By DeWayne Wickham
The more I think about this, the more it bothers me.
From his hiding place, probably a deep cave somewhere in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan or Pakistan, Osama bin Laden's mouthpiece, Ayman al-Zawahiri, took a cheap shot at Barack Obama.
He called the president-elect a "house Negro." That's a derogatory term that is used to describe blacks who are servile to whites.
On the streets of Chicago's Southside, where Obama comes from, those are fighting words. But with less than two months to go before he moves into the White House, Obama has decided not to "play the dozens" with al-Zawahiri.
The dozens is trash talking, usually between two inner-city guys who hurl insults at each other in a rhythmic cadence while the level of hooting and hollering of people around them score their verbal clash. Al-Zawahiri would have been an easy target for a rapid offering of some of the "yo' momma" jokes that guys who play the dozens often hurl about - if Obama had decided to strike back.
He didn't, but I will. Not because I think it is my job to defend Obama. It isn't. It's my job is to "seek truth and report it" - and al-Zawahiri's charge that this nation's first black president is a house Negro is far from true. It reeks of the big lie that megalomaniacs like bin Laden and al-Zawahiri use to pull gullible people into their orbit.
"You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like ... Malcolm X," al-Zawahiri said of Obama in a post-election videotape that surfaced last week. "You were born to a Muslim father, but chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayers of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America."
To strengthen his point, al-Zawahiri appears in the video flanked by an image of Malcolm X and a photo of Obama wearing a yarmulke during a visit to Israel earlier this year. But al-Zawahiri's words betray his ignorance of the true Malcolm X. Five days before he was assassinated on Feb. 16, 1965, the civil rights activist gave a speech in Rochester, N.Y. that rejected the us-against-them religious dogma of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri.
"I believe in one God ... And that that God taught all of his prophets the same religion, so there is no argument about who was greater or who was better: Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, or some of the others. All of them were prophets who came from one God," Malcolm X said at the time.
"They had one doctrine, and that doctrine was designed to give clarification of humanity, so that all of humanity would see that it was one and have some kind of brotherhood ... I believe in that," he continued. "I believe in the brotherhood of man."
So does Obama, who - when he is sworn into office on Jan. 20 - will assume an office that Malcolm X didn't live long enough to even imagine a black man one day holding. How were blacks going to get around the segregationists and racists who held so much power in the federal government, he asked in that Rochester speech? "Now how are we going to get around them? How are we going to get justice in a Congress that they control ... Or a White House that they control?" he asked.
I think Malcolm X would believe that Obama, who won the presidency with the backing of 95% of black voters, hardly fits the description of a "house Negro." I think he would look at Obama and see a black man who is intent upon making America's future much better than its past - for all of us.