Blame Free America
Again President Barack Obama has the ability to impress the masses with his oratory eloquence. As the keynote speaker at the memorial in Tucson, Mr. Obama put partisan politics aside to make another appeal to the public for unity and reconciliation and healing. It is being called a defining moment for his presidency. I think this is something like the third or fourth one he’s had. There was a speech for unity he gave to quell the controversy developing from his association with his former pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright. While not exactly a presidential moment since he was only a candidate at the time, many people saw it as a moment when Mr. Obama tried to put the questions of race relations into its proper context. There’s the speech he gave after the Fort Hood shooting. He gave another speech after the West Virginia coal mine accident. And I’m sure other speeches come to people’s mind as a defining moment for Mr. Obama. The man needs a lot of definitions after all.
In a tumultuous time in American politics, we do have a need for unity and civility. This is nothing new. We all recognize the need to put this “you’re either with us or against us” attitude aside that has become the orthodox of America. We absolutely have a need for things like reconciliation and compromise. We knew this long before House Representative Gabrielle Giffords got hit with a slug that went through her brain. We knew this long before the deranged gunman who shot her purchased his gun at the local Wal-Mart despite having all the symptoms associated with some kind of psychotic behavior. We’ve known this for a long time.
Nevertheless, it was good to see Mr. Obama put division aside and addressed the fact that we are one country with a common goal. Mr. Obama preached that we need to go forward without assigning blame for what has happened. And that is a truly nice to hear sentiment. We should be able to put aside all the finger pointing of who is responsible for how we got here and simply work together to get to a better place. But often, in order to get to the better place, we have to understand exactly how we got here. Or sometimes, we simply need to understand how we got here so that we could do a better job of not getting where we are again. It can be done without a focus on guilt or an emphasis on restitution.
But, as it is often the case, looking back at what has been done and assigning responsibility is too hot a potato to touch. Better to let sleeping dogs lie than to wake up pit bulls and start the whole debate laced with animosity all over again. Whether it is instinctive or comes from his experience as a community leader or his on the job training from his days as a young politician with great goals for his future, Mr. Obama knows this is the case which is why he believes we should avoid playing anything that remotely resembles a blame game. It’s not helpful when emotions are charged and there is a deep sense of pain and mistrust on one or more sides of the issue at hand. He is quick to put blame in the past whether it is when people have the perception that radical rhetoric was somehow partially responsible for a deranged man gunning down an unsuspecting politician or a white police officer dragging a black man to jail for being angry within his own home, Mr. Obama knows assigning blame is not helpful to getting through an impasse.
Mr. Obama wants to appear as the great compromiser ready to lead us unified in step with his vision for America. However, there is one glaring and fiercely unfair exception to his golden rule. When Mr. Obama addressed conditions in the black community, he had no problem laying blame squarely at the feet of black men. On Father’s Day, Mr. Obama stood at the pulpit of the Apostolic Church of God and did not hesitate to point a sharp finger at black men and made the association that black men have the well-deserved reputation for acting like fools and should clean up their act before asking for help in cleaning up the mess in the black community. A lot of people cheered Mr. Obama and celebrated his willingness to embrace negative racial stereotypes. There was no second thought about the reality that a lot of pressures and factors have contributed to the condition of the black community. But if that fact crossed Mr. Obama’s mind, one could hardly tell. His derision came without the slightest hint of pause.
It would be nice if the black community could enjoy a President of the United States that was sensitive to its collective perceptions the way this man continues to demonstrate his sensitivity to just about every other social demographic. Black people, and especially black men, don’t need to hear that we’re to blame when we see unemployment rates twice as high as any other segment of our America. The black community suffers from lower public investments in our schools, businesses, or in the infrastructure that normally sustains a community. We suffer from a lack of legal representation and are incarcerated or plain outright murdered by police for minor or trumped up infractions. This country has an extremely long history of discrimination against the black people that goes back before it was its own nation. But that’s not even a factor because in the President’s own words, black men need to take more responsibility.
So along with all the speeches that define Mr. Obama’s presidency, all the speeches of reconciliation and speeches of forgiveness and speeches of feel good rhetoric to put any hard feelings behind us as we move forward as a nation, it is without a doubt that his speech at the Apostolic Church of God on that one Father’s Day did a lot to define Mr. Obama as well. Yes, he wants to be a great reconciler. He wants to lead a people who will work together for the betterment of the country as a whole. But he also wants to make it very clear that in his opinion the black community is not part of his blame free version of America. Like a lot of stereotypes, Mr. Obama believes that the black community in general is as guilty as they come and needs to straighten up its act before it can be considered a part of the greater America.
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