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Time for President Obama to Return the Favor (Black Folks Ridin' Hard for POTUS)

Dear President Obama,

I listened to your comments on the looting going on in Baltimore yesterday.  All I could think was, "Here we go again."

Let me get to the point:  You're quick to criticize black folks when we don't live up to your standards, but you're slow to criticize non-black folks when their failure to live up to any standard of decency leads to the murder of black folks.

As one reporter noted, you did not walk the streets of Ferguson.  You were silent about Eric Garner.  I've not heard you utter the phrase "Black Lives Mater."

But the minute that black folks -- young black folks at that -- begin to loot and riot in response to the racial transgressions you barely acknowledge?  Then it's on.  You jump on the obvious bandwagon and, despite your race, fail to add anything to the conversation that non-blacks don't already think and say.  You fail to add the context that your experience as a black man in America would cause to come to you naturally.  Or at least it should.

Sure, it's easy to call young black people "thugs."  It's easy to confirm the pre-existing stereotypes.  But you have a higher calling and a greater debt to the very people you condemn so easily.

You have a higher calling because you know better and you were put into office in part because you were expected to lift your voice for black people at most, or at least to make sure that black people are treated equally under the law.  Make no mistake -- many black folks had their doubts about you.  I know for certain that many black women would not have voted for you but for the fact that you are married to Mrs. Obama, enabling you to wear her "race rank," for lack of a better phrase.  The idea behind black folks putting a black man in the White House was that he -- you -- would bring your life experience with you and deploy it for our equal treatment and everyone else's education. For many of us, the reason to vote you in for a second term was to give you the political freedom to speak to the uneasy issue of race that you didn't have in your first term.  The idea was that you'd have nothing to lose and you'd expend some political capital on the uneasy issue of race.  Instead, you chose to use Eric Holder as your proxy.

To make matters worse, your comments on Baltimore embodied Professor Derrick Bell''s Third Rule of Racial Standing from his book, "Faces at the Bottom of the Well, " to wit:

Few blacks avoid diminishment of racial standing, most of their statements about racial conditions being diluted and their recommendations of other blacks taken with a grain of salt. The usual exception to this rule is the black person who publicly disparages or criticizes other blacks who are speaking or acting in ways that upset whites. Instantly, such statements are granted 'enhanced standing' even when the speaker has no special expertise or experience in the subject he or she is criticizing. (emphasis added).
And when the President of the United States disparages black people, without adding the context to their actions that he knows or should knows, this exception to the rule of racial standing becomes all the more stronger.

But you knew that.

You chose to call them thugs when you could have quoted Dr. King about the nature of rioting:  "Riot is the language of the unheard."  You didn't put their actions into context,   You simply brushed all of those who looted with a broad brushstroke, with an easy sound bite, knowing that you wouldn't have to bear the consequences of the condemnation you heaped upon them and those who look like them.

Enough. Is.  Enough.

To borrow a turn of phrase from your girl Ms. Bey, black folks have been ridin' hard for you, Mr. President.  Ridin' hard, even when you've done things that, quite frankly, we and most of the free world didn't understand (like that "line in the sand" with Syria that you couldn't back up).  We understood why you couldn't consistently address issues of race in your first term -- because they would be a distraction from all the other issues you had to tackle -- the economy, two wars, health care reform, etc.  But we put you in a second time in hopes that you would be free to speak about, and do something about, race in America.  Because being the first black President -- hell, being the first black ANYTHING -- comes with its own set of responsibilities.  One of those is to make it better for those who look like you and don't have the same power or platform that you do.  This idea that you have to be a President of all the people and not just one group is undermined by the fact that we're Americans, too, and our race problem is America's race problem.  And yours.

Mr. President, Black America has been ridin' hard for you.  It's time for you to return the favor.  You could start by explaining us instead of being the first to criticize us.


Black Woman Blogging


StevenT said…
Awesome as usual, BWB.

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