Obama: America Was Not Ready for a Black President

I was originally going to post this essay in January of 2017 at the end of Barack Obama’s second term but for reasons that will become clear later, I am posting it now.

The United States of America is not a racist country. It is, however, an acutely racially aware country. The population falls roughly into these categories:

  1. The outright bigots – blacks and whites who hate each other on sight. Sociologists much smarter than I can get underneath the reasons for the deep-seated bigotry but it is there. Fortunately the numbers in this category decrease with every passing generation.
  2. The racially wary – blacks and whites who don’t completely trust each other but will bond given enough time and exposure to common interests.
  3. The overcompensating – these folks, primarily white, are consumed with guilt over the “black experience” and go out of their way to make up for it. Examples range from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews to Rachel Dolezal, so crazed about race she faked being black.
  4. The race-neutral – these folks take everyone as an individual and judge them by their behavior. MLK’s ideal citizen.
  5. The racially oblivious – these folks “don’t see race”. Virtually no one above the age of five qualifies for this group.

The most famous example of the fifth category was Stephen Colbert’s conservative alter-ego that he played on Comedy Central. Colbert was famous for telling his guests “I don’t see race. Am I white? Oh, you’re black – I didn’t notice.” As I said, few adults can make this claim, and it doesn’t make those that can’t, bigots. It just means they live in a society immersed in racial awareness.

Toss these five personality types into a workplace environment and things get interesting. In “Black-ish”, a situation comedy on ABC, Anthony Anderson plays a successful black ad agency employee. In this scene from the pilot, we see an exchange not atypical in a white dominated workplace.It does indeed happen that the well-meaning white will ask a black man for the answer “only a black man” could give him. Because America is so racially aware, blacks in a white dominated work environment get a special kind of scrutiny. The scrutiny goes both ways. Some assume the black man can’t do the job. Others consider him a hero and inspiration for just being among the successful. For the average black man, both assumptions miss the mark.

Now, take the workplace environment described above and put it on display 24/7 in the news media. That is what working in the White House is. It is a workplace environment magnified 100 fold for all the world to observe. Now, make a black man the boss in that workplace environment that is under a microscope. That is what Barack Obama has been dealing with for the past six and half years. He is a black man running a predominantly white “company”, with all the complexity that racial awareness brings, and everyone gets to watch how he deals with it.

Remember in the “Black-ish” clip where Josh asks Dre how a black man says good morning? In 2009, that is essentially what happened to Barack Obama at a press conference about health care. After taking a series of on-topic questions, Obama is asked by Lynn Sweet a question that would never have been asked of him had he been white.

It has always disappointed me that Obama did not respond, “Lynn, what does Skip Gates’ arrest have to do with this press conference or anything else that I, as leader of the free world, need to be worried about? What other “black news” would you like to ask me about?” Instead, Obama played right into her hands and made life difficult for himself. It would not be the last time. While trying to be race-neutral, he has addressed race at the worst times, often in the worst ways – “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon”, a prime example.

But my heart goes out to the President. He simply cannot win. If he ignores race or goes even further to say race should not be an excuse for failure, he will be called an Uncle Tom. If he advocates for “black causes”, he will be called a race-baiting radical. In this country, founded on the falsely professed belief that “all men are created equal”, race is ever-present. Even when a situation is not about race, it is, because we have to THINK about whether it is or not. As a society, we just can’t seem to shake it. I don’t think we will in my lifetime and until we do, we cannot have a black President without a lot of accompanying drama.

Race relations since 2009 have deteriorated. Having a black President didn’t help matters and in fact, probably made matters worse. Despite electing a black man to the highest office in the land in 2008 and 2012, America really is not ready for a black President and won’t be until we get our heads straight about race.

Post script: Three events coincided in the past month. First, I lost my job, the second time I have been laid off in eight years. Second, WordPress sent me an automated congratulations on the eighth anniversary of this blog. Third, someone is whispering to me from beyond, today.

I started this blog in September of 2007 shortly after I was laid off after 24 years of service to IBM. Since then I have written well over 500 articles and for a short time even hosted an Internet radio show. It has been mostly a labor of love. But back to that person who is whispering to me.

Had my mother been alive in 2007, she would have said, “stop blogging and get a job”. Of course, since then I have pursued employment but with limited success. Today, the third “event” that I referred to, marks the 11th anniversary of my mother’s death and I hear her again saying “you just lost your job and you have a family to support. Focus. Enough with the blogging.”

So today marks my last full essay for the Bar and Grill. One thing I did not anticipate eight years ago was that in addition to blogger, I would be a community moderator. As of this writing, about a dozen people gather here just about every day to share their opinions and more importantly, share what is going on in their lives. They have become friends of sorts — not all of them to me — but definitely to one another. Since I don’t want to “break up the band”, I’m not closing the bar. I will sort of put it on automatic.

Every week (or so) I will publish two or three one-line assertions, much as I did in the post prior to this one. They may not even represent my views. They will simply be there to start discussion and more importantly open up a new thread so discussion threads don’t get bogged down and impossible to load in browsers. I will participate, minimally, in those discussion threads while I focus on what is most urgent right now.

It’s been a pleasure writing here. I thank everyone who has visited in the past eight years for their patronage.


When and When Not to Play the Race Card

We live in odd times when folks who see racism are called racists. Some people, mostly conservative, follow the logic of Stephen Colbert which goes something like this: “I don’t see race. The only reason I know I’m white is people tell me I am. The only reason I think you’re black is people tell me you are.” Hence anyone who brings up race as an issue must be the only one thinking about it and must be therefore the real racist. If we are honest we acknowledge that we don’t live in a post-racial society, whatever that is, and that the election of the first black President of the United States only made matters worse. Just like the chunk of cheese brings out the mice, the elevation of a black, albeit ethnically complex man to the top job brought out the racists in full force. Since the 1960’s the language that bigots use has for the most part changed because society simply will no longer tolerate n*gger this and n*gger that. The language is a bit more subtle and the racism in some ways more pervasive and harder to pin down and stamp out than it used to be. The fact is in 2012 there are times to play the so-called race card. However, not every dispute involving a person of color comes down to racism. To be credible, we need to learn when to play the race card.

When to Play the Race Card — GOP to Embrace Hispanics and Continue to Ignore Blacks

What have we heard repeatedly in the aftermath of the recent election? The GOP lost the election because they are blind to the changing demographics of America. Every once in a while a pundit will refer to “people of color”. More often the comment is that Hispanics who are “hard-working” need to be embraced by the Republican party. They are a growing demographic. Excuse me? So by implication, we’re back to the same old stereotype of blacks not being “hard-working”, the old saw of shiftless and lazy, to quote Sarah Palin, “shucking and jiving”. Who needs a “growing demographic” when there is a full-grown demographic already ripe for the picking? Where is the wake up call in the Republican party to actively pursue the black vote?

About the only worthwhile moment in Mitt Romney’s campaign was when he spoke in front of the NAACP. He didn’t play games. He didn’t pander. When he referred to “Obamacare” he got booed. So what? He actually treated the audience like adults who could agree or disagree with him. In fact he seemed more comfortable talking to this audience which he viewed as a lost cause for votes than he did talking to some of the folks whose votes he thought he could get.

Allen West and some other conservatives have talked about the new plantation where Democratic benefactors enslave their black voters with promises of handouts. How many times do they deliver that message to black audiences? I’d suggest close to never. It can’t be done you say. Tell that to Bill Cosby who years ago told black audiences that they needed to clean up the dysfunction in their communities. Some blacks were offended while others cheered. It was a dialogue that needed to happen. It needs to happen on a regular basis. Who better to push that conversation than conservatives whose claim to fame is self-sufficiency? Again, not telling the story to white audiences but to black ones.

Conservatives say liberal politics has failed the black community. Fine, then step in and tell a different story to this constituency and win them over. It’s easier just to ignore them, isn’t it? Leave them to rot because they can’t be reasoned with. That is tacit racism at its most destructive.

When Not to Play the Race Card — Obama’s Enemies Attack Susan Rice

UN Ambassador Susan Rice went on a series of Sunday morning gab-fests shortly after the September 11 murder of diplomat Chris Stevens and lied about the nature of his murder. Now before my liberal friends burst a blood vessel, there are innocent lies and there are malicious lies. I happen to believe that Susan Rice repeated talking points that had been sanitized as they traveled from the CIA through a bunch of bureaucrats and eventually into her hands. I do not believe her intention was to deceive. To the extent that a lie is something contrary to the truth, she lied. Unwittingly lied, but lied nonetheless. Enter, stage right, Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain who call for Rice’s head on a platter. McCain says that if she is named as Hillary Clinton’s replacement for Secretary of State, he will block the appointment.

What are several pundits saying now? They say the “optics” of this are very bad. They say in the aftermath of an election where the GOP appeared tone-deaf to minorities they are now persecuting a black woman. I say screw the “optics”. This is the kind of charge that discredits legitimate claims of racism. The folks who are attacking Susan Rice don’t like Obama. It is as simple as that. They want to turn the tragedy of Benghazi into a scandal that irreparably damages the President. Already we’ve heard “what did he know and when did he know it” regarding security problems at the consulate. Susan Rice is nothing but a pawn in the game of Obama’s enemies. It is unfortunate that her outstanding career hangs in the balance but it has nothing to do with her being a woman or being black. She actually shares something with the white, penis owning Governor of New Jersey who has been attacked recently by conservatives: guilt by association with Obama. It is as simple as that.

Racism in America did not magically disappear when Obama got elected. Far too many blacks and whites don’t trust or like each other for reasons entirely juvenile and ignorant. We can only hope to bridge the chasm between the races by talking honestly about how to lift all of us together from our hardships. Accusations of racism where none exists only serve to keep the goal of racial harmony out of reach. Similarly, talking about blacks as if they were a monolith incapable of being persuaded, a group only worth judging from a distance, snuffs out any hope for positive change.


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It Takes a Comedian

It is a sad observation that sometimes it takes a comedian to open our eyes to the truth. Last night, Comedy Central’s two resident political comedians, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart weighed in on the latest GOP temper tantrum over Barack Obama rightfully celebrating the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s capture and killing, using that achievement in a campaign ad and correctly pointing out that opponent Mitt Romney might not have gone after bin Laden.

One of Obama’s supposed offenses is “spiking the football”, gloating in an unseemly way about the bin Laden killing. Of course, the GOP would know nothing about such behavior. On The Colbert Report host Stephen Colbert punctures this myth in one dead-on comment:

Presidents don’t spike the football. You do an endzone dance on an aircraft carrier even if you never found the football.

But it was Jon Stewart and his crack research team on The Daily Show who culled enough video to permanently put to rest any claim the GOP has for righteous indignation. Stewart deflates the GOP two prong attack of Obama’s supposed braggadocio and the terrible offense of conjecturing what Romney might have done.

For those not wanting to watch the videos, the points are:

  1. Bush spiked the football before the game had even started. (Echoed by Colbert.)
  2. Ed Gillespie was outspoken in condemning the President for conjecturing what Romney would have done. Ed said in 2004 “If Kerry had his polices in place today Saddam would not only be in Baghdad but in Kuwait.”
  3. A 2004 GOP campaign ad:¬† “How can Kerry protect us when he doesn’t understand the threat?”
  4. Obama has repeatedly given credit to those who actually did the dangerous work. “We killed Osama bin Laden.”
  5. At the 2004 GOP convention, George Pataki, an Obama critic, kissed Bush’s ass. “George Bush protected our country.” Mmmm George Bush did? Or did the soldiers? Why didn’t Pataki give proper credit?
  6. Adding to the pile on, is criticism that Obama dissed Romney in front of a foreign visitor. In 2004 Bush disses Kerry in front of Iraqi Prime Minister.
  7. And the bottom line truth of the matter: GOP is just pissed they couldn’t run the current Obama ad.

Stewart allows for the possibility that the Obama campaign ad lacks some decorum. Fred Kaplan on Slate makes no such apology.

Two new investigative reports‚ÄĒa book by Peter Bergen, Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad, and an article by Graham Allison in the May 7 issue of Time‚ÄĒthoroughly rebut that notion. [of a no-brainer decision].

Far from the no-brainer that Romney depicts, the secret, high-level discussions leading up to the raid were fraught with intense debate and uncertainty‚ÄĒand Obama‚Äôs final decisions, on both whether and how to attack, went against some of his top advisers‚Äô recommendations.

Vice President Joe Biden revealed a few months ago that he had urged Obama not to mount the assault. Bergen and Allison report that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates joined him in the dissent‚ÄĒand they explain why.

In the weeks leading up to the decision, a group of counterterrorism officials, after conducting a ‚Äúred-team‚ÄĚ exercise of what could go wrong in such an attack, estimated that there was only a 40 percent chance Osama Bin Laden was actually in the compound. The CIA put the odds at 60 percent. Bergen quotes Michael Morell, the CIA‚Äôs deputy director, as telling the president that ‚Äúthe circumstantial case of Iraq having WMD was actually stronger than the circumstantial case that bin Laden is living in the Abbottabad compound.‚ÄĚ

Once Obama decided to attack, an equally weighty debate took place over how to go about it. Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and widely known at the time as ‚ÄúObama‚Äôs favorite general‚ÄĚ), recommended dropping a few dozen 2,000-pound bombs from a B-2 bomber. Others favored going in with missile-carrying drones.

Others, however, advised sending in SEAL Team Six, noting that an aerial attack might kill lots of civilians‚ÄĒperhaps even some in neighboring houses‚ÄĒand, in any case, would preclude certain knowledge that the strike had actually killed Bin Laden. Obama sided with the advocates of the far riskier raid.

Gates, still skeptical of the whole business, had been CIA director Stansfield Turner‚Äôs executive assistant back in 1979, when President Carter ordered a raid to rescue American hostages in Iran‚ÄĒthen watched the operation go down in flames, along with his presidency, when the Delta Force‚Äôs helicopter crashed.

Struck by Gates’ concerns, Obama ordered Adm. William McRaven, the special-operations commander organizing the raid, to throw in two additional helicopters for backup. It was a good thing he did, since one of the assault choppers crashed outside the compound. via Barack Obama’s decision to go after Osama Bin Laden: how the president overruled his advisers in ordering the assassination РSlate Magazine.

Kaplan’s headline puts it succinctly: Barack Obama Killed Osama Bin Laden. Period.


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