Saturday, July 20, 2013
President Obama Speaks From the Heart on Trayvon, Finally
President Obama surprised reporters yesterday by showing up unexpectedly in the White House Briefing Room. A dull briefing was expected so the first two rows were empty. He spoke about Trayvon Martin and race. The President is an accomplished politician who is well aware that race can still be a divisive issue in America, with whites still a majority of the population. He has carefully avoided raising divisive racial issues during his Presidential campaigns and Presidency. He ran away from Reverend Wright during the 2008 election. Not this time. He openly addressed race. President Obama spoke extemporaneously for 19 minutes – No teleprompter. POTUS was not needed for the President’s remarks. The President, who has been criticized for four years for being too cold, too remote, too detached, so unempathetic, so unemotional, dropped the mask, and spoke from the heart. He opened himself up as he had not in his Presidency. He may have said shortly after Trayvon’s death that if he had a son, he could have been Trayvon. Now he said “When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. That’s another way of saying Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” The young Obama was a crackhead 35 years ago He could easily have taken the wrong track and ended up dead or imprisoned like so many, too many young Blacks. The President continued from his personal experience with anecdotes common to young Black males: 1) being followed in a department store; 2) hearing the clicking sound of car locks as he walks across the street; and 3) watching women in elevators nervously clutching their purses. The son of a white female and Kenyan male was a black male, who endured the same daily racism as if he were of the blood. Racism was pervasive through America. It was not limited to the South. I may have grown up the son of a poor single mom in San Francisco during the 1950’s and 1960’s, but I cannot profess to understand what the poor young Blacks in the Fillmore or the Potrero were experiencing at this time. For example, I never had to worry about the police. The President did not second-guess the jury verdict for George Zimmerman. His point about the reaction of the African American community to the acquittal is that “I think that it is important that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.” He was speaking to his African American constituency, but reached out to White America. He wanted Americans to consider the Black perspective – not to commence a national dialogue, but to reflect on it. He recognized that America is not yet a post racial society. He is asking in this context that those of us whites, who believe that Trayvon Martin’s tragic death did not make him a martyr like Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, or Issac Woodard, Jr., should think about it from the Black perspective. President Obama has never forgotten his roots. Indeed, they are indelibly engraved on his DNA. Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his Liberation Theology are the views of Barack Hussein Obama. He was the most progressive Senator in his short time in the Senate. His passion said it all. President Obama spoke because he had to. America is probably not listening.