Angry Black Man: What If President Obama Had Confronted U.S. Racism Head-on?

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Columnist believes Obama's own 'Southern Strategy' would have exposed bigots and won rest of America

“Because what we must now ask ourselves is when we become equal American citizens what will be our aims and ideals and what will we have to do with selecting these aims and ideals? …What I have been fighting for and am still fighting for is the possibility of black folk and their cultural patterns existing in America without discrimination; and on terms of equality.”---W.E.B DuBois “Whither Now & Why” 1960

“… some people say we got a lot of malice, some say it's a lotta nerve; I say we won't quit moving, til’ we get what we deserve. We've been buked and we've been scourned; We've been treated bad, talked about, as just as sure as you're born. But just as sure as it take two eyes to make a pair, huh, Brother, we can't quit until we get our share. Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud. ”-- James Brown

In 2012 The New Yorker stated in an essay “…the reason Obama plays it so cool is that he fears alienating white voters by coming across as an angry African-American male.”

Is it possible that by running from the issue of racism in America, President Obama has left us stuck in its middle? In the late 1960’s, in order to sway disaffected and angry white Southern Democrats into the Republican Party future president Richard Nixon and Senator Barry Goldwater developed the very effective Southern Strategy.

They appealed to the bigoted interests of Southern whites in states such as Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, etc. with a narrative that preyed upon their opposition to Civil Rights, Voting Rights and support for segregation.

A slightly more subtle Southern Strategy has continued to be used by Republican politicians such as Ronald Regan, George Bush and others as evidenced by the following comments by the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater, “You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff …Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.…

“We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing… and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.””

What if President Obama had implemented his own Southern Strategy?  What if President Obama had used the power of the presidency and his personality to go on a Southern speaking tour in Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, etc. taking on the likes of Sen.’s Graham, McConnell, and former Congressman Cantor head-on the same way Dr. King took on Senator Strom Thurmond (AL), Gov. George Wallace and Sheriff’s Jim Clark and Bull Connor?

What if, instead of ignoring South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson’s bigoted “you lie” comment President Obama had gone to South Carolina and given a speech about tolerance and understanding?  What if he had said, “…yes, I am an African-American and I am angry.  My father was born in Kenya and my mother was born in Kansas.  As an American I am angry! As fellow American citizens you should be angry as well. Historically in America the office of President has always been held in higher regard than the man holding the office. It’s the office not the man in it that represents this great country. For a sitting member of the US Congress to allow his dislike of me to outweigh his respect for the office that I was duly elected by the American people to hold is un-American. It violates the very traditions that this great country was founded upon.”

What if President Obama had gone to Kentucky and had a true “Roosevelt moment” and said, “I know there are people here who hate me.  Many may be right here in this audience.  I welcome your hatred of me, that’s your right to do so. But I am here as the President of the United States and as your president I represent all of you. I am here because I want all of the 647,000 uninsured Kentuckians; those who like me and those who don’t, to have access to affordable health care. I challenge Senator McConnell to provide a better and more detailed plan than my ACA or support what I have proposed. Making each of you healthier and stronger makes this great country of ours stronger. Don’t vote your bias or your hatred; vote your interests.”

Would this “Obama” Southern Strategy win over McConnell, Graham, and their ilk?  No!

But, Dr. King did not win over racists like Thurmond, Wallace, Bull Conner and Jim Clark. By taking the fight directly to the opponent and allowing those to show themselves as the bigots and racists they really were, Dr. King and the nonviolent movement won over the soul of America.

The vestiges of bigotry still exist in the South but America is a better place overall.  Goldwater’s strategy worked in the South but he lost the rest of America with the exception of his home state of Arizona.

In his failed attempt to sooth the American savage racist beast and appease the concerns of white American voters by not appearing to be “too Black”, President Obama avoided seeking counsel from African American political warriors like former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, former California House Speaker Willie Brown and the late Dr. Ronald Walters.

Omitting these political giants from his “kitchen cabinet” has proven to be to his detriment. Their experiences in successfully navigating treacherous political waters would have proven to be invaluable to the first African American president.

As the African American community deals with the killing of its unarmed men, wealth disparity, voter ID laws, mass incarceration, the militarization of police forces, inadequate schools and health care, President Obama should be an angry African American man.  I know I am and I have good reason to be.


Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/Host of the Sirisu/XM Satellite radio channel 126 call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon”

Go to or email: and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at © 2014 InfoWave Communications, LLC



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