Along the way, a multitude has sacrificed for us to reach this moment.
Obamaâ€™s victory was underwritten by many across a wide ideological spectrum of Black thought who shared a common goal of advancing the lot of African Americans. The list is a long hallowed one including: Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, Ivan Van Sertima, Huey P. Newton, Malcolm X, Paul Robeson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Angela Davis, Kwame Toure, Fannie Lou Hamer, Booker T. Washington, and many more.
These heroes fought for the equal rights and justice of African Americans. And the gamut of tactics used ran from political agitation to scholarship. For me, itâ€™s within the arena of scholarship that this victory seems sweetest. Scholars like Martin Delaney, W.E.B. Dubois, James Farmer and Dr. King wouldâ€™ve been proud of the way Obama used his superior oratory, wit and intellectual faculties to achieve this momentous victory.
For years, African Americans were told that in order to achieve the “American Dream” all we needed to do was work hard and study. Lack of education and scholarship were often given as the reason for our deprivation. We were told, through stereotypes like the little Sambo caricature, that as a people we werenâ€™t smart enough. Although thatâ€™s a lie; education, which was illegal for Black people during slavery, was used against us.
Fredrick Douglass, who learned to read in secret so his slave masters wouldnâ€™t find out, is an example of having to scale this obstacle with superior will. When Obama beat Hillary Clinton and John McCainâ€™s Republican Party machine, he again proved that scholarship can be used as a viable tool in the fight for social justice.
Reflecting on the brilliant and studious approach Obama used to achieve this monumental milestone, another pioneering giant of erudition who helped to lay the foundation for fighting White Supremacy through scholarship comes to mind: Edward Wilmot Blyden.
Without question Blyden, born in 1832, in St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands was one of the foremost Black scholars of the Nineteenth Century. Blydenâ€™s story blazes a trail of achievement in the face of brutal bigotry from the days of slavery to this era of Obama. In spite of the virulent racism of the time, Blyden distinguishing himself as an author, a professor, a minister and statesman.
In many of his writings, including his 1857 work “A Vindication of the Negro Race,” Blyden debunked the racist claims of supposed Black intellectual inferiority. Another of his major works, “Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race” caused a sensation in England where there was disbelief that it couldâ€™ve been written by a Black man.
Blyden proved then, as Obama is doing now, that Black inferiority is nothing more than a bigoted myth. Blydenâ€™s impact on a young Marcus Garvey was profound. Blydenâ€™s work “Africa for the Africans” became Garveyâ€™s rallying cry. Garvey once said of Blyden “you who do not know anything of your ancestry will do well to read the works of Blyden, one of our historians and chronicles, who have done so much to retrieve the lost prestige of the race.”
Moreover, Blydenâ€™s insight as a writer and thinker mushroomed in the minds of numerous Twentieth Century Pan-African luminaries. I believe Obamaâ€™s achievements will inspire a new breed of politicians, and thinkers, as Blyden once did. As an early politician in the newly created African state of Liberia, Blyden embarked into unchartered territory.
Obama is about to do the same.
Blydensâ€™ path to becoming a political powerhouse in Liberia is, somewhat, parallel to Obamaâ€™s. For, like Obama, Blydenâ€™s road to political prominence came as a result of his scholarship. Blyden was an editor of the Liberia Herald, an ordained Presbyterian minister, school principal of Monroviaâ€™s Alexander High School, professor of Classics, and the president of Liberia College. These scholastic positions laid the foundation for his work as an influential African politician.
Similarly, Obama graduated from Columbia and Harvard Law School, with distinction, where he became the first Black president of the Harvard Law Review, before becoming a professor of Constitutional Law, at the University of Chicago Law School. This erudition is essential in understanding why Obama won.
Obama has crushed, through his scholarly leadership, many of those stereotypes white America erected to justify the “peculiar institution” of slavery and the inhumane brutality and psychic terrorism that was inflicted on African-Americans. In particular, he has utterly obliterated the racist notion articulated by former Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who opined, in the 1857 Dread Scott Decision that: Blacks “were beings of an inferior order.”
Remember during the campaign when we were told that Obama wasnâ€™t “experienced” enough? The insinuation was that since Senator McCain has been in the Congress for nearly 30 years, that he was endowed with superior expertise. But during the debates, Obama proved what the record shows: that Senator McCain is a less than mediocre mind.
Obama made it painfully obvious why McCain ranked 894 in a class of 899 students at the U.S. Naval Academy, where his father and grandfather were Admirals. But, the McCain family quota-legacy didnâ€™t help much did it?
Several times McCainâ€™s jealousy of Obamaâ€™s studiousness was apparent. During the Wall Street financial meltdown, he complained about Obamaâ€™s “lectures.” And remember how he tried to make Obama seem “elitist” because of his supposedly suspicious “eloquence?”
Throughout the campaign, many Republicans, and some in media, tried to insinuate that Obama wasnâ€™t a typical African American because of his high level of education.
However, Obama won because he embraced an example of scholarship that can be traced back to Black pioneers like Edward Blyden. Barack Hussein Obama is now Americaâ€™s president.