April 30, 2010

This Week in Race Relations

This really isn't surprising.

Arrogant, yes.  Borderline racist: you betcha.  Journalistically negligent, and further contributing to right-wing ignorance of American history -- absolutely.  But not surprising.

What was interesting, at least to me, were reports that President Obama struggled to contain his emotions during the funeral for Dorothy I. Height, one of the quiet titans of the civil rights, and women's rights, movements.  Obama has a well-deserved reputation for remaining cool under virtually all circumstances in public; some have questioned whether he can actually show his warm human side from time to time.

It's hard to imagine what might have been going through his mind of the first black president, a man whose background is way more complex than so simple a descriptor as that.

Obama's story is familiar, but in moments like these it seems especially poignant:  born biracial, with roots in Hawai'i by way of Indonesia, Kenya and Kansas;  educated in elite Ivy League universities but who cut his political teeth fighting for poor black people in Chicago's South Side; a charismatic politician who had to appear non-threatening enough, long enough, to collect votes from the nation's white majority, but a self-identified black man whose African American street cred perhaps will always remain in question -- even though he broke what generations of black people believed was an unbreakable barrier.

Given that, it would have been a profoundly emotional moment to eulogize a civil rights pioneer who also could legitimately be called his friend -- someone who quietly helped pave the way for his own brilliant place in history.  So I may as well let the man speak for himself.


As long as race relations is the topic, I have to admit I'm puzzled:  why is this man not in prison?

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