Is President Obama moving the position of the black community with a courageous and principled stand on gay marriage—or is he ignoring the long-standing views of the community by pushing an issue that’s not in the community’s best interests and then, joined by his cohorts like the NAACP, daring anyone to speak out against him?
Syracuse University finance professor Boyce Watkins strongly chooses the latter view. In a withering critique on NewsOne, Watkins accuses the Obama administration of treating the black community disrespectfully—in the manner of African dictators who squash protests to protect the interests of American oil companies.
“Those who have anything unpopular to say are told to remain dumb and silent — or called Uncle Toms for not supporting every move by the brother in the White House,” Watkins writes in a column on NewsOne. “The collective political IQ of Black America dropped by 30 points after the election of President Obama, for freedom of thought and expression were quickly tossed to the wayside.”
Watkins’ critique of the NAACP and black leaders who came out in support of Obama comes in the wake of an ABC News/Washington Post poll released last week showing that the percentage of black Americans in favor of gay marriage moved from 40 percent to 59 percent after the president’s announcement. While there has been a vocal minority of preachers, led by Rev. Bill Owens of the Tennessee-based Coalition of African American Pastors, who are speaking against the president’s position, the direction of the news coverage has mostly been about the prominent African Americans, from Jay-Z to Colin Powell, who are stepping forward to back Obama up.
Although Watkins, founder of Your Black World Coalition, said he personally supports same-sex marriage, he objects to the orthodoxy of opinion he feels is being forced upon the black community by the pressure to support Obama at all costs.
“So, when Obama makes an announcement that is not in the interest of the majority of the black community (i.e. gay marriage), the administration gets on the Bat Phone to find African American public figures who are willing to force feed the Kool-Aid to the masses,” Watkins writes. “Massive liberal media platforms like MSNBC are enlisted as the launching pads of propaganda, where church-going Black folks are then described as illiterate Neanderthals who need liberal White people to think for us. Those willing to share the message are rewarded in numerous ways: Appearances by Obama at their events, their own television shows/segments and other behind-the-scenes goodies that people get for playing for the liberal team. Truth becomes the enemy in this form of dysfunctional cronyism, and we should all be sickened by it.”
But while Watkins calls the black community’s nearly universal support of Obama as “dysfunctional cronyism,” others might say it is the same type of disciplined single-mindedness that Republicans have practiced for years after they choose a candidate—and which Democrats have long envied. When Republicans do it, Democrats call it discipline. When Democrats do it, alarms are sounded about the dangers of unanimity.
Concern over black people walking lockstep behind Democratic candidates certainly is not new; the same sorts of complaints and warnings arose during the Clinton administration, which also had the near-universal support of the black community.