The President’s Problem: He’s A Negro

Posted: September 26th, 2012 | Filed under: Politics, Ruminations | 17 Comments »

Some years ago, a few pals and I took our first of several blues excursions to the deepest, darkest Delta.

Mississippi was still Third World. Before gaming interests, looking for a cut of the rural poor’s meal money, turned the state into a faux wonderland with paved four-lane divided highways, enough billboards so the players carpooling it down from the Memphis airport wouldn’t have to look at the cotton fields, and kleig street lamps to illuminate the “Welcome To Tunica” signs sitting on cleared sites once hallowed as birthplaces to the blues.

On that trip, we attended the Delta Blues Festival in Greenville, Mississippi. BB King was the headliner. It was his first gig back home in years. Or, something like that.

The crowd at the festival was integrated to a stunning extent. At least to someone who lived up north at the Gateway to the South, someone with the usual preconceived notions of what things were like in the land that spawned the White Citizens Council.

There were two quite different groups of revelers set up on the festival grounds in front of us. To the left was a gang of white frat boys in khaki shorts and button-down Oxford cloth shirts. They had several Styrofoam coolers full of brewskis. To the right was a group of African-Americans, who from their interaction appeared to be extended family. A couple of fellows were defensive line huge, the kind of guys who have made Southern Miss a sneaky good football team through the years.

There was no interaction between the two groups.

Until one of those hefty black fellows, accidentally tripped backward a bit and stepped on one of the frat boys’ coolers. It broke, spilling beer and ice and maybe a sandwich or two.

What ensued was a memorable sociological study.

One of the frat boys, soon aided by a pal or two, started motherfucking and youniggering the fellow who had accidentally stepped on the coolers. As the moment wore on, his vitriol morphed more virulent. Spittle spewing from his lips, the collegian, bellowing invective, was right in the face of a fellow, one of those big uns who could have snapped the frat boy in half with one hand.

Except that the black fellow said nothing, did nothing, despite his simmer that was obviously roiling inside.

It was soon clear the white frat boy knew he could say anything he wanted, and no harm would come his way. Because he knew the black fellow knew he couldn’t lay a finger on the frat boy, no matter how deserving it might have been.

After awhile, the steam dissipated, the dispute dissolved. Neither group moved to another spot. Neither group had any interaction again with the other for the rest of the day.

The white kids, it seemed apparent, were born with a DNA allowing them to believe that such spewing of venom was legit, a birth right. They knew under the circumstances in this public setting there wasn’t a bit of harm would come their way, no matter what they said.

The African-Americans, I sensed, were of a lineage that understood this was as it always had been in their part of the world and there was nothing they could do, regardless of what foul epitaphs were hurled their way.

* * * * *

This is essentially the same trick bag in which Barack Obama has found himself since he developed political aspirations. Most certainly since he aspired to become the first black POTUS.

The absurd birther movement. The current trend in states controlled by the opposition to disenfranchise minority voters. The callous disrespect directed at Obama while in office. His opponent criticizing his stature during an international crisis. A member of the opposition party screaming that the president is a liar during a speech to Congress.

These are nothing more than veiled — not so veiled, actually — manifestations of racial intolerance.

As a black man, there are things that Barack Obama simply cannot do. And he must always be grateful that the American public has given him this opportunity to lead . . . as long as he doesn’t overstep his bounds.

He can’t get uppity. He must never display a mean streak. He must always be measured. He must, in every single action he takes, consider the racial undercurrent that has plagued this country for centuries since we started importing Africans as chattel to do our dirty work.

Bottom line: He must never display any of the character traits the general population associates with African-Americans. He must be whiter than we are.

Obama, it appears, has always understood this. He is always measured. He is eerily articulate. His attire is always immaculate, even on Casual Sundays. Did I mention that he is always measured? So I did.

* * * * *

Upon taking office, Obama was presented with a Herculean task. An impossible one really. Pull the country out of an economic abyss caused by the previous administration’s ill-conceived war mongering and trickle down tax posture.

No president of any color could have pulled us from the muck in four years. Certainly not with the guys riding shotgun pushing on the brakes. (I read that metaphor somewhere I don’t remember, so I can’t give credit. But it’s perfect.) That gang also deflated the tires. (I added that.)

But it seems to me, both friends and foes of the president have held Obama to a higher standard than his predecessors.

We gave you the keys to the car, negro, now get us where we’re going. We’re in a hurry.

I’ve got to believe he’s muttering to himself, “Yes, Miss Daisy.”

* * * * *

It may very well be that Barack Obama’s personality evolved naturally, that he never made a conscious decision to play the game as he has.

His instincts may have directed him to develop the lifestyle which made him palatable as a political force. He surely heeded this wise advice of Dr. King: “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”

To be honest, some of those developed traits have worked against him. He’s a conciliator in a time when contention reigns.

And, one guy’s opinion, the color of his skin has prevented him from standing stronger and lashing out at his detractors when it would have been appropriate. When, if done by one of his predecessors, we would have admired his backbone.

* * * * *

I have a theory.

Which is that if Obama is reelected, we will see a different personality during his second term. He will be unshackled from the chains discussed above. He will be able to call out his demeaning detractors. He will have a firmer grip on the throttle of state.

Of course, the opposition will become more obstinate, more intransigent. But, because of Obama’s new stance, it will become more obvious where the problems with the direction of state come from.

* * * * *

It is my hope that Barack Obama wins and gets the chance to prove his leadership over the next four years.

To prove that the enmity directed toward him simply because of the color of his skin is abhorrent and in contradiction of the tenets of our republic to which we give lip service.

I have a dream. A dream that we shall sooner rather than later prove to the world and ourselves that we do indeed live in a nation where we judge all our brothers and sisters not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

We owe that to ourselves.

We owe that to our president.



17 Comments on “The President’s Problem: He’s A Negro”

  1. 1 Doug Prather said at 10:53 am on September 26th, 2012:

    Well said Mr. Kaplan. I agree wholeheartedly.

  2. 2 Kay Whelan said at 1:11 pm on September 26th, 2012:

    C D – when a professor wrote a note on one of my essays, I never forgot his words – I’d like to say the same to you – “THANK YOU!”

  3. 3 Ann Turrell-Daniel said at 1:30 pm on September 26th, 2012:

    Article is spot-on. Thanks, Chuck, for putting pen to paper. I, too, remember similar incidents from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.

  4. 4 carol simpson said at 7:58 am on September 27th, 2012:

    I agree 100%; thank you for writing this.

  5. 5 JWAGS said at 8:29 am on September 27th, 2012:

    Bravo!!!! If only more journalists had the balls or talent to echo this.

  6. 6 ken said at 8:42 am on September 27th, 2012:

    Well thought out and ,as ever, well expressed. Compound what you have so eloquently described regarding our mainland USA state of racial “tolerance”, with what being bi-racial living with a haole mom in Hawaii and at some point transitioning from Barry to Barack might lend even more support for your observation of our President’s apparent equanimity in the face of disdain from so many.

  7. 7 Strollz said at 9:15 am on September 27th, 2012:

    Your well written insights bring what is bubbling just beneath the surface of American political life into full view for all your readers to consider. Well done, indeed!

  8. 8 RobertoK said at 9:49 am on September 27th, 2012:

    Amen, brother, amen.

  9. 9 Dood said at 10:30 am on September 27th, 2012:

    Excellent observations and some of your best writing.

  10. 10 david said at 10:54 am on September 27th, 2012:

    Just think how tough he would have it if he were really black instead of being half black and half white. Does it bother you that we white folks don’t get any credit for all the good he does? Of course we don’t get the vicious, racist blame when he fucks up. Good column.

  11. 11 Majorlady said at 11:06 am on September 27th, 2012:

    Very well written and so very true. Held to a higher standard for sure while so many think they can say anything to him just be cause he is a “negro”. So much disrespect no other president has had to endure. Great article. Bravo.

  12. 12 Trooper said at 12:45 pm on September 27th, 2012:

    Come on Chuck. The race card? I want him out because he is a LIBERAL. Not because his father is African.We are bankrupt. We need austerity and reform. I would like to leave this country in better shape than I entered it. I am also very disappointed in President Obama’s treatment of Isreal. They need our support! Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is openly saying he wants to destroy the jewish state. Correct me if I am wrong but Hitler was not this open with reference to his diabolical plans for the Jews.

  13. 13 Steve said at 2:56 pm on September 27th, 2012:

    I totally agree. And I find it interesting how the opposition have reshaped their racial slurs to an arab/muslim slant, knowing that it is no longer politically correct to go Al Campanis, but quite popular – if ultimately just as racist – to engage in arab bashing.

  14. 14 Jim Phillips said at 6:36 pm on September 27th, 2012:

    No President since Lincoln has been so passionately maligned . I have thought, and expressed, since before (B’lack) Obama was elected to the present day that tribal animosity was and continues to be at the heart of the vitriol. Yeah, Let’s call it tribal animosity. But he has handled himself throughout with magnanimity.
    Happy New year, CDK!

  15. 15 Sam Lerman said at 10:54 pm on September 28th, 2012:

    Very well articulated, Mr. Kaplan. I will enjoy watching these bigoted Partiers squirm when Romney gets his ass handed to him in a few weeks.

  16. 16 Walter Melnyk said at 9:03 am on October 9th, 2012:

    Well said and very true. One day, and hopefully before my life ends, we’ll all be able to live the dream that Dr, Martin Luther King espoused.

  17. 17 » Blog Archive » Sandwich Eater Chronicles: Two Weeks Til Tuesday said at 10:55 am on October 23rd, 2012:

    […] We discussed the word “negro,” now long out of vogue, and probably just over the line into the zone of political incorrectitude. I often use it for effect, to make a point. Such as recently when I wrote of the racial problem facing President Obama. […]

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