President Obama’s Racial Renaissance

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-08-03 01:09Z by Steven

President Obama’s Racial Renaissance

The New York Times

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

Toyin Odutola

We finally have the president we thought we elected: one who talks directly and forcefully about race and human rights.

When President Obama took the podium at the annual convention of the N.A.A.C.P. in Philadelphia last month, he sounded like the leader I’ve been waiting to hear since his first inauguration in 2009. It was almost as if Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” and the former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. had hacked his computer and collaborated on his speech.

Many of Mr. Obama’s admirers and critics have hungered for straight talk on race since he his election. But since taking office, the president had been skittish on the subject and had mostly let it lapse into disturbing silence.

As we prepare to mark the first anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., this country continues to grapple with what feels like an onslaught of black death.

But now we are doing it with a president — our first African-American president — who has found a confident voice on race…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Layers of Meaning in Mr. Obama’s Kenya Trip

Posted in Africa, Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-07-25 01:44Z by Steven

Layers of Meaning in Mr. Obama’s Kenya Trip

The New York Times

The Editorial Board

Nairobi, Kenya (Credit: Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

There often comes a time in the lives of Americans when they feel drawn to explore their roots, a quest that might take them on a pilgrimage to the “old country,” whether County Limerick, or Guangzhou, or a West African country from which their ancestors were abducted as slaves.

Roots are an integral part of one’s identity, especially in a time of mass migrations. So it is no surprise that Barack Obama’s first visit to Kenya as president should be enormously poignant, complex and absorbing. This is no typical presidential visit — and this is no typical descendant of immigrants.

The mix of narratives behind Mr. Obama’s trip is extraordinary. It is the ultimate American dream: the step-grandson of an illiterate African rising to the most powerful office on earth. There is Mr. Obama’s own story so movingly told in his first book, “Dreams From My Father,” about a youth raised by a white mother in Hawaii trying to build an identity out of his complex background, and the central role played in this search by the Kenyan father he meets only once…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Mr. President, on behalf of an ungrateful nation, thank you

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-07-20 01:10Z by Steven

Mr. President, on behalf of an ungrateful nation, thank you

WFTS: ABC Action News
Tampa Bay, Florida

Dick Meyer, Chief Washington Correspondent
Scripps News

Some points to ponder about Obama’s record

WASHINGTON, D.C. – I’ve never written a column like this. Readers rarely believe it, but I am not on any political team. Generosity toward the high and mighty isn’t among my few virtues. But this needs to be said: Americans are lucky to have Barack Obama as president and we should wake up and appreciate it while we can.

President Obama will go down in history as an extraordinary president, probably a great one. He will have done this in era that doesn’t aggrandize leaders and presidents, but shrinks them. All presidents have had profound opposition, vicious enemies and colossal failures. A few were beloved and others deeply respected in their day, but none in the modern era and certainly not Obama.

Why? Marcus Aurelius said, “Man is puny in the face of destiny.” If the stoic king were writing about modern, democratic sovereigns, he might say, “Kings are puny in a world blind to destiny, a world seen through the sacred screens of televisions and computers that can view only the puny.”

Many presidents fared better in history than in office. But it would be a morale booster and a sign of civic maturity if more Americans appreciated what an exceptional president they have right now. It could be a long wait for the next one.

One can hate Democrats, disagree with Obama on big issues, dislike his style or be disappointed the excitement of his election didn’t last. But his accomplishments, ambitious goals, dignity and honesty under tough circumstances demand admiration and appreciation.

This is, of course, perverse liberal-media propaganda to conservative Obama-haters. It’s wobbly centrism to a left-flank frustrated Obama hasn’t done more for them. And it’s naïve hot air to Washington’s political clans that think Obama doesn’t play the game well.

Changing minds with a keypad is a fool’s errand; I’m surely a fool, but not on that count. I simply offer some points for the open-minded to ponder…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

The black president some worried about has arrived

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-07-17 16:30Z by Steven

The black president some worried about has arrived

The Washington Post

Janell Ross, Reporter

There’s this thing people sometimes say down South.

So-and-so is “acting brand new.” Sometimes that’s a reference to people behaving like they don’t know old friends and family — that they have evolved past their old crowd. Sometimes that’s Southern-speak for the emboldened, people behaving like they either don’t know the rules or have outright decided to disregard them.

In the past four weeks, we’ve seen President Obama take up residence in a place that sits somewhere in-between.

He’s spoken off the cuff about race relations on a widely circulated podcast (even using the n-word) and then eloquently followed that with what can only be described as a sermon on race relations in America before breaking into song. He’s challenged America to go deeper in its support of equality than retiring symbols of slavery (such as the Confederate flag) and impolitic words (such as the n-word).

While eulogizing a slain minister and state lawmaker allegedly killed by a white supremacist in Charleston, S.C., he outlined a whole raft of ways in which discrimination remains and inequality continues to grow. And now, in the span of two weeks, he has announced two major reform packages — housing last week and criminal justice on Tuesday — that could, if ultimately implemented, be of particular benefit to people of color in the United States.

Here’s the thing: This Obama might look or sound “brand new” to some Americans. He might even sound a little something like the black president some white Americans across the political spectrum feared (or hoped for). But to people who watch the White House closely, this is the President Obama who has been developing for some time…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

The Unperformative President

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-07-13 20:31Z by Steven

The Unperformative President

TDR: The Drama Review
Volume 59, Number 2, Summer 2015 (T226)
pages 7-8

Richard Schechner, University Professor; Professor, Performance Studies
New York University

Who is President Barack Obama? What will his legacy be? Why is he so unpopular that his own Democratic Party shunned him during the 2014 elections? The Dems got whupped in those elections, losing the Senate, falling further behind in the House and in governorships. Paradoxically, the defeat roused Obama to action. Even before the elections, Obama — sensing that he could not depend on a flaccid Senate and a toxic House — governed increasingly by executive order rather than legislation. The trend is accelerating. By means of executive order, Obama is reforming immigration policy, raising the minimum wage for Federal contract workers, extending rights to same-sex couples, giving paid parental leave to Federal employees, making it harder to buy guns, instituting major new limitations on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as signing a long-term agreement on climate control with China.

And of course the big turn around, one that will have reverberations for years to come: normalizing relations with Cuba.

Add to this, Obamacare (if it is not trashed by the Supreme Court). And don’t forget the stinks of the Bush years that Obama at least partly cleaned up: atrocities, dead-end wars, and economic collapse. Obama has not done enough, granted, but by comparison the nation is much better off now than in 2008.

If even a substantial part of what I’ve just written is true, why does the Obama presidency feel inadequate, to say the least? Why do so many on the Left disparage him while those on the Right despise him? A big part of the answer is the endemic racism of American culture. I won’t analyze this here except to note that Obama embodies a gap that he cannot transcend: African father, Euro-American mother; “black” Chicago street activist, “white” Harvard Law School graduate; country club golfer, ’hood high-fiver. Somewhere deep down Obama knows he isn’t having it both ways, or either way, so he has “chosen” (in quotation marks because I do not think it’s a conscious choice) to have it no way. He really wants his actions to speak for, of, and about him. He does not, or maybe cannot, perform himself as President.

He can’t be General Washington crossing the Delaware, pious Biblical Lincoln bringing his grief to Gettysburg, Rough-Rider Teddy Roosevelt leading the charge, patrician FDR having a “fireside chat” with 125 million Americans, camera-savvy Reagan ordering Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, or beer buddy Dubya Bush landing on the flight deck of aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln decorated with a banner boasting, “Mission Accomplished.” Obama’s public image is of a man who dislikes putting on a show. He’s not larger than life, holier than thou, or one of the folks.

Obama is the Unperformative President.

Which is both his greatness and his undoing.

Nowhere was Obama’s unperformativity more (in)visible than on 11 January 2015 when in Paris 40 world leaders led more than one million people marching for “free speech” and against the murder of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo, an officer directing traffic, and four hostages at a Paris kosher grocery. The front row — carefully staged for media — featured French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and — on either end of the line — Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama and Vladimir Putin of Russia were conspicuously absent. Putin’s absence is explained by Russia’s behavior in the Ukraine and Putin’s former position with the KGB, the Soviet secret police. What was Obama’s excuse?

Clearly, he does not like to perform, if by perform one means playing the symbolic role assigned to him. Indeed, the US presidency has from its inception been a Great Figure in Jean Genet’s sense: in The Balcony the Great Figure is a necessary public performer representing one of the four quadrants of society: Queen, Police Chief, Judge, Bishop. Of course, other presidents have not wanted to play and some could not perform effectively. History also has its say. Crises have provided presidents with their best chances at performing well.

Obama took office at…

Tags: ,

Obama sharpens his message on race

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-07-02 01:26Z by Steven

Obama sharpens his message on race

The Hill
Washington, D.C.

Mike Lillis

President Obama is taking a more aggressive approach to the issue of race, repeatedly offering sharp commentary as he confronts America’s oldest, deepest divide.

Black lawmakers, Obama’s strongest allies on Capitol Hill, have cheered the president’s newfound willingness to address race head-on.

But they also see a nation that’s still plagued by inequality, discrimination and, in some cases, overt racism — first black president or none…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

What President Obama’s historic week means for his legacy

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-06-29 20:58Z by Steven

What President Obama’s historic week means for his legacy


Benjy Sarlin, Political Reporter

Every occupant of the White House experiences more than one presidency. There’s their actual time in office, an experience characterized by constant political conflict, a drumbeat of unanticipated crises large and small, and a trudging slog towards policy goals. Then there’s the version of their presidency that comes after they leave, as memories fade and history chisels away the various minor dramas until eventually all that remains for most Americans is an ultra­-condensed summary. This is the version passed down through generations, to those who never experienced that president’s tenure themselves and whose sense of history stems from one or two paragraphs in their high school textbook.

More than any other period in his presidency, the past week’s rapid succession of once­-in-­a-­lifetime moments closed the gap between President Obama’s day­ to ­day travails and his larger place in history.

“Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens,” as Obama put it in his response to the Supreme Court’s same sex marriage ruling Friday. “And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

For a few days in June, change was dizzying in pace and so real it could be touched. Universal health care, as one conservative put it, is forever, thanks to the Supreme Court knocking down the Affordable Care Act’s last significant remaining challenge. Marriage equality is forever. This week’s bipartisan exorcism of the Confederacy’s 150­-year old demons is forever.

The avalanche of news sparked a discussion of two emerging views on Obama’s legacy – one focused on his policy accomplishments, the other as a symbol of underlying changes in the country that will long outlive his presidency…

…Obama’s election as the first black president – powered by landslide margins with black and Latino voters and historic turnout by younger voters – was hailed as a historic moment, but it was eclipsed almost immediately by the massive challenges that landed on his desk and the intense backlash his policy responses provoked on the right. The scope of this achievement came jarringly back into picture on Friday, however, when, as the Associated Press described it, ”America’s first black president sang [Amazing Grace], less than a mile from the spot where thousands of slaves were sold and where South Carolina signed its pact to leave the union a century and a half earlier.” It will move more and more to the forefront once there’s a new president dealing with the 24/7 reality show that is the White House and Obama settles into the more non-partisan, ceremonial role his surviving predecessors occupy today…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: ,

Episode 613 – President Barack Obama

Posted in Audio, Autobiography, Barack Obama, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, United States on 2015-06-22 21:29Z by Steven

Episode 613 – President Barack Obama

WTF with Marc Maron
Monday, 2015-06-22

Marc Maron, Host

Barack Obama, President of the United States

Marc and President Obama in the garage (Photo: Pete Souza)

Marc welcomes the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, to the garage for conversation about college, fitting in, race relations, gun violence, changing the status quo, disappointing your fans, comedians, fatherhood and overcoming fear. And yes, this really happened. This episode is presented without commercial interruption courtesy of Squarespace. Go to to see behind-the-scenes photos and captions.

Listen to the episode here. Download the episode here.

Tags: ,

U.S. ‘Not Cured’ of Racism, Obama Says, Citing Slavery’s Legacy

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, United States on 2015-06-22 20:40Z by Steven

U.S. ‘Not Cured’ of Racism, Obama Says, Citing Slavery’s Legacy

The New York Times

Michael D. Shear, White House Correspondent

Christine Hauser, Reporter

WASHINGTON — Just days after nine black parishioners were killed in a South Carolina church, President Obama said the legacy of slavery still “casts a long shadow” on American life, and he said that choosing not to say the word “nigger” in public does not eliminate racism from society.

In a wide-ranging conversation about race, including his own upbringing as a man born to a black father and a white woman, Mr. Obama insisted that there was no question that race relations have improved in his lifetime. But he also said that racism was still deeply embedded in the United States.

“The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on,” the president said during an interview for Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast that was released on Monday. “We’re not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not.”

He added, “Societies don’t overnight completely erase everything that happened two to 300 years prior.”

Mr. Obama has been more open about the issue of race during his second term, in part because of racially charged episodes in the last several years. The killing of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager in Florida, and the protests that followed several police shootings have prompted the president to be more reflective about his own racial identity and the nation’s.

In the hourlong interview, Mr. Obama talked about being a rebel during his youth and “trying on” different kinds of personas as he struggled to understand what kind of African-American man he wanted to be.

“I’m trying on a whole bunch of outfits,” Mr. Obama said. “Here’s how I should act. Here’s what it means to be cool. Here’s what it means to be a man.”

He said that a lot of his issues when he was young “revolved around race” but that his attitude changed around the time he turned 20. That is when he began to understand how to honor both sides of his racial identity, the president said.

“I don’t have to be one way to be both an African-American and also someone who affirms the white side of my family,” he said. “I don’t have to push back from the love and values that my mom instilled in me.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

An open letter to President Obama: This is a moral emergency

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-06-21 03:17Z by Steven

An open letter to President Obama: This is a moral emergency

Jewish Journal

Todd Samuel Presner, Professor and Director, Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

Dear President Barack Obama,

I appreciate your comments on the “heartache and the sadness and the anger” that many Americans are feeling after the shooting of nine African-American congregants at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. You pointed out that “this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” and you argued, as you have before, for stricter gun control laws. I agree. After the torture and death of Freddie Gray, you said that we – as a nation – have some soul-searching to do” and that race-based police violence was not something new. Indeed, it is not. After the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, you said that Trayvon could have been you “35 years ago,” and you pointed out the ways our criminal justice system disproportionately targets and imprisons African American men. You wondered: “But beyond protests or vigils, the question is, are there some concrete things that we might be able to do?”  After the strangulation of Eric Garner, you said that “this is not just a black problem or a brown problem. This is an American problem.” You are absolutely right. And after the death of Michael Brown, you said “we should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” You called for prayers, peace, and soul-searching. But with all due respect President Obama, none of this is enough. We – all Americans – have to call this violence out for what it really is: It is racism. And racism perpetuated and legitimized by the persistent failure of Americans to confront this most urgent, most pernicious, and most vile moral and existential catastrophe at the core of our nation…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,