The president has often scolded the black community, but he's been too cautious about addressing race issues in white America
Ana Marie Cox
theguardian.com, Thursday 23 January 2014 08.45 EST
"The most surprising thing about President Obama asserting in a recent New Yorker interview, "there's some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black president" is that he said it. Surely, the assertion itself is almost mundane. The pool of Americans who don't like the idea of a black president is large enough to have its own t-shirt market. And that market is larger than you'd think: about 1.5 million Americans openly admit to pollsters that they will not vote for a black president.
It's the "openly" that's a problem, of course. That, and the strong possibility that Obama was not referring to just those 1.5 million, but to some larger percentage of the 51% of Americans who disapprove of the job he's doing – a group that, statistically speaking, can't just consist of avowed racists. But who was he talking about?
One thing is for sure: none of the people he's talking about will change their minds now; even more distressing, they probably don't know that their minds need changing.
White critics don't question Obama's role as a racial ambassador when he poses as the disappointed elder. His has critiqued black men repeatedly, for years, especially young black fathers, for participating in a culture of resentment and insolence. In his commencement address to the all-male, historically black Morehouse College, he put it bluntly:
- '[W]hatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured – and overcame.'
He also has made a connection between gun violence and absent fathers that would not sound out of place coming from Glenn Beck, or the National Rifle Association's frontman Wayne LaPierre:
- 'When a child opens fire on another child, there is a hole in that child's heart that government can't fill. Only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole.'
In general, Obama has been so critical of the black community that many progressive black columnists and pundits find it a troubling pattern. 'Historians will pore over his many speeches to black audiences,' wrote Ta-Nahisi Coates at The Atlantic, and 'they will see a president who sought to hold black people accountable for their communities, but was disdainful of those who looked at him and sought the same".