Sunday, January 26, 2014

President Obama and Race

President Obama has largely avoided discussing race during his presidency. This is probably wise but every now and then he cannot ignore it such is the attention it gets in the media. Race is pure ratings gold and is the reason I believe the liberal and conservative media try to make as many things about race as they possibly can. When Obama conducted a recent interview with the New Yorker he made the following interesting statement.
There's no doubt that there's some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black President," Obama says. "Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I'm a black President
This was a very honest and insightful contribution to the race issue by the President. Predictably however, some of the right wing bloggers and commentators focused on the first line and claimed that Obama was blaming his low poll numbers on racism. Bill O'Reilly was more balanced. In fact, he was spot on.


Cranky Notions said...

I think early on, Obama did use race to his advantage. The editor of the New Yorker, David Remnick, called his biography of Obama 'The Bridge'. I think that title sums up how Obama marketed his racial origins.

Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention was typical, when he spent the first few minutes emphasizing the “improbable love” between his white mother and black father. Obama was portraying himself as a healer in the country's racial divide. In reality, there was nothing romantic about the story: Obama Snr. was a drunken scoundrel who knocked up women and abandoned a two year old Obama and his teenage mother.

Obama's choice to identify with his absent black father over the white grandparents who actually raised him was an ideological decision (his mother left the family in Hawaii for good to write her 1067-page dissertation 'Peasant Blacksmithing in Indonesia: Surviving and Thriving Against All Odds').

As he says in Dreams from my Father, “I ceased to advertise my mother’s race at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself with whites”.

Ted Leddy said...

Interesting analysis John.

I would however make the point that his attempt at being a "bridge" was not much different than other candidates who try to appeal to other demographics.

His Father clearly wasn't much of a role model. But I suspect that many highly driven people come from similar dysfunctional backgrounds. Reagan and Clinton spring to mind.

Coming from a mixed race background must be difficult. Fitting in can't be easy. Personally I wouldn't judge. However I have no doubt that Obama was very aware from his twenties onward, that he had a story that could be spun to make him look like an attractive public figure. He certainly played that card.

Rob Harris said...

Welcome back to the blogosphere Ted.

However, Bill O'Reilly, and the dreaded Faux Nous being balanced? Shurely Shome Misthake?

Rob Harris said...

Forgot the sarcasm font - actually aside from some commentators, from what I have seen, Fox's news reporting doesn't seem terribly unbalanced.

Ted Leddy said...

Thanks Rob, Fox is obviously a conservative news outlet. It doesn't hide this. However like yourself, I find some of their TV personalities a bit much to handle.