Barack Obama:The Politics of Racial Kinship
By Thought Merchant
According to Gallup Polls, at the end of his 100 day mark in office Barack Obama held a 96% approval rating among Blacks while only holding 57% approval among Whites. Without doubt being the first African American President inures Obama with a great deal of pride and admiration from the Black community. The sense of accomplishment was palpable on Obama’s inauguration day as thousands of Americans journeyed to Washington, DC to witness him taking the oath of office first hand. But for African Americans, the journey to the Washington mall had a particular significance. A little over 40 years earlier Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated and many questioned the future of the Civil Rights agenda Dr. King fought so hard to have turned into policy. Many in the Black Community saw Barack Obama’s election as the fulfillment of that Civil Rights agenda. To those African Americans Barack Obama’s election as President was the embodiment of the centuries old struggle to gain acceptance in a society that often treated them as less than full citizens. But is it possible that those same sentiments may obstruct Blacks from being able to objectively critique Obama out of a sense of racial loyalty? Does the sense of racial pride and appreciation for the singularity of Obama’s accomplishment make him De facto off limits to Blacks who neither approve of his policies nor see him as the byproduct of years of Civil Rights Struggle. What of those actions Obama takes that may have an adverse affect on the Black community or the African Diaspora? Will racial loyalties cause people of color–particularly those in the media–to give Obama a pass out of fear of alienating Blacks who feel a vested interest in the success of his presidency?
Furthermore, some African Americans were offended by Obama’s attempts to seem “beyond race” or “race transcendent.” They argued that for Obama to market his candidacy as an attempt to move beyond America’s past racial acrimony both mitigated the role race played in the lives of Blacks today and allowed Obama to cynically use support for his candidacy as a cure for White guilt in order to increase support in that community.
Fundamentally, at the core of these issues lie the following questions: How does Barack Obama ‘s position as the first African American president affect the Black community in both policy and perception. Moreover, does Obama’s position as an African American give him a particular political capital in dealing with issues of race that escaped prior U.S. Presidents. Also, will Obama’s success as an American President hinge on him fostering an image of extreme race neutrality that diminishes any perception of favoritism in the eyes of Whites, while in fact being seen as offensive to Black sensibilities and African Americans.
These questions, as well as others, will be asked on this Blog as as we begin this series: Barack Obama:The Politics of Racial Kinship. The series will attempt to gauge how Obama uses the political capital he maintains with the Black Community to his advantage in his attempts to further his policy agenda, while observing how it affects his overall attempt to guide this nation through one of its most difficult economic transitions. Hopefully you keep reading this Blog as this series progresses.