Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why Many Think Obama has to be Better Because He’s Black

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

A recent CNN poll seems to confirm what a majority of African-Americans and a significant percent of whites seem to think or at least say. And that’s that President Obama will have to be better because he’s black. Translated this means that at Obama’s first real or perceived screw up there will be howls that that’s what you get when you plop a black into any position that requires a brain and skill. The undercurrent that courses through this warped race tinged view of why blacks are expected to fail is that they are plopped in an important spot because of affirmative action or unexpunged white guilt, and they’re grossly unqualified for it.

These screwy reasons ignore the savvy, ability to think, preparation, or education that get African-Americans top spots in corporations, universities, and politics. Obama certainly had the right stuff to bag the biggest political prize of all, the presidency. The great what if, though, is would former President W. Bush have bagged the grand prize if he had been black? The CNN poll doesn’t answer that but some have set a bar virtually nonexistent for a mediocre white politician ridiculously high for Obama.

Obama is well aware that the old racial double standard rule might apply to him too and that he will be under torrid public glare; more torrid that any presidential candidate in campaign history. And there will be packs of voters who hope, even pray that he flops. Race is the only reason many of them wish that. Surveys during the campaign found that even some of the most passionate Obama backers did racial gymnastics and separated their man from other blacks. They raved about his political genius, hailed him as the one to lead the country out of the Bush morass. Yet many still said that blacks were more crime prone and less industrious than whites. A month after Obama’s triumph not much had changed. A long term study of racial attitudes by the National Academy of Sciences found that a significant percent of Americans still saw color as the major factor in determining who committed crime and who was most likely to be poor.

Obama acknowledged the racial wariness of some near the beginning of the campaign when he said that there were some who would not vote for him because he’s African-American. He said the same thing again albeit more subtly in his triumphant speech on Election Night in Chicago’s Grant Park when he said that he wanted to reach out to those who did not vote for him(accept him).

During the campaign the political stars aligned for Obama as they did for no other Democratic presidential candidate in a decade and a half. There was massive public fatigue from Bush policies, rage at Republican corruption and ineptitude, an SNL laughingstock vice presidential candidate, and a catastrophic financial meltdown and crumbled economy. There was also Obama’s backward stretch to keep race out of the campaign. The only time he dealt with the issue was to damp down public unease over the inflammatory racial tirades of his former pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Despite all the towering political pluses he had, a majority of whites and that included a narrow percentage of young whites did not vote for him

But the presidential campaign is now a fast fading memory. The big concern for most Americans no matter whether they backed Obama or not is can his policies work? This doesn’t mean that racial stereotypes, open and closeted, have magically vanished. He’s in the bare embryonic stage of his presidency, and few are willing to say anything about his style or program that can be remotely seen as having a hidden racial animus. It’s simply politically incorrect and crass to hint or infer that Obama is not up to the weighty task of governance. Even GOP hard bitten conservative William Bennett publicly but lightly rapped talk show kingpin Rush Limbaugh on the knuckles for allegedly wishing that he wants Obama to fail.

The true test, though, will come when Obama makes a real or perceived foreign policy or domestic issue stumble or takes a stance on an issue that angers his opponents. Obama will be lambasted for that. All presidents are. Criticism is a part of the job; it comes with the political turf. Presidents know that, expect that, and should even welcome positive criticism. The difference is that America has never had a black president who has had to bear the brunt of criticism for missteps or policy blunders. Obama is the first. There are two kinds of criticism Obama will get. One is leveled based solely on whether his policies and decision making help or harm public interests. The other comes with a sneaky racial motive. Obama sadly will get both.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is How Obama Won (Middle Passage Press, January 2009). http://www.learnhowobamawon.blogspot.com


Anonymous said...

You were wrong when you published said last year that race/ethnicity prevented election to the presidency. So your credibility is now gone.

Malika said...

He most definitely will have to work harder, but I'm sure President Obama has had to do that most of his life anyway. He will have more to prove to people not just beacause he's Black, but because he's been elected to undo this mess caused by Bush's administration. Any mishap would totally cause outrage. He'll do just fine. He's not perfect and he will do a few things that people won't like (it's apart of being a politician). But one thing's for sure, he's got intelligent people around him, and a great wife beside him.

Anonymous said...

People forget that:

1) His mother was white, and

2) He's a third culture kid (look it up)

He's had his share of being outside the standard culture, trying to assimilate, then returning to his roots. Because he understands and accepts other cultures, he is rightly placed to make significant change.

Multi-Screen Computer said...

Rammed through Bailouts with no thought out oversight? He's doing a great job! (For the international bankers he works for)

Anonymous said...

Mr Hutchinson is obssessed with black! I doubt he sees the reality of the situation! Barack Obama is poised, sharp, well tuned into people and credits all this to his white grandmother. Pigeons can be trained to post letters and dogs to walk the blind, so what stops a black from becoming President? Blacks need their own identity and not to judged by the how the white man sees him and until blacks are comfortable with being black then only will they achieve. Obama never knew black baggage and refused to give it any recognition he had a date with destiny and nothing was going to stand in his way not even the black man.

Anonymous said...

When Earl Ofari Hutchinson makes irresponsible and inaccurate remarks regarding the Israeli lobby and inflammatory candidates being considered by the Obama administration, he should, at a minimum, have the facts straight. Otherwise he looks plain foolish.

Perhaps Mr. Hutchinson's efforts would be better utilized if he focused onto why extremists such Freeman are even considered by the President. Can the nominations of Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers be far behind? Sarah Jane Moore is available too.

Please read below.

Nate Brogin
Sherman Oaks, CA

Freeman undone by himself

I am one of a number of members of Congress who challenged the selection of former ambassador Charles Freeman for chairman of the National Intelligence Council. This sensitive, high-profile position is responsible for overseeing the nation's intelligence evaluations.
Sudan Liberation Movement,...

Sudan Liberation Movement, SLM fighters sit on top of their patrol near al-Fasher in Darfur.
Photo: AP [

After Freeman abruptly withdrew from consideration Tuesday evening, he and some in the media pointed to the so-called Israel lobby to explain the congressional uproar over his appointment. Freeman's charges of an elaborate conspiracy to derail his nomination are disingenuous. The "Israel lobby" never contacted me. For me, the warning flags about Charles Freeman went up when I learned of his questionable associations and inflammatory statements about China and Tibet.

For almost four years, Freeman served on the advisory board of the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), receiving $10,000 a year for his service. The communist government of China, along with other state-owned companies, are majority stakeholders in CNOOC. Yet Freeman claims that he never received money from a foreign government. The connection may not be direct, but it is certainly there. The same can be said of the paycheck he received from the Middle East Policy Council, which received ample funding from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia - whose regime is responsible for funding madrassas around the globe that have given rise to Islamic fundamentalists such as Muhammad Omar, leader of the Taliban.

CNOOC'S INVESTMENT in Sudan's oil sector is part of the lifeline that has sustained the regime of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court this month on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2004, Sen. Sam Brownback and I were the first two members of Congress to travel to Darfur, where we saw the suffering and destruction that have taken place under the Bashir regime.

We witnessed the haunting reality of the terror and destruction that have been inflicted on Darfuris. We listened to the accounts of women who were brutally abused and raped by janjaweed forces when they ventured beyond the refugee camps to gather firewood for their families.

Congress voted unanimously in December 2007 to authorize state and local governments to divest assets in companies that do business in Sudan. President Bush signed this legislation into law on December 31, 2007. Yet Freeman's appointment to this high-level post would have undermined the policy of US divestment from the genocidal regime of Sudan.
ON TOP OF ALL THIS, Freeman gave a speech at the National War College Alumni Association last April 25 in which he described the uprisings in Tibet the previous month as "race riots." A year after those uprisings, 1,200 Tibetan protesters remain missing.

The Tibetan people have been oppressed for decades by the merciless Chinese government. I have been to Tibet and seen the conditions under which people there are forced to live. I found Freeman's statement to be an affront to those brave people. When I traveled to Tibet, no one there knew I was a member of Congress. I slipped in with a group of trekkers. I visited the monasteries and spoke to Buddhist monks and nuns who had been brutally tortured in the infamous Drapchi prison simply for professing their allegiance to the Dalai Lama. Just last week, the House voted 422 to 1 to commemorate the Dalai Lama's flight to Dharmsala in India 50 years ago. I hope to one day commemorate his return to Tibet.

Equally disturbing to me was Freeman's take on the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989, as he wrote in an e-mail that has been reported by the media. While the Obama administration claimed that Freeman's comments were taken out of context, I had the opportunity to read the entire conversation, and I strongly disagree.

Freeman said, "I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government... Such folk, whether they represent a veterans' 'Bonus Army' or a 'student uprising' on behalf of 'the goddess of democracy' should expect to be displaced."

I was in China in 1991 and visited Beijing Prison No. 1, where Tiananmen protesters were enslaved, forced to make socks for export to the West, simply for seeking their freedom.

While the reports of Freeman's public statements first raised my concern about his suitability to be chairman of the National Intelligence Council, his words after his withdrawal crystallized exactly why Freeman was the wrong choice for the job.

The writer is a Republican member of the US House of Representatives from Virginia.

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