Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


Will Obama Ever Get Beyond His Color?

By Rob Tenery, MD on July 13, 2016

“We know that centuries of racial discrimination -- of slavery, and subjugation, and Jim Crow -- they didn’t simply vanish with the end of lawful segregation. They didn’t just stop when Dr. King made a speech, or the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act were signed. Race relations have improved dramatically in my lifetime. Those who deny it are dishonoring the struggles that helped us achieve that progress,” quoted President Obama in his tribute at the memorial service on Tuesday for the five Dallas policemen who were slain while protecting a Black Lives Matter protest in the city.

When Barack Obama ascended to the office of Presidency on January 20, 2009, the country heaved a collective a sigh of relief. With his reelection to a second term, even though this country continued to struggle to come out of the worst recession in modern times and still committed to the war in the Middle East, it left no doubt that the majority of the electorate had put racial bias aside. Pockets of bias still remained, but Obama’s twin victories said the country was ready to put their trust in a person of color.

Down through the years, from Obama’s early association with political and labor activist, Frank Marshall Davis, the outspoken Reverend Jeremiah Wright which goes back to 1987, and the Reverend Al Sharpton, who already had visited the White House 73 times by February 2015, have made him sensitized to the perceived problems to and within the black community. But one has to question if those long-term relationships haven’t blinded him to his responsibility as the elected leader of the whole country, and not just the black community.

Even before Obama was sworn into office, his pledge was to take this country in a different direction. Mired in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he vowed to bring our troops home. Taking on the recurrent mantra that the rich needed to share some of their wealth with those who were not as fortunate, he vowed to ‘spread this wealth around’. He also vowed to decrease this country’s dependence on nonrenewable energy and bring affordable health care for everyone. In the ideal, these were laudable goals.

Instead of bringing the nation together, during Obama’s tenure, there is a growing schism between many in the black community and the rest of the populous.  Much of that blame falls on the black community itself with the breakdown of the traditional family unit, where as many as 75% of black babies are born into single family homes, and an increasing dependency on the entitlement programs that often keep the underprivileged mired in poverty. Instead of setting an example, that in this country, there is opportunity for everyone to pull themselves up, Obama has not necessarily encouraged, but definitely not discouraged the straw man argument that has become the center of the recent racial unrest --- police discrimination toward the black community.

Examples of the President's positions are as follows:

Reported by CNN, President Obama said in a news conference that police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, "acted stupidly" in arresting a prominent black Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates, after a confrontation at the man's home. “I think it's fair to say any of us would be pretty angry that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. The incident, Obama said, shows "how race remains a factor in this society.

“The African/American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws.” President Obama said on July 19, 2013 when he was addressing the death of Trevon Martin.

Referring to the rioting in Baltimore, the President chided the nation for not addressing the simmering tension in the impoverished communities. “I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching. I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching,” Obama said. “But I think we as a country have to do some soul searching. This is not new.”

Protesters in a Black Lives Matter rally held outside the Minnesota State Fair last August were captured on video yelling "pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon." It was a call that some law enforcement members viewed as advocating for violence against police officers.

“I don’t think that you can hold well-meaning activists who are doing the right thing and peacefully protesting responsible for everything that is uttered at a protest site. This week (referring to the recent police killings in Minnesota and Louisiana of two black males) people felt hurt and angry and so some of this is just venting, but I think that the overwhelming majority of people who are involved in the Black Lives Matter movement — what they really want to see is a better relationship between the police and the community so they can feel that it’s serving them.” Interview in Madrid, Spain July, 2016.

When Louis Farrakhan called for 10,000 men to rise up and commit mass murder of police and their supporters for the tyranny that blacks live under in this country, Farrakhan said, “Stalk them and kill them and let them feel the pain of death that we are feeling.” So far President Obama nor anyone else in the Obama Administration has condemned this or ordered an investigation of Farrakhan.

“In too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement. In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear.” True as Obama’s statement may be, it seems he misses his larger role as not only President, but an example to the community that elected him. Although the majority of the electorate has put racial bias aside, I’m not sure our President has!





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