"The Beginning of a New Era of Change"?

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I add this challenge to the question in the following article, "When will you be satisfied?": 

Our movement cannot be satisfied, so long as war criminals walk free.

Law School Dean Christopher Edley enjoys access to President Barack Obama and Mark Yudof, president of the UC system. As an adviser to both, will he continue to defend an advocate of torture (professor John Yoo) or will he urge a return to the rule of law?

Historic Inauguration Provides an Opportunity For the Empowerment of America's Youth

Tuesday January 20, 2009

On this historic day, Barack Obama will be inaugurated as America's first black president. Congratulations to everyone who fought to win this campaign, who wore campaign buttons and T-shirts, who made phone calls, who walked precincts, who urged friends and relatives to vote.

For today is not only a day to celebrate this milestone in the struggle for racial equality-it is also a day to celebrate yourselves. Obama's victory would never have been possible without the determination and idealism of the students and young people who infused the campaign with leadership and energy, who made it different from other electoral campaigns and a genuine mass movement.

The Obama movement has succeeded at awakening a new sense of hope that America can be a land that realizes its principles of democracy and equality for all. Your actions have shown that, indeed, "Yes we can."

In addition to celebrating your historic accomplishment on this day, you should begin to determine among yourselves how you are going to preserve the accountability of President Obama to you.

All arguments against this consciousness of your own role and of your own right to stand up for what you believe are merely arguments that Barack Obama, as president, should only be accountable to the wealthy elite whose money fueled his entry into the primaries but could not have advanced him one practical step toward the presidency without the passionate response of rank and file progressive Democrats to his message of new hope for America.

What is most important on this triumphant day is that you recognize your own importance in history more than the importance of the particular candidate whose electoral cause you have embraced.   

You already know that your aims extend beyond the abilities and limitations of one man, however talented and inspiring. You already know that your efforts for your aspirations will inevitably extend beyond one president's term of office.

In this sense, we urge you to regard this day of Obama's inauguration as, more importantly, your day of empowerment. Today is a day to celebrate in a manner appropriate to the launching of a new movement for social change and a declaration of your expectations on how the new president needs to go about the business of keeping his promises to you.

The question arises: what's next? The biggest danger in the next period of time will be the pressure to hold your breath and leave it up to President Obama to realize this vision of hope, to retreat in the face of victory and return to your daily lives as if your job is done. The Obama Era will not be one of automatic progress, but will be characterized by increasing polarization.

Already, racists have increased their activity since the election of Obama, and demagogic politicians will begin to use the economic crisis as the basis for increasing racist attacks and scapegoating racial minorities, immigrants, and other oppressed groups.

We have much to learn from Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birthday was commemorated yesterday, about leadership and how to transform the social relations, policies, consciousness and identity of the nation.

To the question "When will you be satisfied?," King answered: "We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

To the same question, we must all respond: Our movement cannot be satisfied, so long as so many brilliant and talented black, Latina/o, Native American and other minority students do not have the opportunity to go to colleges like the University of California where affirmative action is outlawed, so long as the Dream Act is not passed and undocumented immigrant students cannot receive financial aid for college simply because they were born on the other side of the border.

We will not be satisfied, so long as racist police are allowed to evade justice after executing Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black man in front of a trainload of witnesses and captured in videos which can be viewed by the nation.

We will not be satisfied, so long as immigrant communities live under the threat of ICE raids, deportations and harassment. We will not be satisfied, so long as our government continues to conduct a racist war in Iraq and support the Israeli government's campaign of terror against the Palestinian people.

We will not be satisfied, so long as gay marriage is not legally recognized and there is state-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Whether the Obama Era will be one of a renewed fight for equality, or of anew hypocrisy and increasing attacks on equality, will answered by our own actions, or lack thereof. The history of "The Obama Era" is, in essence, ours to make.

Ronald Cruz is an organizer for BAMN. Reply at opinion@dailycal.org. 

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This page contains a single entry published on January 20, 2009 10:53 AM.

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