Barack Obama’s original sin: America’s post-racial illusion

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2017-01-16 19:47Z by Steven

Barack Obama’s original sin: America’s post-racial illusion

The Guardian
2017-01-13

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Assistant Professor of African American Studies
Princeton University


Illustration by Joe Magee

Barack Obama’s refusal to use his position as president to intervene on behalf of African Americans is a stain on his record many activists will never forget

In the first hours of the new year in 2009, just weeks before Barack Obama was to be inaugurated as the next president, shots rang out in Oakland, California. A transit officer named Johannes Mehserle shot an unarmed 22-year-old black man who lay face-down in handcuffs on a public transportation platform. His name was Oscar Grant.

Dozens of witnesses, many of whom were returning to Oakland after New Year’s Eve celebrations, watched in horror. Some captured his killing on smartphones. Shortly afterward, black Oakland exploded in palpable anger, with hundreds, then thousands of people taking to the streets, demanding justice.

Perhaps this outcry would have happened under any circumstance, but the brutality of Grant’s death in the few weeks before the country’s first black president was to take office felt like a shock of cold water. Police brutality had long been a fact of life in California, but the country was supposed to have entered into a post-racial parallel universe. The optimism that coursed through black America in 2008 seemed a million miles away.

A local movement led by Grant’s family unfolded across the Bay Area to demand that prosecutors charge and try Mehserle. Protests, marches, campus activism, public forums and organizing meetings sustained enough pressure to force local officials to charge Mehserle with murder. It was the first murder trial of a California police officer for a “line of duty” killing in 15 years. In the end, Mehserle, convicted of involuntary manslaughter, spent less than a year in prison, but the local movement foreshadowed events to come.

As for President Obama, he turned out to be very different from candidate Obama, who had stage-managed his campaign to resemble something closer to a social movement. He had conjured much hope, especially among African Americans – but with great expectations came even greater disappointments…

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Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2017-01-16 18:03Z by Steven

Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama

The Guardian
2017-01-09

Cornel West, Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice
Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York

Our hope and change candidate fell short time and time again. Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility

Eight years ago the world was on the brink of a grand celebration: the inauguration of a brilliant and charismatic black president of the United States of America. Today we are on the edge of an abyss: the installation of a mendacious and cathartic white president who will replace him.

This is a depressing decline in the highest office of the most powerful empire in the history of the world. It could easily produce a pervasive cynicism and poisonous nihilism. Is there really any hope for truth and justice in this decadent time? Does America even have the capacity to be honest about itself and come to terms with its self-destructive addiction to money-worship and cowardly xenophobia?

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Herman Melville – the two great public intellectuals of 19th-century America – wrestled with similar questions and reached the same conclusion as Heraclitus: character is destiny (“sow a character and you reap a destiny”).

The age of Barack Obama may have been our last chance to break from our neoliberal soulcraft. We are rooted in market-driven brands that shun integrity and profit-driven policies that trump public goods. Our “post-integrity” and “post-truth” world is suffocated by entertaining brands and money-making activities that have little or nothing to do with truth, integrity or the long-term survival of the planet. We are witnessing the postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world.

The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump – but it did contribute to it. And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility…

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Will Racism End When Old Bigots Die?

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2017-01-16 17:54Z by Steven

Will Racism End When Old Bigots Die?

Code Switch: Race And Identity, Remixed
National Public Radio
2017-01-14

Leah Donnella

Shelly Fields is a 46-year-old white woman living in Richton Park, a racially diverse Chicago suburb. She says she’s raised her four daughters, who are biracial, to see people of all races as equal, just as her parents raised her. Fields doesn’t think that racism will ever disappear completely, but she’s hopeful that it lessens with each passing generation.

“The more biracial children there are, the more equality we see,” Fields said. “The more people of color we see in positions of power – it will help to change the way people see race.”

Her oldest daughter, Summer, is a 22-year-old graduate of the University of Chicago. When she was in high school, Summer probably would have agreed that race relations were looking up. The ’90s and early 2000s were “a post-racial fantasy time” in Richton Park, Summer said. “Being firmly in the middle of the Obama era – it [was] a moment of progress. It was validating.”

Now, as the Obama era ends, she is of the mind that racism isn’t going anywhere.

“Racism always evolves, and will find a way,” Summer said.

The question that Shelly and Summer are tackling has been posed in many forms for many generations. Will racism just die off with old bigots? Does the fate of race relations lie with the children?…

…They’ve argued over things like trigger warnings and safe spaces (her mom says that’s not how the real world works) and about how to self-identify. Summer thought of herself as biracial until she went to college. When she started referring to herself as a black woman, that became another point of contention.

“My mom doesn’t understand,” she said. “She feels like that’s an affront to her.”…

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Farewell to the chief

Posted in Articles, Arts, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2017-01-16 01:35Z by Steven

Farewell to the chief

The Times of London
2017-01-15

Trevor Phillips


April 22, 2013: the president pauses for a moment of silence in honour of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings
PETE SOUZA

After eight years in the White House, Barack Obama relinquishes the top job this Friday. Trevor Phillips criticises his legacy on race, while the White House photographer Pete Souza shares candid portraits of the outgoing president

Most of the 40,000 graves in New York’s Flushing Cemetery are marked by neat marble headstones, mostly white or grey, occasionally black. A few bear elaborate tombs, but for the most part they display the quiet restraint of immigrants for whom the American dream means exchanging a precarious existence in a developing country for a steady blue-collar job in the world’s greatest metropolis.

These modest memorials also tell the story of the borough where America’s flamboyant president-elect, himself the son of a Scottish immigrant, was born and raised. Queens claims to be the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world. The tombstones carry thousands of names charting two centuries of ceaseless migration: English Quakers, German Protestants, Italian and Korean Catholics, African-American and Caribbean Episcopalians. Under a tree close to the cemetery’s southern boundary lies one marked “Marjorie Eileen Phillips”. My mother.

I always make a point of running over the family’s news for her benefit. We sometimes also talk politics. Last time I was there, shortly after the presidential election, we reflected on Obama’s tenure. I was keen to know what the wise matriarch thought the legacy would be of America’s first black president, who steps down this Friday…

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How Black America Saw Obama

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2017-01-16 00:32Z by Steven

How Black America Saw Obama

The New York Times
2017-01-14

Michael Eric Dyson, Professor of Sociology
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

I stood in Grant Park on election night 2008, along with more than 200,000 other people, and watched as a man I’d known as a fellow member of a Chicago church, a man I’d worked to help get elected, took to the stage. He would be the first black president of the United States of America. My joy at the surreal scene was transcendent. The jumbotron flashed the face of the civil rights stalwart the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, with tears streaming down his cheeks, an image that evoked the profound elation of black America at the election of Barack Obama.

But his weeping visage summoned a darker prospect for me, one that cast a shadow over Mr. Obama the moment he announced he would make a run for the Oval Office: They might shoot him. Mr. Jackson had been present when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. met his violent end on a balcony in Memphis. As I viewed Mr. Jackson’s watery eyes, I couldn’t help but associate him with Dr. King and the fear that our newly elected president might be assassinated.

Black America has held its collective breath during every second of Barack Obama’s presidency. I remember stumping early for the Illinois senator, only to have black people I met on the campaign trail tell me that they couldn’t possibly vote for my man. Not only was he not as well known, or beloved, as his opponent Hillary Clinton, but didn’t I know that he’d be harmed if he even got close to the White House? “You know they’re going to shoot him.”…

…President Obama’s historic tenure ends as the nation celebrates what would have been Martin Luther King’s 88th birthday. As I see it, Mr. Obama is the only figure to ever give Dr. King a run for his money as Greatest Black Man in American history. More than a gentle rivalry for supremacy in the history books joins the two. They are tethered by death, too — if not by its actual occurrence, then by its looming possibility….

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No Racial Barrier Left to Break (Except All of Them)

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2017-01-15 22:17Z by Steven

No Racial Barrier Left to Break (Except All of Them)

The New York Times
2017-01-14

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy, HKS Suzanne Young Murray Professor
Harvard Kennedy School
Harvard University

We can’t create a more just nation simply by dressing up institutions in more shades of brown. Now we must confront structural racism.

In a moving farewell speech before an enormous crowd in Chicago last week, President Obama evoked the American creed of unity and aspiration as the foundation of our democracy. He has always embraced a vision of America as a “melting pot.”

Mr. Obama embodied for many Americans the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom we celebrate on Monday. Our national memory of Dr. King has, for nearly 50 years, reinforced the belief that America, unlike any other nation, could extend opportunity to everyone regardless of his or her identity. In Dr. King’s name, assimilation and aspiration have been the keywords of the post-civil rights era, and diversity and inclusion its currency. And Mr. Obama has symbolized more than anyone in American history the idea that racial representation and the content of one’s character were the perfect antidote to racism.

It’s true that, in fulfilling the duties of the presidency with great dignity, Mr. Obama represents the highest expression of the goal of assimilation. But for African-Americans, he was also the ultimate lesson in how this antidote alone is insufficient to heal the gaping wounds of racial injustice in America. It’s clear that black leadership, in itself, isn’t enough to transform the country. So we must confront the end of an era and the dawn of a new one…

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Jolted by Deaths, Obama Found His Voice on Race

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2017-01-14 14:09Z by Steven

Jolted by Deaths, Obama Found His Voice on Race

The New York Times
2017-01-15

Michael D. Shear, White House Correspondent

Yamiche Alcindor, National Reporter

Tensions across the country prompted the president to abandon his early reticence on race again and again.

WASHINGTON — Only weeks after 70 million Americans chose a black man for president, shattering a racial barrier that had stood for the entirety of the nation’s 232-year history, no one in the White House, especially the man in the Oval Office, wanted to talk about race.

President Obama had made a pragmatic calculation in January 2009, as the financial crisis drove communities across the United States toward economic collapse. Whatever he did for African-Americans, whose neighborhoods were suffering more than others, he would not describe as efforts to specifically help Black America.

Mr. Obama made the decision knowing how powerfully his election had raised the hopes of African-Americans — and knowing that no matter what he did, it would not be seen as enough.

“I remember thinking, ‘They are going to hate us one day,’” said Melody Barnes, who is black and served as Mr. Obama’s first domestic policy adviser, recalling her sadness when she stood in an auditorium in those early months as a crowd cheered for the success of the new president. “I knew that we couldn’t do everything that people wanted to meet those expectations.”…

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In stark farewell, Obama warns of threat to U. S. democracy

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2017-01-13 18:31Z by Steven

In stark farewell, Obama warns of threat to U. S. democracy

The Washington Post
2017-01-10

Juliet Eilperin, White House Bureau Chief

Greg Jaffe, Reporter

CHICAGOPresident Obama used his farewell speech here on Tuesday to outline the gathering threats to American democracy and press a more optimistic vision for a country that seems more politically divided than ever.

Obama said goodbye to the nation against the backdrop of one of the most corrosive elections in U.S. history and a deep sense that the poisonous political environment has pitted Americans against each other.

“America, we weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character aren’t even willing to enter public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but malevolent,” Obama said. “We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.”

Obama fretted about anti-immigrant sentiment, racism and economic inequality.

“If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard-working white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves,” Obama warned in an not-so-subtle jab at his successor, President-elect Donald Trump.

Obama, the first African American president, acknowledged the continuing difficulty of race relations in America.

“After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic,” he said. “For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. Now, I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10, or 20, or 30 years ago — you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum. But we’re not where we need to be.”…

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The Obama Paradox

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2017-01-09 21:25Z by Steven

The Obama Paradox

Slate
2017-01-09

Jamelle Bouie, Chief Political Correspondent

Our first black president has an unyielding faith in the goodness of America. It got him elected. And it will cost him his legacy.

The myth of Barack Obama usually begins with his speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and for good reason—it was the speech that jump-started his political career, putting the then–state senator on the fast track to national office. But it wasn’t the speech that made him president. That speech was delivered at a moment of crisis. His former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was in the middle of a media firestorm over a sermon he had given in 2003 in the wake of the Iraq invasion. “No, no, no. Not God bless America,” thunders Wright in the now-infamous video. “God Damn America!”…

…For Obama, who built his political appeal on his distance from this rhetoric—from the tenor and tone of traditional black politics—Wright’s sermon was a disaster in the making. To operate in the mainstream, to attain influence and power, black public figures have to navigate a narrow strait of acceptable behavior. They cannot indulge their anger or give way to their passions. And for Obama, who sought an office all but reserved for white men, he had to prove that he wasn’t an Al Sharpton or a Jesse Jackson, that he held no resentment or frustration with the country. And so on March 18, 2008, Obama delivered an address in Philadelphia now known as his “A More Perfect Union” speech. In it, he repudiated Wright’s anger without dismissing its sources, and along the way he demonstrated the qualities that have defined him as president: a sense of balance, a willingness to look to the better angels of his opponents, a belief that there is always common ground…

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The Checkered Past of Brazil’s New Race Court (JWJI Race & Difference Colloquium Series)

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Live Events, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Social Science on 2017-01-08 01:56Z by Steven

The Checkered Past of Brazil’s New Race Court (JWJI Race & Difference Colloquium Series)

Jones Room, Woodruff Library
The James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia 30322
Monday, 2017-02-06, 12:00-13:30 EST (Local Time)

Ruth Hill, Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities, Professor of Spanish
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

A categorical crisis around racially-mixed persons has become a legal quagmire in Brazil. In August 2016, the Brazilian government announced the formation of the Racial Court (Tribunal Racial) to confront the steady stream of legal challenges that has beset the racial segment of the country’s Quotas System (Sistema de Cotas). The latter is an affirmative-action program giving preference to the disabled, the economically-disadvantaged, graduates of public schools, and specific racial groups (Amerindians and persons of African ancestry) in government offices and higher education. Litigation and media attention are centered on the program’s interstitial racial category, pardo. The category preto—the straightforward “black” in Brazil until it was jettisoned in educated quarters for negro, “negro”—and the category pardo (of European and an undefined amount of African and/or native origins) are often treated as subsets of the category negro. Still, color not descent is invoked when it is stated that persons “of pardo color” or “preto color” are eligible for the racial quotas for government posts, which are set aside “for negros and pardos.”

Whether colors or categories, where does pardo end and branco (“white”) or negro begin? In other words, when does afrodescendente (“Afro-descendant”) end and branco begin? In this Race and Difference Colloquium, Ruth Hill (Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities, Professor of Spanish, Vanderbilt University) argues that the pardo problem of today streams from the first global and systematic investigation into racial admixture, in the sixteenth century, which came on the heels of legislation to “uplift” Catholic neophytes in the Iberian empires. Those centuries-old arguments over mixed-race neophytes anticipated the moral and legal dilemmas of Brazil’s present-day affirmative-action program.

The Race and Difference Colloquium Series, a weekly event on the Emory University campus, features local and national speakers presenting academic research on contemporary questions of race and intersecting dimensions of difference. The James Weldon Johnson Institute is pleased to have the Robert W. Woodruff Library and the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript and Rare Book Library as major co-sponsors of the Colloquium Series.

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