Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Racism in the Age of Obama

President Obama Addresses the Memorial Service in Dallas

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
I John 3:18

Yesterday morning President Obama spoke at the Dallas Memorial Service for the five police officers killed last week. If you missed the speech, you can watch the whole service here. In his remarks, he cited the verse above and lamented the fact that words, his own words, spoken at so many different occasions of national grief, were not enough.

In a New York Times column this morning, Frank Bruni asks the question, “Has Barack Obama Hurt Race Relations?”

There are people who believe that he has.

More specifically, there are white people who think he has.

They blame him for pointing out the stupidity of arresting Professor Henry Louis Gates at his Cambridge home. They blame him for the observation that if he had a son, that young man would look like Trayvon Martin. And they blame him for talking about the issue of police shootings of black men at the memorial service for five slain police officers. 

His memorial reflection focused first and foremost on the sacrifice of the slain police officers and he applauded the Dallas police force for their role in saving lives when the shooting started, but for his detractors that did not loom as large as his statement that racism is still a problem in America.

A Pew Research study released this spring shows that blacks and whites have very different views of the state of race relations in America. Only 36% of whites believe that racial discrimination is a problem. Among blacks that number is almost double, at 70%. The disparity is not surprising. The people who actually experience racism think it is a bigger problem than the people who only observe it, or perhaps even inflict it.

But it must come as a surprise to many social scientists that both numbers are not higher, since we have reliable research showing that racial discrimination is a problem, even for people who are trying their best to overcome it.

We (white people) are in deep denial on this issue.

Our collective view seems to be that since there are laws against discrimination and we do not personally see ourselves as racists, there is no longer a problem. At least there should no longer be a problem. 

And we have gone even further. Now we label as racist the person who points out the racism. Activists are called race hustlers. Civil rights is called the grievance industry. 

The critics of the President’s view, that though we have come a long way we still have a long way to go, are seemingly unaware that their unrelenting attacks on his views provide incontrovertible evidence that he is correct.

And the racist abuse directed at President Obama is beyond our ability to quantify it. As I was writing this I went looking for examples, but there are too many. Typically the main article is written with subtle racism and then the comments overflow with raw sewage. 

We should be beyond this, but we are not, and we are not about to blame ourselves. We are angry that the black guy in the White House keeps reminding us.

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