Some black leaders are accusing President Barack Obama of not being black enough. Others are accusing whites of believing he’s too black. Either way race will be an unfortunate factor in the 2012 presidential campaign.
You won’t hear President Obama confirming or denying its existence. He risks alienating conservative whites by heavily courting black voters. At the same time, he can’t distance himself from key black leaders. So it was not surprising to see him engage in more subtle forms of racial politics like embracing the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, with a reputation for fanning the flames of racial intolerance, to help him map black strategy for the upcoming campaign.
The president also won’t criticize or discourage the likes of Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third ranking House Democrat who has suggested that Obama is having problems getting accepted because he’s not white.
“People don’t like to deal with it, but the fact of the matter is, the president’s problems are in large measure because of the color of his skin,” claimed Clyburn, who is also black.
Then there’s Goldie Taylor, a black female and the contributing editor of TheGrio.com. Taylor posted a video called the “Roots of Racism” in which she equated the “birther” issue to her great grandfather’s 1899 experience in which he was jailed in the Jim Crow South because he couldn’t produce his “papers.”
Cornel West, a Princeton University professor unleashed a blistering meandering tirade against the president. “I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West said during an interview.
“Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive,” West added. “He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination.
“As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white.”
West went on to call the president, “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.”
The Tea Party is even accused of being a harbinger of racism by the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, mainstream media outlets. Entertainer-activist Janeane Garofalo accused the organization of “hating a black man in the White House.”
Then there’s little known black Republican businessman Herman Cain who has been called an “Uncle Tom” and worse. A Gallup poll found he has the highest favorable ratings of anyone in the GOP 2012 contest. He’s the darling of the Tea Party.
“To all of those people who say that the Tea Party is a racist organization, eat your words,” Cain declared in his video. “My great, great grandparents were slaves, and now I’m running for President of the United States of America. Is this a great country, or what?”
Race is hardly a new source of political friction. The last think we need is a consent decree among disparate parties intended to avoid and denounce racial posturing as what it is; a hypocritical gesture designed to pander to illogical fear, mistrust and prejudice. We just need to use a little common sense. Everyone who voted for Obama did so with their eyes open.
When all is said and done, the desperate politics of prejudice is a ploy meant to deflect civil discussions from the important issues of the day. The most recent Rasmussen Presidential Tracking Poll, for example, found that only 25 percent of all voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Thirty-five percent Strongly Disapprove. Obama’sPresidential Approval Index rating is -10.
These numbers suggest that the color of his skin is not Obama’s problem. It’s the content of his political character.