It’s not now, nor was it ever, President Obama’s job to cure racism
As the president prepares to leave office, several think pieces have blasted Obama for not being a racism-solving unicorn. Asking Obama to try to “bippity boppity boo” bigotry away is to wish an incur
Michael Arceneaux, The Root | 6/20/2016, 12:22 p.m.
In the coming weeks and months and, surely, the years after President Barack Obama actually leaves office, much time will be spent examining his political legacy from all angles. Already, writers like me are examining the Obama record on LGBT issues, while others concentrate on his record on the economy, foreign policy and the environment. And although there are certainly some areas worthy of critique and debate—namely his record on deportation and tackling issues that directly speak to the plight of black people living in America—some have started to critique Obama for essentially not being a racism-solving unicorn.
Late last year, Issac J. Bailey wrote an essay titled, “Why Obama Must Reach Out to Angry Whites” for Politico. In it, Bailey, who is black, argued that in the wake of the political ascension of Donald Trump, it is up to Obama to solve lingering racial divisions in America. One assumes that a laugh track played in the background the entire time Bailey was writing, but that remains unconfirmed.
That said, Bailey claimed, “There is only one person who can unite the country again, and he works in the White House. Yes, President Barack Obama—ironically, the man who is the personification of the fear Trump is exploiting—is the one in the best position to quell the anger being stirred up.”
If you remember correctly, Obama’s historic presidential campaign was marked as the launch of post-racial America. White people predominantly said this while the black people they don’t speak to regularly, or ever, rolled their eyes and went about their days. It’s clear now which party won that argument.
Still, Bailey went on to write: “What he needs to do is use the power of the office in a different way, one that matches the ruthless effectiveness of a demagogue with a private jet. Obama needs to go on a listening tour of white America—to connect, in person, with Americans he has either been unable or unwilling to reach during his seven years in office.”
Bailey proceeds to then offer his own anecdotal evidence of how this strategy works, though, spoiler alert: Bailey is not the first black president of the United States; thus, his comparison is inherently flawed.
Exactly one week later, another piece like Bailey’s surfaced. This one was titled, “Ending racism should be Obama’s life mission as he exits presidency.” Here, Leonard Greene, another black man, proceeds to make the same mistake as Bailey. Greene writes, “If Obama is really serious about attacking America’s original sin, he should immediately abandon any thoughts about creating some kind of post-presidency global foundation.”
So what should Obama do?
Greene says, “Instead, the nation’s first black president should dedicate the rest of his life to working exclusively on trying to heal the racial divide.
To quote Eeyore, “Oh bother.”
I have read more recent pieces about Obama’s role in fighting American racism. Some make the attempt at being nuanced; others make me temporarily admire the functionally illiterate. To any black writer with a keyboard and a few bills to pay, don’t be the Negro who puts the onus of stopping racism on its victims. Do not be that melanin-rich person who spreads falsehoods—particularly in mainstream outlets, of all places.