Saturday, March 7, 2009

Obama's Softer On Race Than Holder

Via one of the best opinion blogs on the web, Field Negro, I learned of President Barack Obama's recent interview with The New York Times. The NYT headline reads "Attorney General Chided for Language," and so spins the story a bit as though Obama sent out a press release admonishing Attorney General Eric Holder for calling America a "nation of cowards."

What the President said is "I think it’s fair to say that if I had been advising my attorney general, we would have used different language."

Uh, yup. Obama never talks about race the way Holder did. Well, Holder is head of the Department of Justice. Emphasis on "justice."

Perhaps the editor writing the headline wishes the president had sent out a news alert doing a smackdown on Holder, but the article also has the following:
In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, the president said that despite Mr. Holder’s choice of words, he had a point.

“We’re oftentimes uncomfortable with talking about race until there’s some sort of racial flare-up or conflict,” he said, adding, “We could probably be more constructive in facing up to sort of the painful legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and discrimination.” (NYT article)
I'm not surprised that President Barack Obama wants less fire in the debate than Holder's words brought. He's a politician and politicians go for the broader appeal. Plus, he makes it clear in his book, The Audacity of Hope, that he's not the fiery type.

Also, he doesn't bring up his ethnicity unless somebody else points it out. I think Obama himself doesn't like discussing race, and I wonder if he would have said anything about Holder publicly if the reporter hadn't asked him a Holder question. I've said more than once that Obama is only human so people who think he's some kind of savior of all humanity and black humanity in particular are bound to be disappointed.

But like Field Negro, I want Obama to succeed. God help us if he effs up big time.

At UMBOP I said the following about Attorney General Eric Holder when he called Americans cowards:
America kept asking itself was it ready for a black president. Apparently the question should have been, "Is America for a black man to be top dog at the Department of Justice who speaks his mind?" (UMBOP)
American was ready for a person of color POTUS who doesn't discuss race. It is not ready for a anyone to talk race from the trenches and tell how they really feel. America's not even ready to do what Obama said it could do, "be more constructive in facing up to sort of the painful legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and discrimination."

Remember when Michelle Obama said for the first time she was really proud of America? All hell broke loose.

But some black folk are in for a shock too. Here's what I said on that in comments about Michelle on the cover of Vogue Magazine:
As for the Obama administration, I think it's going to get plenty of pressure from black people as soon as black people realize that his win really ain't about them and only them beyond something to mark down on the Black History calendar. He's not a black nationalist. (Verite, c'est moi)
Field talks about an Obama quote at the end of The NYT article in which Obama says we'll get farther fixing peoples' lives materially than we will discussing race regularly or, more or less, we'll have a more fruitful discussion about race when everybody's talking on a full stomach.

There's some truth to thinking, and I touched on it in an poem I wrote about egomaniacal poets with messiah complexes. Obama's economics first comment shows he knows that it was not his blackness that put him into office, but the economic meltdown. I think some white people who voted for him would not have if McCain hadn't come out with idiotic statements like the fundamentals of our economy are strong. He was gaining on Obama in the polls until he said those words.

Moving on:

For those of you who think we've entered a post-racial era, please read the comments of white conservatives on this blog post about Rush Limbaugh as leader.

Flip side, for those of you who don't think Obama knows the havoc a racial discussion can wreak, consider the following: Obama and Rahm Emanuel orchestrated a plan to capitalize on Rush Limbaugh having influence over Republicans. Can you really talk about Limbaugh, a man who uses racial hate speech regularly, and not talk about our racial divide?

Make no mistake, one day there will be a reckoning. We will have to talk race as adults and not as children, not on big and little blogs, but face to face hopefully with steak and a good bordeaux rather than guns and fists.

Related Link: Stand By Your Man @ Field Negro

Photo: Obama Chows Down at Dooky Chase in New Orleans


msladyDeborah said...


I tend to disagree with the point that the discussion regarding race does not happen frequently.

IMHO, it happens daily. In our homes, at work, school, in the public at large. We engage with the people who are around us at that moment. We also interpret what is offensive and what is not offensive.

I also believe that before Black folks go charging towards White folks with a laundry list of grievences, there needs to be some serious attention paid to black on black racism. That is a problem that has existed for centuries. Yet we act as if it does not exist, when in fact we know that there is alive and being steadily sown among us.

If there is to be national conversation on race, then who does the talking for all the different sides that need to be engaged in the conversation? That makes it complicated as heck! The conversation would certainly not be monolithic. There would need to be representation from all the different factions. Which would give allowance for the extreme views to come into play. We'd also have to deal with the wannabees. The folks that are not at all happy with who they are ethinically.

Rush Limbaugh represents a species of American that is going to eventually be out numbered population-wise. That has to be some scary s*** for all white males to face. Eventually they will be a minority in the very nation that they established to have majority privledges. Ah! how fickle the hand of fate really is.

I also strongly believe that for those who believe in post-racial America, there is a deep seeded belief that racism has reversed itself or worst yet, it has magically disappeared.

Vérité Parlant said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Deborah, as always.

I don't think what's being said is that we don't engage each other racially. I think it's that we speak only to surface issues in passing or we address issues in anger or pretend we don't have a problem--"the I'm color-blind assertion." One thing that gets me in discussions about race is when people chastise blacks for showing anger or pain. That alone says we've got a long way to go.

But you're right, race is a topic that comes up daily in our lives, including school, home, and work. I think the subtler forms of racism we often face at work and school put more stress in people's lives than they realize.

Black on black racism or bigotry? Do you mean colorism, self-hatred, classism or all of the above? I hope you'll expand on that. Whichever it is, more than likely I'm going to agree with you.

Definitely we'll have no monolithic views on race because black people don't agree with each other so coming to the table with other ethnic groups would be ... and we forget that there are other ethnic groups because so often we're talking in terms of black and white. I'm not even sure I want to be at the first race discussion for the explosion. Perhaps we'd all need to go through classes first. *clearly I don't know how to solve this problem*

About folks not happy with who they are, did you read about the episode of the TV show Lie to Me that I posted today? It dealt with the new face of racism, which is unconscious racism, as well as conflicts within ethnic groups such as one black person not wanting the other black person to complain about race because it rocks the boat. I guess the writers of the show didn't get the memo that racism no longer exists.

I hope Limbaugh's going away. I think our president thinks he is. But as people like Limbaugh become the minority, they'll probably become more aggressive and angry, fearing loss of power just like a control freak in a marriage.

Amen on post-racial America. It's a myth. I like what Cornel West had to say on the subject. And as for racism magically disappearing because America's elected a black guy to the Oval Office, well, it takes more than that.

Thank you again for your visit. Did you peep at that BlogHer post I told you about?