The thing that everyone noticed in President Obama's recent New Yorker interview was: "…there's some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black president…"
Do you think he was exaggerating?
Well, the pool of Americans who don't like the idea of a black president is quite large actually; about 1.5 million Americans openly admit that they will not vote for a black president.
Of course, at the moment there's a percentage, about 51%, of Americans who disapprove of the job he's doing – but this is a group that can't just consist of avowed racists. However, that's another subject.
So far, Obama has been critical of the black community. Many progressive black columnists say he's a president who is trying to hold black people accountable for their communities and is disdainful of those who look at him and see the same.
Obama has rarely talked about racism in an explicitly personal way. The most memorable revelation was: "Trayvon Martin could have been me." He meant to call attention to Trayvon Martin's unknowable potential as possible president, future Nobel Prize winner, father and so on. But critics treated it like an ego move, as if it were Obama that injected politics into the Zimmerman trial, and not that it was another kind of politics that kept Zimmerman from being arrested promptly in the first place.
In US we have the following situation: more people, blacks and whites, say "most blacks are racist" than "most whites are racist". Among all Americans, 37% say that "most blacks are racist", 15% say that "most whites" are. Split by race, there's only a seven-point difference in the percentage that describes "most blacks" as racist: 38% of whites, 31% of blacks.
That's not because black people are truly more racist. They're just more candid about it – and they are able to recognize it. History has taught them to. They recognize the way they often talk amongst themselves qualifies as racism.
Still, black America could give white America a pass. Black America may blame white America for its troubles in a general way. But a lot of African Americans realize that whatever is happening to their people, it's not because white people are explicitly racist in their everyday life. We are much less racist than we used to be.
Black people's struggles continue regardless, and it does so because of a terrible history with lingering consequences, and the imperfect system we live in. Sometimes someone needs to remind the rest of us of that. The President could do it more often.
Despite criticisms from both blacks and whites, the president has been too cautious about addressing race issues in white America. I know it's difficult but he was born to a black father and white mother and could really remind us of that more often.
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