Racism & The President

by admingene on November 19, 2012

It has been abundantly clear that some of the venom directed towards President Obama since he took office is motivated by deep racist feelings among some people in this country.  This does not mean that everyone who dislikes the President and/or his policies does so because they are racists.  However, racism has been demonstrated over and over again by the crude “jokes” and cartoons published by some local Republicans in various parts of the country, as well as comments for years from right wing talk show hosts, and not-too-subtle comments during the recent campaign from Romney surrogates like John Sununu that the President was “lazy” and more interested in playing basketball than doing the work of a president.  It also manifested itself when a Congressman shouted out at the President, “you lie,” during an address to Congress.  I strongly doubt that he would have done that to a white president.

An African-American friend of mine who is very politically savvy and sophisticated recently raised an issue about the President’s first term in office.  He felt that President Obama acted and reacted at various times as the groundbreaking figure that he is.  He compared the President to Jackie Robinson who, when he began his major league career, was on the receiving end of constant death threats and horrific racist insults.  It has been well documented how Robinson knew he had to “turn the other cheek” to every one of these.  He had to show almost superhuman self-control and patience.  Somehow he managed to rise above the haters and stay there.  His stoicism, humanity and dignity made it possible for much of a skeptical white America to accept him and, therefore, accept a future that included African-American, Latino and Asian ballplayers, even if they still didn’t like it.

Similarly, President Obama did not react to the racism and hate.  My friend believes that it was important that the President not be perceived as an “angry Black man.”  The result may have been a misperception of the President as weak, particularly in his dealings with Congress.  As he begins his second term there will be no such constraints on President Obama.  He will never be a hot-headed man with a quick trigger for a temper.  That is not who he is.  But I expect he will be more aggressive in his dealings with the bullies who are the Republican leaders in the House and Senate and who pass themselves off as the “loyal opposition.”  They are certainly the opposition, but there is little that is loyal about them, except perhaps to their own sense of entitlement to power.  Perhaps if President Obama was Jackie Robinson in his first term, he will be Curt Flood in his second.

Leave your comment


Required. Not published.

If you have one.