ENCORE: Looking Back at the Obama Years

Just one more week and the Obama years will be over. (The new President – Donald J. Trump – will be inaugurated on January 20, 2017).

  • This is good …
  • This is bad …

Barack H. Obama has been transformational as the 44th President of the United States. He has truly impacted American society, but the Caribbean, not so much. This was the theme of the previous blog-commentary (from March 31, 2016) that detailed Obama’s bad consequences on the Caribbean. See here:


Title: Obama – Bad For Caribbean Status Quo

Go Lean Commentary

CU Blog - Obama - Bad For Caribbean Status Quo - Photo 2Yes, Barack Obama was elected in 2008 as the first Black President of the United States, with his campaign of “Hope and Change”. While one would think that would be good for all Black (African-American) people in the US – and around the world – alas, that has not been the case. It is the conclusion of many commentators and analysts that Obama has not been able to do as much for his race as he would like, nor his race would like. (Obama himself has confessed this). Or that another White person may have been able to do more for the African American community.

This seems like a paradox!

Yet, it is what it is. The truth of the matter is that race still plays a huge decision-making factor in all things in America. This reality has curtailed Obama in any quest to do more for his people.

This is the assessment by noted commentator and analyst, Professor Michael Eric Dyson, in his new book “The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America“. Professor Dyson points out some actual events during the Obama presidency and concludes that a White President would have been more successfully championing certain race-related causes. (Think: the Black Lives Matter movement was ignited during the Obama presidency).

VIDEO – Michael Eric Dyson on Democracy Now – https://youtu.be/F7Uo06_NfCw

Published on Feb 3, 2016 – http://democracynow.org – As the 2016 presidential race heats up and the nation marks Black History Month, we turn to look back on President Obama’s legacy as the nation’s first African-American president. Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson has just published a new book titled The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America. From the protests in Ferguson to the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, to the controversy over the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Michael Eric Dyson explores how President Obama has changed how he talks about race over the past seven years.

Democracy Now! is an independent global news hour that airs weekdays on nearly 1,400 TV and radio stations Monday through Friday. Watch the live-stream 8-9AM ET: http://democracynow.org.

The summary is that White Privilege still dominates in America. See the review of this book in Appendix A below.

This conclusion aligns with the assertions of the book Go Lean…Caribbean, and many aligned blog submissions, that America is not the ideal society for Caribbean citizens to seek for refuge, that rather Caribbean people can exert less effort to reform and transform their homelands than trying to prosper in this foreign land. The conclusion is the priority should be on a local/regional quest to prosper where planted in the Caribbean. This is a mission of the Go Lean…Caribbean movement, to lower the push and pull factors that lead many in the Caribbean to flee their tropical homes. Highlighting and enunciating the truths of American “Race Reality” aligns with that mission. We must lower the “pull” factors!

It is this commentary’s conclusion that Obama has been a good president for American self-interest. (The economy has recovered and rebounded from the “bad old days” of the 2008 financial crisis).

It is also this commentary’s conclusion that Obama has been a bad president for the Caribbean status-quo! His administration has brought ” change” to many facets of Caribbean life – good, bad and ugly, as follows:

  • Consider the good: The American re-approachment to Cuba – under Obama – is presenting an end to the Cold War animosity of these regional neighbors – Cuba’s status quo is changing. A bad actor from this conflict, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, just penned his own commentary lamenting Obama’s salesmanship in his recent official visit to Cuba on March 15; see Appendix B.
  • Consider the bad:
    • (A) The US has doubled-down on globalization, forcing countries with little manufacturing or agricultural production to consume even more and produce even less; a lose-lose proposition.
    • (B) The primary industry in the Caribbean – tourism – has experienced change and decline as a direct result of heightened income inequality in the US, the region’s biggest source of touristic visitors; now more middle class can only afford cruise vacations as opposed to the more lucrative (for the region) stop-overs.
    • (C) The secondary industry in the Caribbean – Offshore Banking – has come under fire from the US-led Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) to deter offshore banking growth; the industry, jobs and economic contributions have thusly receded.
  • Consider the ugly: Emigration of Caribbean citizens to the US has accelerated during this presidency, more so than any other time in American-Caribbean history. Published rates of societal abandonment among the college educated classes have reported an average of 70 percent in most member-states, with some countries (i.e. Guyana) tallying up to 89 percent.

The Caribbean status quo has changed. It is now time for a Caribbean version of “hope and change”.

This book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). This roadmap presents “hope and change” for empowering the Caribbean region’s societal engines: economic, security and governance. In fact, the following are the prime directives of the roadmap:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

A mission of the CU is to minimize the push and pull factors that lead so many Caribbean citizens to migrate to foreign lands – to America; and also to invite the Diaspora living there to repatriate home. The argument is that America is not the most welcoming for the Black and Brown populations of the Caribbean. Let’s work to prosper where planted at home.

Yes, there are societal defects in the Caribbean, as there are defects in America. But the defects in America are greater: institutional racism and Crony-Capitalism. Though it is heavy-lifting, it is easier to reform and transform the Caribbean.

The reference sources in the Appendices relate that the Obama effect is changing the status quo … in America … and the Caribbean.

This issue of reducing the societal abandonment rate and encouraging repatriation has been a consistent theme of Go Lean blogs entries; as sampled here:

http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=7628 ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=7204 ‘The Covenant with Black America’ – Ten Years Later
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=7151 The Caribbean is Looking for Heroes … ‘to Return’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=7412 The Road to Restoring Cuba
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=7151 The Caribbean is Looking for Heroes … ‘to Return’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=6016 Hotter than July – Still ‘Third World’ – The Need for Cooling …
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=5784 The Need for Human Rights/LGBT Reform in the Region
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=4613 ‘Luck of the Irish’ – Lessons from their Past, Present and Future
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=4447 Probe of Ferguson, Missouri exposes Institutional Racism

All in all, the roadmap commences with the recognition that all the Caribbean is in crisis, with its high abandonment rate. These acknowledgements are pronounced in the Declaration of Interdependence (Page 13). The statements are included as follows:

xix.   Whereas our legacy in recent times is one of societal abandonment, it is imperative that incentives and encouragement be put in place to first dissuade the human flight, and then entice and welcome the return of our Diaspora back to our shores. This repatriation should be effected with the appropriate guards so as not to imperil the lives and securities of the repatriated citizens or the communities they inhabit. The right of repatriation is to be extended to any natural born citizens despite any previous naturalization to foreign sovereignties.

xx.   Whereas the results of our decades of migration created a vibrant Diaspora in foreign lands, the Federation must organize interactions with this population into structured markets. Thus allowing foreign consumption of domestic products, services and media, which is a positive trade impact. These economic activities must not be exploited by others’ profiteering but rather harnessed by Federation resources for efficient repatriations.

The Go Lean roadmap lists the following details on the series of community ethos, strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies necessary to effectuate the “hope and change” in the Caribbean region to mitigate the continued risk of emigration and the brain drain. The list is as follows:

Community Ethos – Economic Systems Influence Individual Choices Page 21
Community Ethos – Job Multiplier Page 22
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Return on Investments Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Help Entrepreneurship Page 28
Strategic – Vision – Integrated Region in a Single Market Page 45
Strategic – Vision – Agents of Change Page 57
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical – Growing to $800 Billion Regional Economy Page 67
Tactical – Separation of Powers Page 71
Implementation – Ways to Pay for Change Page 101
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Implementation – Reasons to Repatriate Page 118
Planning – Big Ideas for the Caribbean Region Page 127
Planning – Lessons Learned from the US Constitution Page 145
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Governance Page 168
Advocacy – Ways to Impact the Diaspora Page 217
Appendix – Source of 2.2 Million New Jobs Page 257

The  Go Lean roadmap allows for the Caribbean region to deliver success, to mitigate the risk of further push and pull. The world in general and the Caribbean in particular needs to know the truth of life in America for the Black and Brown populations. This heavy-lifting task is the mission of the CU technocracy.

Now is the time for all of the Caribbean, the people and institutions, to lean-in for the “hope and change” that is the Caribbean Union Trade Federation. Yes, we can … make this region a better place to live, work and play. 🙂

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


Appendix A

Book Review: ‘The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America’ By Michael Eric Dyson. 346 Pages. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $27. ISBN 978-0544387669
Review By: N. D. B. Connolly

CU Blog - Obama - Bad For Caribbean Status Quo - Photo 3What happens when the nation’s foremost voice on the race question is also its most confined and restrained? Michael Eric Dyson raises this question about President Obama in his latest book, “The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America.” The book inspires one to raise similar questions about Dyson himself. For, while hardly restrained, Dyson appears noticeably boxed in by the limitations placed on celebrity race commentators in the Age of Obama.

Readers will recognize Dyson’s practiced flair for language and metaphor as he makes an important and layered argument about American political culture and the narrowness of presidential speech. The book argues that Americans live under a black presidency — not so much because the president is black, but because Obama’s presidency remains bound by the rules and rituals of black respectability and white supremacy. Even the leader of the free world, we learn in Dyson’s book, conforms principally to white expectations. (Dyson maintained in the November issue of The New Republic that Hillary Clinton may well do more for black people than Obama did.) But Obama’s presidency is “black” in a more hopeful way, too, providing Americans with an opportunity to better realize the nation’s democratic ideals and promises. “Obama’s achievement gestures toward what the state had not allowed at the highest level before his emergence,” Dyson writes. “Equality of opportunity, fairness in democracy and justice in society.”

A certain optimism ebbs and flows in “The Black Presidency,” but only occasionally does it refer to white Americans’ beliefs about race. Far more often, Dyson hangs hope on Obama’s impromptu shows of racial solidarity. One such moment was the president’s remarks after the 2009 arrest of the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. (who was arrested trying to get into his own home). Another was Obama’s public identification with Trayvon Martin. Both acts may have been politically risky, but they also greatly heartened African- Americans. Hope builds, and by book’s end, readers find a chapter-long celebration of the president’s soaring invocations of “Amazing Grace” during last year’s memorial service for the slain parishioners of EmanuelA.M.E.Church. For Dyson, the eulogy at Emanuel seems to serve as a sign of grace that black America may still yet enjoy from the Obama White House.

Its cresting invocations of hope aside, the book ably maintains a sharp critical edge. Dyson uncovers a troubling consistency to the president’s race speech and shows that in spite of Obama’s reliance on black political networks and black votes during his meteoric rise, the president chose to follow a governing and rhetorical template largely hewed by his white predecessors. As both candidate and president, Obama’s speeches have tended to allay white guilt. They have scolded ­African-American masses for cultural pathology and implied that blacks were to blame for lingering white antipathy. Obama’s speeches have also often consigned the worst forms of racism and anti-black violence to the past or to the fringes of American political culture. One finds passive-voice constructions everywhere in Obama’s race talk, as black folk are found suffering under pressures and at the hands of parties that go largely unnamed. “Obama is forced to exaggerate black responsibility,” Dyson advances, “because he must always underplay white responsibility.”

Critically, Dyson contends that the president’s tepid anti-racism comes from political pragmatism rather than a set of deeper ideological concerns. “Obama is anti-ideological,” Dyson maintains, and that is “the very reason he was electable.”

That characterization, however, overlooks how liberal pragmatism functions as ideology. What’s more, it ignores the marginalization and violence that black and brown people often suffer — at home and abroad — whenever moderates resolve to “get things done.” If the Obama era proved anything about liberalism, it’s that there remains little room for an explicit policy approach to racial justice — even, or perhaps especially, under a black president. As Obama himself explains to Dyson: “I have to appropriate dollars for any program which has to go through ways and means committees, or appropriations committees, that are not dominated by folks who read Cornel West or listen to Michael Eric Dyson.”

Upon a careful reading of Dyson’s book, loss seems always to arrive on the heels of hope. As we might expect, the author explores Obama’s estrangement from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in 2008. He also attends to his own very public and more recent split from Cornel West. But even beyond these signal episodes, “The Black Presidency” is suffused with a bittersweet tone about relationships strained. President Obama seems to leave a host of people and political commitments at the White House door as he conforms to the racial demands of a historically white office. Even Dyson seems unaware of all the ways in which “The Black Presidency,” as a book, both explicates and illustrates how the Obama administration leaves black folk behind.

All but the last two of the book’s eight chapters begin with the author placing himself in close and often luxurious proximity to Obama. The repetition has the literary effect of a Facebook feed. Here is Michael at Oprah’s sumptuous California mansion during a 2007 fund-raiser, sharing a joke with Barack and Chris Rock. Here is Michael on the private plane and in the S.U.V., giving the candidate tips on how to use a “ ‘blacker’ rhetorical style” during his debate performances against a surging Hillary Clinton. Here he is in the V.I.P. section of the 50th-anniversary ceremony for the March on Washington and, yet again, at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Through these and similar moments, Dyson projects his status and, in ways less clear, his authority. Dyson knows Obama, the reader is assured, because he has kept his company. He has swapped playful taunts and bro-hugs with the president; he has been intimate, one might say, with history.

Moments like these have a secondary effect. They illuminate a tension cutting through and profoundly limiting “The Black Presidency” as a work of political commentary. Regardless of who Michael Eric Dyson may have been to Obama the candidate, Dyson now has barely any access to Obama the president. Time and circumstance have rendered Dyson, the man and the thinker, increasingly irrelevant to Obama’s presidency. He can be at the party, but not at the table.

Perhaps worse in relation to the book’s stated aim to be the first full measure of Obama and America’s race problem, Dy­son, the author, has none but only the smallest role to play in assessing and narrating Obama’s legacy. When Bill Clinton decided to chronicle his own historic turn in the White House, he called on Taylor Branch and recorded with the historian some 150 hours of interviews over 79 separate sessions. Dyson, in 2015, gets far shabbier treatment. Chapter 5, “The Scold of Black Folk,” opens: “I was waiting outside the Oval Office to speak to President Obama. I had a tough time getting on his schedule.” In response to Dyson’s request for a presidential audience, the White House offered the author 10 whole minutes. By his own telling, Dyson “politely declined” and pressed Obama’s confidante, Valerie Jarrett, to remember his long history with and support of the president. “I eventually negotiated a 20-minute interview that turned into half an hour.” It appears to be the only interview Dyson conducted for the book.

In the end, “The Black Presidency” possesses a loaves-and-fishes quality. Drawing mostly on the news cycle, close readings of carefully crafted speeches and a handful of glittering encounters, Dyson has managed to do a lot with a little. The book might well be considered an interpretive miracle, one performed in fealty and hope for a future show of presidential grace, either from this president or, should she get elected, the next one.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/books/review/the-black-presidency-barack-obama-and-the-politics-of-race-in-america-by-michael-eric-dyson.html. Posted February 2, 2016; retrieved March 29, 2016.


Appendix B

Title: Cuba’s Fidel Castro knocks sweet-talking Obama after ‘honey-coated’ visit
By: Marc Frank

U.S. President Barack Obama waves from the door of Air Force One in HavanaHavana – Retired leader Fidel Castro accused U.S. President Barack Obama of sweet-talking the Cuban people during his visit to the island last week and ignoring the accomplishments of Communist rule, in an opinion piece carried by all state-run media on Monday.

Obama’s visit was aimed at consolidating a detente between the once intractable Cold War enemies and the U.S. president said in a speech to the Cuban people that it was time for both nations to put the past behind them and face the future “as friends and as neighbors and as family, together.”

“One assumes that every one of us ran the risk of a heart attack listening to these words,” Castro said in his column, dismissing Obama’s comments as “honey-coated” and reminding Cubans of the many U.S. efforts to overthrow and weaken the Communist government.

Castro, 89, laced his opinion piece with nationalist sentiment and, bristling at Obama’s offer to help Cuba, said the country was able to produce the food and material riches it needs with the efforts of its people.

“We don’t need the empire to give us anything,” he wrote.

Asked about Fidel Castro’s criticisms on Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Obama administration was pleased with the reception the president received from the Cuban people and the conversations he had with Cuban officials.

“The fact that the former president felt compelled to respond so forcefully to the president’s visit, I think is an indication of the significant impact of President Obama’s visit to Cuba,” Earnest said.

After the visit, major obstacles remain to full normalization of ties between Cuba and the United States, with no major concessions offered by Cuba on rights and economic freedom.

“The president made clear time and time again both in private meetings with President Castro, but also in public when he delivered a speech to the Cuban people, that the U.S. commitment to human rights is rock solid and that’s not going to change,” Earnest said.

Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution and led the country until 2006, when he fell ill and passed power to his brother Raul Castro. He now lives in relative seclusion but is occasionally heard from in opinion pieces or seen on television and in photos meeting with visiting dignitaries.

The iconic figure’s influence has waned in his retirement and the introduction of market-style reforms carried out by Raul Castro, but Fidel Castro still has a moral authority among many residents, especially older generations.

Obama did not meet with Fidel Castro during his three-day visit, nor mention him in any of his public appearances. It was the first visit of a sitting U.S. president for 88 years.

Fidel Castro blasted Obama for not referring in his speech to the extermination of native peoples in both the United States and Cuba, not recognizing Cuba’s gains in health and education, and not coming clean on what he might know about how South Africa obtained nuclear weapons before apartheid ended, presumably with the aid of the U.S. government.

“My modest suggestion is that he reflects (on the U.S. role in South Africa and Cuba’s in Angola) and not now try to elaborate theories about Cuban politics,” Castro said.

Castro also took aim at the tourism industry in Cuba, which has grown further since Obama’s rapprochement with Raul Castro in December 2014. He said it was dominated by large foreign corporations which took for granted billion-dollar profits.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Bill Rigby)

Share this post:
, , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *