The Presidency of Barack Obama: Public Perceptions

The Presidency of Barack Obama has been interesting, no so much in its own right, but rather in the reaction of the American people. In my lifetime I believe no American President has been so misunderstood and misinterpreted, both by his supports and by his detractors, and I believe this is more an indictment of America’s sociological hangups than it is about the Presidency of Barack Obama, although I will have something to say about that as well.

Let me begin by saying I did not vote for Barack Obama. Neither did I vote for any of his political opponents as I was so unimpressed with the field of candidates that 2008 marked the first time in my adult life that I abstained from voting in a Presidential Election. Neither was I impressed with the racial story at the time, that the possibility of a black man being eleted President of the United States was supposed to somehow be a watershed moment for American society. I was actually impressed that white people were apparently willing to vote for someone who they perceived as black. I just never bought the concept that although it takes two white parents to make a white child, having only one black parent is supposed to be enough to result in a black one. That does not follow and that line of thinking is in itself racist. Black people are not some extra human (or non human) species with DNA that trumps, corrupts, or overrides white DNA. Barack Obama is not black, he’s half black and half white. More important than that is that, since he was raised by the white parent he is culturally more white than he is black (whatever that means and that’s a whole topic for another blog entry if anyone cares to go there). The race issue is the first issue where both his detractors and his supporters have got it wrong.

The second issue, even supposing we agree that Obama is considered black by most of the American public, is how important is this in regard to race relations in America? On a scale of one to ten I will have to give this a one. Having a black President in the United States does not change the way white and non white people feel about each in this country. The real issues, the financial, educational, and health disparities between the white and black population (to say nothing of inequalities in the criminal justice system) are not fixed now or not even anywhere on the way to getting fixed simply by having a black man in the Oval Office. I think most people vastly overrate the power of the Presidency, even extending to the mystical belief that the commander in chief has the power to simply eliminate (or perpetuate) injustices simply by decree. Note to the people: if Obama does not have the power to eliminate racial injustice then you must be prepared to consider the possibility that George Bush et al didn’t have the power to create that injustice in the first place. The waves of justice are drawn by the gravitational pull of society so if we need someone to blame we would be more accurate in turning the mirror on ourselves rather than blaming a President, whatever his race and political affiliation may be.

The third element of misunderstanding with regard to President Obama would have to be religion which is too large a subject to cover in a paragraph or two. I will save this for my next blog entry as the subject of religion is a favorite of mine and as such I need to get all my ecclesiastical ducks in a row.

One Response to “The Presidency of Barack Obama: Public Perceptions”

  1. Phelps says:

    I was just thinking of Obama and how race is the only thing propping him up with the black community right now. Most black people I talk to know that he’s fucked up, but can’t seem to bring themselves to say it out loud. It reminds me of the Dave Chappelle Jury Duty skit, where he’s talking about OJ, and he says, “Sir, my blackness won’t allow me to admit that.”

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