obama's refusal to get it right on racism
As the evidence continues to mount across America showing a pervasive and increasingly blatant manifestation of racism in all of its varied and virulent forms, the nation’s first black President’s acknowledgement and response has been at best, cautious and at worst, non-existent. This is a curious anomaly since President Obama himself has been the target of racist jokes, disrespect, and treated like a nigger from the first day he took office. Recent racist emails directed at the President and the First Lady Michelle Obama underscores this point.
President Obama’s continued silence regarding the seeming domino effect of the killing of unarmed black men by white police officers could not be more deafening. Aren’t Presidents, no matter the color, duty bound to condemn publicly and vociferously acts that appear to be an undeclared open season on the lives of Black men? My question is whether the current President’s reticence to speak out on racial issues purely political, or is it much deeper than that?
Understandably, the President is between a rock and a hard place regarding race, because as a black man, he must represent the interests of all Americans, the majority of which are of European descent. This quandary notwithstanding, it does the quest for justice in America for African Americans a supreme disservice to overlook the obvious, and downplay the factor of race and racism at play in every segment of American society. How long will President Obama publicly look the other way, and ignore the obvious? In the history of this country, there has never been a President so vilified, insulted and undermined by Congress through action and inaction which belie their claims of legitimate policy differences. Policy issues aside, President Obama has never been given the respect and the dignity that the office of the President deserves and has been traditionally given to white office holders. Despite Obama’s best efforts to be Presidential, and avoid the scandal and improprieties of past presidents like Bill Clinton and a long list of others, he continues to bang his head against the stone wall of racial bigotry and white supremacy in America.
Dare I say that Mr. Obama’s reluctance to embrace the worsening plight of African Americans in this country, and to adopt our struggles as his own is due to his mixed heritage and ancestry. Could it be that by having an African father (Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.) who was born in Kenya’s Nyanza province and a mother of Irish and German ancestry, he is disconnected and desensitized to the culture and historical suffering of the American Negro? Although educated in America, Obama Sr. was of distinctly African heritage, belonging to an ethnic group called the Luo which makes up Kenya’s third largest ethnic group. Neither of Mr. Obama’s parents shares a lineage, historical cultural or otherwise, connected to African Americans whose ancestors came over on slave ships. Likewise, Mr. Obama’s ancestors never suffered the psychological trauma, brutality and degradation of slavery, Jim Crow, and the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. As a black man here in America, Mr. Obama is certainly a beneficiary of those struggles, but he has no lineal connection. Perhaps this missing genealogical and cultural nexus is what prevents him from fully empathizing with the centuries-old struggle of the American Negro for racial equality.
Furthermore, I would argue that skin color alone does not determine racial identity. There are countless examples throughout history where fair skinned black people tried to pass as white, and where dark skinned Negroes sought to shake off the shackles of skin color, by seeking to assimilate into white culture, as if color didn’t matter. As Obama and others before him have undoubtedly learned, race in the United States of America has always mattered. It is still the yard stick for the subjective measure of human worth in this country, acknowledged by the controlling majority or not.
Well Mr. Obama, if you won’t say it, I will say it for you. The United States of America is the most racist country in the world, notwithstanding your election as President. (Click here to read "The Obama Backlash") In fact, your election has only served to exacerbate and bring to the surface the latent racial animus that white folk still hold for black people in this country. We can never effectively devise a solution, as long as we fail and refuse to recognize the problem. The ostrich approach of burying our heads in the sand will not make the problem of racism go away. Yes, America. We have a problem. Racism is alive, well and arguably on the rise in this country, and unless we are honest about its existence, we remain powerless to effectively address it.
Mr. President, we must honestly face the problems of racism and the culture of white supremacy which still plague this country. Your refusal to acknowledge or address the systemic and pervasive nature of racism in America only serves to perpetuate the problem. By doing and saying nothing, you give tacit approval to the status quo; thereby enabling the continued oppression of African Americans.
Gerald Torrence is a lawyer, educator, writer, social and political activist, and motivational speaker living in Atlanta. You can find more insightful opinions from TheTruthTeller at the-truth-teller.com. You can follow Gerald on Twitter @tttspokentruth.