Race: Is Obama Compelled To â€œPlay the Game?â€
If African Americans are to secure greater degrees of prosperity they must resolve to become a more analytically keen people, inspired and directed by empirical evidence that would signify their social and political standing rather than rhetoric as well as symbolic gestures
In recent weeks, the Obama administration has come under considerable fire, as it has attempted to advance its agenda regarding national health care reform.
Much of the opposition directed towards the President’s plan has expressed itself in a manner which many believe to pertain less to the proposal and more to the Head of State himself. African Americans, among other citizens, have voiced concerns over disturbing images and utterances emerging from those who oppose Obama’s political intentions; as these expressions, in numerous instances, have been observed by some as acts deeply rooted in racism.
In late August, a series of rallies organized by a conservative advocacy group - Tea Party Express - were staged over the course of several weeks, in an effort to quell the President’s efforts to gain public support for his Health Care Plan. Significant attention was drawn by these events as many in some quarters regarded the organized protests as nothing more than “Confederate style”, gatherings wherein racial epitaphs and covert language imbedded in “white supremacy”, substituted for civil expressions of opposition.
Such assessments germinated as numerous people attending these rallies displayed signs portraying Obama as an “illegal immigrant”, an African “witch doctor” , “Adolph Hitler” and even “Satan” amidst vocalizations suggesting that he as a result of his political orientation is somehow less “American” than those in possession of dissimilar views. Additionally, other attendees held signs stating, “We Didn’t Bring our Guns (This Time),” a reference to a prior presidential event in which some outside protesters boldly brandished firearms, as Obama addressed constituents in regard to his health care initiatives.
These acts, composed what many interpreted to be, indirect threats to the physical safety of Obama. Such widely regarded misconduct would not only surface within the boundaries of less formal public events, but also too, within the confines of an official government institution.
In early September, Obama, while again enunciating his plan to reform this nation’s health care system, via a nationally televised speech delivered in the chambers of Congress, was greeted directly with yet further uncivil protest. This circumstance developed as South Carolina Congressperson. Joe Wilson expressed his contempt for the President, as he boldly declared Obama a “liar,” during the address. Wilson’s proclamation, which violated American standards of formal political protocol, was expressed in response to Obama’s stated assurance that illegal aliens would not be included as beneficiaries of his proposal.
As a result of the litany of perceived racially imbued aspersions cast upon President Obama, great angst has registered within much of the African American community. Not only have many Americans of African descent asserted feelings of displeasure in regard to these affronts, but so too has an elite member of the political class, former President Jimmy Carter. Carter expressed his discontent, as he addressed what he believed to be, the racist nature of the deeds leveled towards the nation’s first African American President, further suggesting that such an ethic of racial discrimination has and continues to function as an institutional force within our society.
In response to this pronouncement - as well as a similar past statement from New York Gov. David Patterson - Obama has refuted these charges and has subsequently attempted to distance his Administration from those whom have made these declarations, as the White House released a press statement in which the edict of former President Carter was disavowed.
In the face of what many African Americans view as undeniable acts of racial intolerance aimed not only against the President, but by definition the race as well, Obama’s denials that such behaviors represent expressions of this form of bigotry have been largely reasoned to be a strategic approach. A maneuver designed to avoid any potential harm, in regard to Obama’s ability to operate politically, any acknowledgement on his part of racial bias against him would almost certainly produce.
In light of the President’s reluctance to squarely face the felt racist behaviors of his opposition - and in so doing essentially speak for many members of his race - as a means of adhering to a perceived strategy, one question must be asked: Is the course of action undertaken by Barack Obama one which may serve a greater purpose in advancing the interests of African Americans?
The answer to this question may be potentially discerned in an analysis of a conventional philosophy that espouses the notion that Americans of African descent, in an effort to advance the interests of the collective within the construct of the larger American society, must “play the game.” The conceptual rules which govern the strategy, dictate that the individual essentially ignore many of the multitudinal forms of racism enmeshed in his or her professional environment, while simultaneously working to subtly deconstruct the very “institutional structures” that spawn the behavior.
In the case of Obama, his very station as President of the United States, in some measure serves to accomplish this feat; however his efforts by way of action have in no substantive manner functioned to reverse the trend of state sponsored racism, rather the opposite may be increasingly true.
Obama’s refusal to send a delegation to the World Conference Against Racism in Geneva, Switzerland accompanied with his considerable defunding of Historically Black Colleges and Universities - while increasing monies for other non-black institutions – are but a few slights that have been endured by the African American public. These acts do not stand alone however; as the President also placed a cap on monies, well below, what is owed to black farmers as a result of an extended legacy of discrimination perpetrated against them by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Lastly, Obama’s failure to fight banking industry lobbyists who brought about the demise of a measure featured in his "Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan,” which would have permitted home owners facing foreclosure - many of whom were African Americans targeted by lending institutions engaged in predatory lending practices - an opportunity to have their mortgage loans reconfigured, further reflects a rather established and troubling pattern of political neglect in relation to the interests of the African American community.
The aforementioned actions on behalf of President Obama – or lack thereof - hardly constitute the deeds of a public servant principally intent on working to bring forth greater measures of equity to an African American population in desperate need of such relief. Rather, these acts bespeak a politician who, unfortunately, has perhaps taken the black vote for granted, as he understands this population largely functions as a less than politically sophisticated body, often responding more to “symbolism,” than to tangible policy and legislative results.
Furthermore, it may also be suggested that perhaps the President’s continued denials of the many alleged racial attacks exacted upon him by some members of the right, are but tactics employed solely to ensure his own political survival, thusly, having little to do with any ulterior motive that would garner greater standings for an enormously supportive African American population, as evidenced by his record in this area.
The African American community is faced with an abundance of challenges as our economy is far from a state of full recovery, rendering the prospects for group amelioration within the current national climate, a fleeting commodity. However, if this group is to secure greater degrees of prosperity it must resolve itself to become a more analytically keen institution, inspired and directed by empirical evidence that would signify its social and political standing rather than rhetoric as well as symbolic gestures and occurrences which more often only confound these understandings.
Such a phenomenon may perhaps embody the real “change” required if this population is to poise itself to experience a more promising future.
Black Star News contributor Frederick Alexander Meade is an educator and journalist providing analysis on social and political matters. His works have appeared in news magazines and publications around the country. Meade, who lives in Atlanta, GA, can be reached by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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