The Blog

Why I'm Not Celebrating The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

It looks as if we're about to be made to watch a movie we've seen before:At the same time we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of a march that was led by one of the greatest pacifists of the 20th Century.

It looks as if we're about to be made to watch a movie we've seen before: Middle East Strike Part...

At the same time we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of a march that was led by one of the greatest pacifists of the 20th Century.

All of this is being fronted by an African American Commander-in Chief, one of those surprises of history. But why should it be? It was quite simply time, and president Obama is a very good politician. You don't get elected POTUS, or any head of state or leader of a political party by being a saint.

These are people who believe - who know - that they can lead you and me. The level of focus and steely determination that this belief calls for is something that most of us can't even fathom and frankly don't want to.

That's why, for example, David Cameron could believe that his request to the press not to pap him on the beach would be honoured. He's the guy who once said, when asked why he wanted the job of prime minister: "I think I'd be rather good at it."

Barack Obama knew pretty early on that he could be president of the United States. He knew it as a kid. Ditto Hillary, Joe Biden, Ed Miliband, Clegg, Nigel Farage, you name it. And if they don't get what they want, in their humble opinion, it's our loss.

This is now.

I remember the march on Washington. The afternoon TV schedule was cleared for it, the first time this had ever happened. No after school programmes, no soap operas, or quiz shows. The day was boiling hot, but we all dressed up like it was Sunday and sat around the big box in the corner. We tried to get a glimpse of our uncle who had driven the van he used in his business all the way from Chicago to DC. This was a pretty dangerous thing to do. The interstate highways were not safe places for black people, even up north. There were no mobiles then, so we had to just wait until he called and said that he was okay.

There were a lot of movie stars on the podium, which we loved, and then Dr. King gave that closing 15 minute speech. I don't recall I Have A Dream being considered out of the ordinary for him at the time, at least not in our house. To the black community, oratory is a prized art and a necessity. MLK was a great orator and preacher, too. He was expected to close the proceedings with a flourish. It wasn't until later that the speech was studied in schools and seen as one of the English language masterpieces of the 20th Century.

Will we ever have a black PM?

The UK is very different from the US, no matter how much the media try to lead us to believe otherwise. Just as it's difficult to rise to the top of a major corporation or a sport, it's not easy to be eligible to lead a political party and thus be in position to be prime minister. No matter what colour, age, ability or gender you are, you have to have promoters, believers, schmoozers, fixers, big money people, foot soldiers.

I'd settle for a person who just did what they said they'd do and go every day to the HOC to do the people's business. Right now that's black enough for me.

So that's why I'm glad that I was never an Obama maniac. I'm allergic to bandwagons and the 'sure thing'. I don't look up to politicians and I don't believe in "leaders" so I'm not disappointed in him at all. President Obama does his best with the hand dealt him. Possibly no other POTUS has had to put up with the sort of concerted personal attack from a network dedicated to taking him down: Rupert Murdoch's representative on earth, Fox News. Fox News appeals to the American existential fear that black people are the 'other', something Dr. King stated and fought against.

He linked the civil rights struggle, too, with the fight against poverty and war. White Southern rural poverty is still at horrific levels. God and guns are what's allowed them, their accents a by-word for 'stupid'. 'Obamacare' - de-linking health care from employment - would benefit them, but the narrative about the president directed at poor and working class whites from Fox News and others prevents too many from this community seeing this.

They're being made to see what they were made to see 50 years ago at the time of the march: that they're being 'invaded', 'overwhelmed', their 'way of life' coming to an end. Sound familiar?

The truth is that our Age calls out for giants. At the moment we have none. At least none able to affect the outcome of our lives. Or of the world.

So no celebrations for me. I prefer to work before partying.