Most might look at this picture of Justin Timberlake & President Barack Obama and wonder “what the heck is this about? What do these 2 have in common?”
Well, to get right to the point. I am amused and disappointed by what I perceive is unbalanced accountability, where racial justice is concerned.
Accountability and solutions are of extreme importance. Especially this week as the country deals with the painful reality of 2 more unnecessary fatalities in police hands.
Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge,La and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Mn.
Last week, many seemed very eager to express their disgust with some naive or misinterpreted tweets by Justin Timberlake.
Timberlake was accused of being oblivious to his privilege as a white-male singer and of white-washing the brutal honesty about the effects of race in America.
I find this odd because when folks like myself voice our disappointment with President Barack Obama’s inadequate efforts to address racial and economic disparity, we are laughed at.
Brilliant and thoughtful minds like Tavis Smiley and Cornel West called “haters”.
Liberal/Progressive Obama critics are accused of being politically immature; as if we naively expect the man to wave a magic wand and make America a crime-less, hate-less, utopian Soul Train line.
We are told that he can address racism, but he’s gotta do it quietly and love us in the dark. And there’s my favorite apologist plea…
“But he’s ONLY the President. He can’t do everything by himself”
So, let me get this straight.. some of you expect more accountability and bolder language from your pop stars than your presidents? Where they do that at?
President Obama certainly did not create the problem of racial dis-harmony in America, but he has been an active participant in helping to maintain the systems that make Black life difficult while being a convenient commentator in addressing those systems.
Barack Obama endorsed Richard M. Daley’s
re-election for Mayor of Chicago
For those of you who don’t know, Mayor Daley was one of the most crooked, autocratic, systemically racist and corrupt Mayors, dare I say in the history of American politics. Although their individual tenures are separated by 13 years,
Mayor Daley and his father ruled Chicago collectively for 43 years.
During their time, Chicago became one of the most statistically segregated cities in the US and thus, one of the most violent. Think of them as Chicago’s version of the George Bush father & son but arguably worse.
Presidential candidate Barack Obama, who boasts his work as a Chicago community organizer, chose to endorse a man who was unquestionably committed to DISorganizing those same communities.
But his allegiance to anti-Black institutions and individuals doesn’t end there.
President Obama helped To Install Rahm Emmanuel As Mayor of Chicago
Rah Emmanuel: A man who has continued Chicago’s nasty trend of privatizing the access to education and quality of life. This is also the Mayor who was well aware of the coordinated cover-up of Laquan McDonald’s murder.
If #BlackLivesMatter to Barack Obama, if Chicago matters to him, then why no substantive comment or action from the President after the coverup and the city’s 5 million dollar bribe of Laquan’s family were discovered?
In Situations Of hostile or deadly civilian/police interactions where police are CLEARLY the unnecessary agitators, President Obama seems to prefer to assign blame to both the aggressor and the victim
When Harvard professor “Skip” Gates was arrested for trying to enter his own home, The President did call the arresting officer a bonehead, but then quickly retreated from his comments and hosted the 2 men for a beer.
The optics of this “can’t we all just get along moment”, seemed to suggest that there was something the two men could learn from each other over beer instead of the onus of accountability being placed on the officer’s shoulders.
President Obama’s legacy of racial advocacy does not mirror the Dr. King-like heights that he is often given credit for. Even though he has peppered it with pell grant reform, a call for body cameras and with legacy programs like “my brother’s keeper”, epidemic levels of poverty, joblessness and desperation can’t possibly leave civil rights activists with a savory taste in their mouths.
When asked about why he hadn’t done enough to support black business owners, The President prefaced his response by saying, “I’m not the President of Black America”.
Question: How do you respond to criticism that your administration hasn’t done enough to support black businesses?
President Obama : My general view has been consistent throughout, which is that I want all businesses to succeed. I want all Americans to have opportunity. I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of the United States of America, but the programs that we have put in place have been directed at those folks who are least able to get financing through conventional means, who have been in the past locked out of opportunities that were available to everybody. So, I’ll put my track record up against anybody in terms of us putting in place broad-based programs that ultimately had a huge benefit for African American businesses
At face value, these comments seem harmless. After all, he’s simply acknowledging that he is everyone’s President, not just for one particular demographic. Ok. Sure.
But imagine if you please, the first woman president prefacing the need to address specific problems that women face by saying,
“I’m not the President of women in America. There are men in this country too.”
Can you imagine the first gay/lesbian president explaining a perceived lack of an effective agenda for the LGBT community by saying “you do know, I’m not the President of gay America,right?”
Could you fathom the first Hispanic or Muslim President making such a statement?
The better question is would it be tolerated? The answer is no.
Only African Americans are made to feel as though addressing our concerns is somehow selfish and divisive.
Sadly, in an understandable attempt to show solidarity to this President in the midst of so much racial tension and Republican fear-mongering, many African Americans have bought into this “he has other things on his mind” rationale. So much so that they join President Obama in scapegoating disenfranchised communities for their socio-economic plight.
When commenting on violent crimes committed by Black people, The President can’t help but dip his toe into the conveniently warm waters of racial respectability.
Gun laws are mentioned. Economic injustice that creates poverty and desperation are very briefly hinted at. But Black single parenthood and community values are often questioned, assailed and blamed for community unrest.
Contrast this to South Carolina.
Was Dylan Roof’s family upbringing ever put on trial?
Were the parenting skills and moral compass of George Zimmerman’s father ever blamed for Trayvon Martin’s Death?
Are entire white neighborhoods lectured whenever story after story of suburban teachers sleeping with child students hit the news?
Has President Obama ever acknowledged the presence and influence of race in events like the murders in Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights? Of course he has. Many times. He did so as recently as today when he said that “these fatal shootings (Philando Castille & Alton Sterling) are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year…”
But far too often, Barack Obama has used his position as America’s first non-white President to constantly paint the picture that Black communities are either equally culpable or even more so responsible for the inferior conditions and untimely fates that we are prone to.
Justin Timberlake. What was his error? Affirming Jesse Williams’ words and then perhaps naively writing that we are all the same? Well Barack Obama through his “rising tide lifts all boats” way of governing has done his fair share of minimizing the potency of racism and as mentioned earlier, has caused harm by endorsing the status quo.
No. I’m not saying that Barack Obama is the most evil man on the planet who has attempted and yielded nothing positive. It’s just that I that think we should adjust our political priorities and hold accountable the people who have real power to effect change.
He’s not only the President of The United Staes.
He’s THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!
But if we aren’t willing to be honest about failed leadership even by those we love, then the next time your favorite entertainer doesn’t tweet with the intellectual nuance that you desire, then please just cry me a river.