The Obamas: How We Deal with Our Own Racist Experiences

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Interviews, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-12-18 01:00Z by Steven

The Obamas: How We Deal with Our Own Racist Experiences

People Magazine
2014-12-17

Sandra Sobieraj Westfall


Barack and Michelle Obama (Gillian Laub)

The Obamas open up about raising their daughters, the impact of stereotypes, and what’s on the POTUS dance party playlist.

The protective bubble that comes with the presidency – the armored limo, the Secret Service detail, the White House – shields Barack and Michelle Obama from a lot of unpleasantness. But their encounters with racial prejudice aren’t as far in the past as one might expect. And they obviously still sting.

“I think people forget that we’ve lived in the White House for six years,” the first lady told People, laughing wryly, along with her husband, at the assumption that the first family has been largely insulated from coming face-to-face with racism.

“Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs,” Mrs. Obama said in the Dec. 10 interview appearing in the new issue of People.

In a 30-minute conversation, the president and Mrs. Obama candidly added their stories to the national discussion of race and racial profiling that was sparked by the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York.

“There’s no black male my age, who’s a professional, who hasn’t come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn’t hand them their car keys,” said the president, adding that, yes, it had happened to him…

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Mr. Obama Considers the Nationwide Protests From Three Points of View

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-14 17:43Z by Steven

Mr. Obama Considers the Nationwide Protests From Three Points of View

The New York Times
2014-12-12

Brent Staples, Editorial Writer

Barack Obama understood when he sought the presidency that a black candidate who spoke candidly about racism would never attract enough white support to win. He avoided using race as a platform for grievance, kept his distance from people who did and presented his life and career as an example of racial progress.

His optimism appealed to white voters; it asked nothing of them and implied a hopeful end to the racial hostilities that have dogged the country since its founding. But the easy-listening approach to racism was received skeptically by young African-Americans who live in communities that bear the brunt of unemployment, economic segregation and police harassment.

Anger over the police problem coalesced into a national movement after a grand jury in St. Louis County, Mo., declined to indict the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, and a grand jury in New York took the same stance on the white officer who applied the chokehold that killed Eric Garner, who was also black and also unarmed.

As the demonstrations spread, Mr. Obama must have recognized that it would be wise to make contact with the young leaders of this movement.

When he met with them last week at the White House, he had three roles to play: as the president of the United States, who must refrain from putting his thumb on the scales of justice in cases like the ones that have sparked the recent demonstrations; as an African-American man who knows the experience of being presumed a criminal by police officers who once harassed him because of his skin color; and as a former community organizer who recognizes that the demonstrations could focus the country’s attention on abusive police practices that have long been a national problem…

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How Racists and Partisans Exploit the Age of Obama

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-12-12 16:04Z by Steven

How Racists and Partisans Exploit the Age of Obama

The Atlantic
2014-12-11

Norm Ornstein

Since 2008, the Democratic Party has increasingly become the home of minorities, while the Republican Party draws its support from whites.

One of my fondest memories was spending four days in February 1977 as a staffer sitting on the Senate floor, mostly wedged between Gaylord Nelson and Russell Long as the Senate debated a resolution to reform its committee system. They were good friends, lovely people, and great storytellers, and I mostly sat there taking their conversation in, occasionally earning my pay by letting them know what a particular provision of the resolution did or what an amendment would do.

At my request, Long opened up his Senate desk so I could see the signatures of all the senators who had used the same desk over many previous decades. The signature of Theodore Bilbo just jumped out at me. Bilbo was a legend—and not in a good way. In his two Senate terms representing Mississippi, from 1935 to 1947, he stood out as a mean and vicious racist, not shy about spouting ugly bile on the floor or elsewhere.

He wanted pure segregation and ultimately to send black Americans to Africa. He said, “The experiences and history of thousands of years prove that whenever and wherever the white and black man have tried to live side by side, the result has been mongrelization, which has destroyed both races and left a brown mongrel people.” When he filibustered an antilynching bill in 1938, he called its supporters “mulattoes, octoroons, and quadroons.” He use the “N” word incessantly, in and out of the Senate. Among a large collection of segregationists, he stood out for his ugly rhetoric and incitement of white Southerners to violence. As I sat on the Senate floor 37 years ago, I thought, “Well, we have at least come a long way.”

And we have. After Bilbo, and despite a set of Southern Democratic senators who were more civil than he was but still tenaciously segregationist, Congress passed civil-rights bills in 1957 and 1964, and the landmark Voting Rights Act in 1965—thanks in large part to the efforts of Republican heroes like Bill McCulloch and Everett Dirksen. We have seen a sharp decline in racist attitudes, a widespread acceptance of interracial marriage, and many other salutary changes. But we are seeing vividly now that race remains a defining gulf in our society, despite remarkable progress over the past five decades…

…Americans of all stripes were justifiably proud when the country elected its first black president in 2008, and again when he was reelected in 2012. The fact is that no other comparable democracy, in Europe or elsewhere, was then or would now be prepared to elect a leader from a minority group. But even as I watched the celebrations on election night in November 2008, I felt an undercurrent of unease. Heartening as it was, this was not a sign that we had broken the back of racism or of racially driven divisions in the country. The election of an African-American president could be seen by racists in America as a sign that they could be more blunt in expressing their views. After all, who could now say America is racist? And the same mindset could lead others to enable statements or actions that would otherwise be seen as over the line. And, of course, the inevitable harsh criticism of a president by partisans on the other side, something that comes with the territory, could easily take on a racial dimension for Barack Obama

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Unrest Over Race Is Testing Obama’s Legacy

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-12-09 15:10Z by Steven

Unrest Over Race Is Testing Obama’s Legacy

The New York Times
2014-12-08

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, White House Reporter

Michael D. Shear, White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — As crowds of people staged “die-ins” across the country last week to protest the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers, young African-American activists were in the Oval Office lodging grievances with President Obama.

He of all people — the first black president of the United States — was in a position to testify to the sense of injustice that African-Americans feel in dealing with the police every day, the activists told him. During the unrest that began with a teenager’s shooting in Ferguson, Mo., they hoped for a strong response. Why was he holding back?

Mr. Obama told the group that change is “hard and incremental,” a participant said, while reminding them that he had once been mistaken for a waiter and parking valet. When they said their voices were not being heard, Mr. Obama replied, “You are sitting in the Oval Office, talking to the president of the United States.”

For Rasheen Aldridge Jr., 20, a community organizer from St. Louis who attended the meeting, it was not enough. “It hurt that he didn’t seem to want to go out there and acknowledge that he understands our pain,” Mr. Aldridge said in an interview. “It would be a great mark on his presidential legacy if he would come out and touch an issue that everyone is scared to touch.”

But Mr. Obama has not been the kind of champion for racial justice that many African-Americans say this moment demands. In the days since grand juries in Missouri and Staten Island decided not to bring charges against white police officers who had killed unarmed black men, the president has not stood behind the protesters or linked arms with civil rights leaders. Although those closest to Mr. Obama insist that he feels a new urgency to capitalize on the attention to racial divisions, few dispute that he is personally conflicted and constrained by the position he holds…

…The son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya has struggled with questions about his own racial identity — described in his book “Dreams From My Father” — but Mr. Obama is by nature cool and cerebral and rarely shows emotion in public…

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Obama Plans Meetings on Ferguson Unrest at the White House

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-12-01 19:08Z by Steven

Obama Plans Meetings on Ferguson Unrest at the White House

The New York Times
2014-11-30

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, White House Reporter

WASHINGTON — President Obama is planning a day of meetings at the White House on Monday to respond to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and racially tinged anger across the country after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager.

Mr. Obama, who has labored to strike the right balance in reacting to the crisis, has not scheduled a trip to Ferguson despite days of speculation about a presidential visit there.

But he will gather his cabinet on Monday to discuss the results of a review of federal programs that provide military-style equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies. The initiatives were called into question in August, after the Ferguson police responded with riot gear and assault-style weapons to protests in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown, the teenager, by Officer Darren Wilson

…The president has faced a challenge in calibrating his response to the situation in Ferguson, working to balance the task of urging calm and unity with his desire, as America’s first black president, to acknowledge racial wounds — all while being careful not to interfere in the investigation…

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Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-27 03:07Z by Steven

Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid

The Atlantic
2014-11-26

Ta-Nehisi Coates, National Correspondent

Violence works. Nonviolence does too.

In a recent dispatch from Ferguson, Missouri, Jelani Cobb noted that President Obama’s responses to “unpunished racial injustices” constitute “a genre unto themselves.” Monday night, when Barack Obama stood before the nation to interpret the non-indictment of Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, he offered a particularly tame specimen. The elements of “the genre” were all on display—an unmitigated optimism, an urge for calm, a fantastic faith in American institutions, an even-handedness exercised to a fault. But if all the limbs of the construct were accounted for, the soul of the thing was not.

There was none of the spontaneous annoyance at the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, and little of the sheer pain exhibited in the line, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” The deft hand Obama employed in explaining to Americans why the acquittal of George Zimmerman so rankled had gone arthritic. This was a perfunctory execution of “the genre,” offered with all the energy of a man ticking items off a to-do list.

Barack Obama is an earnest moderate. His instincts seem to lead him to the middle ground. For instance, he genuinely believes that there is more overlap between liberals and conservatives than generally admitted. On Monday he nodded toward the “deep distrust” that divides black and brown people from the police, and then pointed out that this was tragic because these are the communities most in need of “good policing.” Whatever one makes of this pat framing, it is not a cynical centrism—he believes in the old wisdom of traditional America. This is his strength. This is his weakness. But Obama’s moderation is as sincere and real as his blackness, and the latter almost certainly has granted him more knowledge of his country than he generally chooses to share.

In the case of Michael Brown, this is more disappointing than enraging. The genre of Obama race speeches has always been bounded by the job he was hired to do. Specifically, Barack Obama is the president of the United States of America. More specifically, Barack Obama is the president of a congenitally racist country, erected upon the plunder of life, liberty, labor, and land. This plunder has not been exclusive to black people. But black people, the community to which both Michael Brown and Barack Obama belong, have the distinct fortune of having survived in significant numbers…

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Obama failed Ferguson. The prosecutor is pathetic. Between the split-screen, the protesters get it

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-11-26 18:48Z by Steven

Obama failed Ferguson. The prosecutor is pathetic. Between the split-screen, the protesters get it

The Guardian
London, United Kingdom
2014-11-25

Steven W. Thrasher, Columnist for Guardian US

Politicians have found themselves on the wrong side of the gap between the fantasy of what the law does and the reality that people live

There we had Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, finally admitting on one side of the television that structural racism is real. There we finally had him saying that when it comes to police terrorizing black folks, “communities of color aren’t just making these problems up”. But, in nearly the same breath on Monday night after the grand-jury decision in Ferguson, as the people were taking to the streets in cities across the nation, the president also said he doesn’t believe unequal enforcement of the law is “the norm. I don’t think that’s true for the majority of communities or the vast majority of law enforcement officials.”

It wasn’t just surreal, then, to witness Obama’s anti-Trayvon Martin moment at the very same time a split-screen on the other side of the TV showed police launching smoke bombs at protesters in Ferguson. It was heartbreaking. Because if that was reality rising up through the gap on Monday night, the reality is that legal discrimination is the norm – and our law enforcement officials refuse to acknowledge reality.

This is the gap in our collective split-screen: The Ferguson cops arrest black citizens three times more often than they do white people, but USA Today recently reported that “1,581 other police departments across the USA arrest black people at rates even more skewed than in Ferguson.” That’s right: the police department that won’t even see officer Darren Wilson stand trial – a cop, mind you, who complained that Michael Brown “looked like a demon” after he’d shot the unarmed black teenager – engages in less racial profiling than 1,581 other American police departments.

So it was nothing short of a gut punch to see our African American president on the wrong side of the gap between the fantasy of what the law does and the reality that people live. Obama, in that moment, gave credence to the fiction that if citizens just faithfully adhere to being “a nation built on the rule of law”, the result will be justice. Perhaps he will finally go to Ferguson tomorrow, but today, we are a nation looking upon a pile of ashes, death and broken dreams…

Read the entire article here.

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Barack Obama and the Myth of a Post-Racial America

Posted in Anthologies, Barack Obama, Books, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-09 17:56Z by Steven

Barack Obama and the Myth of a Post-Racial America

Routledge
2013-10-04
240 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-415-81394-5
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-415-81393-8
eBook ISBN: 978-0-203-06779-6

Edited by:

Mark Ledwidge, Senior Lecturer of History and American Studies
Canterbury Christ Church University

Kevern Verney, Professor of American History
Edge Hill University

Inderjeet Parmar, Professor of Government
University of Manchester

The 2008 presidential election was celebrated around the world as a seminal moment in U.S. political and racial history. White liberals and other progressives framed the election through the prism of change, while previously acknowledged demographic changes were hastily heralded as the dawn of a “post-racial” America. However, by 2011, much of the post-election idealism had dissipated in the wake of an on-going economic and financial crisis, escalating wars in Afghanistan and Libya, and the rise of the right-wing Tea Party movement.

By placing Obama in the historical context of U.S. race relations, this edited book interrogates the idealized and progressive view of American society advanced by much of the mainstream literature on Obama. Barack Obama and the Myth of a Post-Racial America takes a careful look at the historical, cultural and political dimensions of race in the United States, using an interdisciplinary analysis that incorporates approaches from history, political science, and sociology. Each chapter addresses controversial issues such as whether Obama can be considered an African-American president, whether his presidency actually delivered the kind of deep-rooted changes that were initially prophesised, and whether Obama has abandoned his core African-American constituency in favour of projecting a race-neutral approach designed to maintain centrist support.

Through cutting edge, critically informed, and cross-disciplinary analyses, this collection directly addresses the dimensions of race in American society through the lens of Obama’s election and presidency.

Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Barack Obama, First African American President: Continuity or Change; Mark Ledwidge
  • 2. The Obama Dilemma: Confronting Race in the 21st Century; Carl Pedersen
  • 3. Republican Mavericks: The Anti-Obama Impulse in the 2008 Election; Robert Busby
  • 4. Obama in the Northeast: The Politics of Race in America’s Bluest Region; Kevin J. McMahon
  • 5. Obama, the Tea Party Movement and Domestic Dissent; Mark Ledwidge
  • 6. The Obama Election and the White Supremacist Movement: How the Rise of America’s First Black President Unleashed a Racist Backlash; Heidi Beirich and Kevin Hicks
  • 7. The Final Frontier: Barack Obama and the Vision of a Post-Racial America; Kevern J. Verney
  • 8. Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics; Rogers M. Smith and Desmond King
  • 9. The Far Side of Jordan: Obama, Civil Rights and the Promised Land Paradox; Jelani Cobb
  • 10. Continuity of Deep Structures: Housing Markets and the Increasing Racial Wealth Gap in Post-Racial America; Melvin Oliver, Thomas Shapiro and Hannah Thomas
  • 11. Prophet without Honor? Perceptions of Barack Obama’s Leadership at Home and Abroad; Andra Gillespie
  • 12. “You Say Obama, I say Osama – Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”: Race and U.S. Foreign Policy; Lee Marsden
  • 13. The Color of Obama’s World: Race and Diplomacy During the Obama Administration; Michael L. Krenn
  • 14. First Ladies in Africa: A Comparison of Michelle Obama to Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton; Andra Gillespie
  • 15. Postscript: Race and the 2012 U.S. Elections
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Episode Six: A More Perfect Union

Posted in Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Videos on 2014-11-09 17:53Z by Steven

Episode Six: A More Perfect Union

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)
Public Broadcasting Service
Tuesdays, 2013-10-22 through 2013-11-26, 20:00-21:00 ET

From Black Power to Black President

By 1968, the Civil Rights movement had achieved stunning victories, in the courts and in the Congress. But would African Americans finally be allowed to achieve genuine racial equality? Episode Six, A More Perfect Union (1968-2013), looks at the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the rise of the Black Panthers and Black Power movement.  The decline of cities that African Americans had settled in since the Great Migration, the growth of a black middle class, the vicious beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles and the ascent of Barack Obama from Illinois senator to the presidency of the United States are all addressed in the final episode of The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. Revisit images of the Black is Beautiful movement and hear commentary from former Black Panther Party member Kathleen Cleaver, former Secretary of State Colin H. Powell, musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, and many more…

For more information, click here.

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Blacks, Obama and the Election

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-11-03 18:37Z by Steven

Blacks, Obama and the Election

The New York Times
2014-11-02

Charles M. Blow, Visual Op-Ed columnist

President Obama’s name won’t be on any ballots Tuesday, but he will most certainly be on them in spirit — a fact that many Republicans are trumpeting and some Democrats are hoping to downplay.

The president is not particularly popular at the moment.

According to Gallup’s Frank Newport:

“President Obama’s job approval rating is 42 percent. If that holds up until the day before the election, it will be the second-lowest job approval rating for a president before a midterm election going back to 1982 when Ronald Reagan, of course, was president of the U.S. What was the lowest of all? That was George W. Bush’s, whose job approval rating was 38 percent back in 2006.”…

…This is the great immeasurable when it comes to this man. Race is a construct that, unfortunately, is woven through the fabric of America. Of course, it has some bearing on our politics, but it’s nearly impossible to calculate the degree of the effect for a particular politician. And there can be benefit as well as detriment — pride and prejudice as counterweights.

As Obama himself told The New Yorker in January: “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President.”

He continued: “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.”

As Gallup pointed out last week: “We find very little change in the support given to Obama among his strongest demographic subgroup: black Americans.” The report continued, “In fact, if anything, the trend is for relatively higher support among blacks” when measuring the gap between black support for Obama and the national average…

Read the entire article here.

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