Speak Up Mr. President

In 2008 I proudly drove to the Obama campaign headquarters on Rosa Parks Blvd. in north Nashville, ready to do anything I could to ensure Barack Hussein Obama would be elected as the 44th President of the United States of America.

During the primaries I keenly watched each of Obama’s debates against his opponents. I listened to him articulate his vision for an economically challenged, at war, United States of America. My eyes watered when he presented his goal for America to have universal healthcare, which later would be passed by Congress, but is so watered down it isn’t universal at all. I was infuriated when he denounced Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor of 20 plus years. And I was torn between his preachy speech on Father’s Day at a Chicago congregation urging black father’s to step it up.

Despite my mixed feeling about whether Obama had any concrete plans he would implement, I waited in line for over an hour to punch the ballot for him. It wasn’t only because he was black, but I also believed he was the candidate best suited for the job.

A few months after Obama was elected my joyous spirit of Obama as the first black President wore off. It was time for him to begin delivering on the promises he made during his campaign. Just because Obama is the first black POTUS, does not mean I will not constructively criticize and hold him accountable. Unfortunately, too many black people think criticizing Obama resembles betrayal.

My concern with Obama primarily resides in his two-step dance around all issues pertaining to race.

What is the purpose of having a black President if we can’t rely on him to combat, or at the very least, speak about both the prevalent covert and overt racism in the 21st century?

Of course many will argue on March 18, 2008 then Senator Obama gave an entire speech on race in Philadelphia. And I applaud him for such a courageous effort. However, his silence as President is unnerving.

By the time Henry Louis Gates was arrested at his Cambridge, MA home, I had already grown tired of Obama’s rhetoric on policies, lack of a backbone against the Republicans and cat-has-his-tongue approach to racial issues.  When Obama spoke the words “the police acted stupidly” in response to Gates’ arrest, an electrifying pulsation of hope shot through my body. But true to Obama fashion, he retracted his statement and the feeling of disappointment was reignited. Obama’s modus operandi seemed to be a sea of recant, retract and recant again, anytime right-wing Conservatives went after him for any statement that could be viewed as him favoring black folks.

Fast-forward to January 2010 when Senator Harry Reid’s infamous comment from 2008 was aired to the public asserting that Obama could win because he was a “light skinned African-American who had no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

Surprise, surprise, Obama rushed to defend Reid with all but a shuck and jive and a “Massa, cans I dos anyting else for ya sir?”


Aiyana Jones, he said nothing. The verdict of Oscar Grant, nothing. Matter of fact, the day of the Oscar Grant verdict, which was barely covered in mainstream media, was the same day Lebron James The Decision was aired. The POTUS had the audacity to comment on which team he would like to see Lebron play for, but never once parted his lips about the injustice of the Oscar Grant case. Something is wrong with this picture.

Most recently was the Shirley Sherrod incident. Not one single person defended Sherrod. In fact, the NAACP condemned her, journalist Roland Martin opened his big mouth speaking against Sherrod without even doing his own research and fact checking, the major principles of journalism; and Obama still said nothing.

Maybe none of this would bother me if Obama were one of those Presidents who never offered his own opinions, but that is not the case.

On Friday at an Iftar dinner, the meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast for Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, Obama weighed in on a cultural and local issue of the building of the 13-story Mosque near Ground Zero in NYC. Let me get this straight- Obama can weigh in on the rights of homosexuals, Islamophobia, sexism, classism, elitism, but just not racism or any issues pertaining to race?

This article is not about Obama honoring some “black agenda” that does not even exist, although I have my thoughts on that as well. Instead, I’m simply proposing a question and trying to understand the answer.

Where is Obama’s voice on matters of race?

Please dismiss me with the whole “he’s biracial, therefore doesn’t only have to identify as black” meme. For the sake of this article, Obama is black since that is what he has checked on his 2010 Census form, and has referred to himself on numerous occasions.

I elected a President who I believed would have the best interest for the people at heart. I was fully aware that Presidents are merely puppets whose strings are pulled by the real people in power. But regardless of the power the POTUS may lack in passing laws, creating policies, etcetera, he does have a world wide platform to address the ill that has diseased this country since its inception.

President Obama is failing right now in Race 101. I implore people to call him out on it. Besides, just like Muslims and homosexuals voted him in office, black people did too. Therefore, my right is equal to theirs to have our President speak about issues affecting my people. His people.

If the election of a black man in the White House does not advance conversations about race, what will? And if we allow a black President to remain silent on all things race related, who can we blame when we’re confronted with racism and are left with unconcern of those not affected? It’s time President Obama open his mouth and live by his change we can believe in slogan.