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The Faces of Obama

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

February 1, 2010

By Perry Redd

Another appointment, another disappointment is how I describe the progression of the Obama administration.  There were grand hopes, as well as fears, when it came to speculation on how President Barack Obama would conduct his presidency.  Despite his above-average approval ratings from the general public (the only ones who matter), some are satisfied; but many are not. I am among the throng of supporters of this president who fall into the abyss of disappointment.  This Obama is not the face of January 2009, nor do I relate to the faces that surround him.

President Obama appointed 45-year old Jay Carney, who built a career covering politics and presidents before joining the White House, to the position of Press Secretary.  The legacy continues.  There is no need for me—or any children that look like me—to think that of the 45 million Black Americans, any among them may prove capable of holding any position of significance in my government’s administration.  There obviously is not a chance that any of the 2.8 million college-educated Black people of this land are being groomed to break that continuum of white privilege.  This is not “hope I can believe in” because I have lost faith in the icon of change; I can believe only in that which I see.

During my lifetime, going all the way back to Pierre Salinger (and before), the White House Press Secretary has been a white person.  Only two have been women: Dee Dee Myers and Dana Perino.  I remember Jody Powell and James Brady.  I recall the daily faces of George Stephanopoulous and Mike McCurry; Ari Fleisher, Scott McClellan and Tony Snow.  And even further than that, any and all of the department cabinet appointments of President Obama’s have been white—State, Defense, Treasury. Save the Department of Justice, the President appointed Eric Holder, the only Black person among the 15 senior cabinet positions.  That equates to 6% Black representation among the “President’s Men,” in a country with over a 12% Black population.  Yes, I am insulted.

Who among these people can speak to my concerns?  Who among these people—no, leaders—can understand my complaints, petitions and my cries?  Who among these leaders can know my pain?  And who among these people will urge this inter-racial, post-racial “president of all Americans” to make a place for me in his governing agenda?  You know the answer…that’s why I’m now angry.

It’s bitterly upsetting that President Obama goes out of his way to be the “President of all the people.”  He supposed to be!  He also has the responsibility to address the needs of the minority factions of the country.  He does it regarding Hispanics (Dream Act, immigration reform), the Israel lobby (right to defend themselves), gays (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell), Muslims (their  “American-ism” is just like ours) and even Republicans (wants to hear their concerns—and work with them).  But when it comes to the concerns of Blacks, he won’t even speak.  Just refer to this year’s State of the Union Address!  Not a word…

It’s not about making history; it’s about doing the right thing.  It’s about including us in the ebb and flow of American politics—even if we’re parrots!  Though Press Secretaries speak for the president, they have some liberty to use critical thinking skills.  What the president has shown is that he has no confidence that people of color—no, Black people—possess critical managerial, administrative or presentation skills to offer this country.  But of course, you are not offended…

President Obama again, committed the predictable.  Long gone are the days of Sonia Sotomayor when conservative voices argued against mythical fears.  Back are the days of safe and status quo choices that raise no hackles with those who mean to do you the most harm.  Obama tippy-toes around policy and personnel like a fourth-grader seeking an extra piece of birthday cake that ain’t his.  The Right’s got him shook.  And so long as he is shaking, we, the Black populace of America, get the residual rattle—no, earthquake—caused by his quaking boots.

The State of the Union Address of 2011 made it clear that being Black in America is meant to be de-escalated to the status of “invisible.”  Not only am I not to be spoken of or for, but I am also expected to not speak.  Any one thought of or spoken about as a leader of the Black community may be a lion, but he’d better be toothless.  That person better be one who “gets along” and should not be visible—say, press secretary. 

2010 was the year of the Tea Party.  They said they came to “Take their country back.”  But they didn’t have to: President Obama gave it to them, wrapped in a bow.

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