by Shannon Williams
I understand that when Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office on that cold, sunny day in January 2009, he not only became the president for African-Americans, but the president for all people. And in all honesty, that’s how it should be. The president of the United States is the president of the American people, not just a specific group of people.
However, because Obama is the first Black president, I’m sure we all expected things would be different to some degree. I for one understood the importance of Obama being impartial and not overly accommodating one group—specifically Blacks—because I realize the implication such treatment would spark. Obama has had to walk a fine line in an effort not to appear too Black, too radical or too appeasing. However, in his attempt to not display any sort of preferential treatment or bias towards Blacks, Obama has missed the mark and his calling to foster a better understanding among various races.
During his passionate speech on race in 2008 following the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, then-Sen. Obama said “Race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.”
Seems the president needs to review some of his old transcripts because those heartfelt, honest and thought-provoking speeches that he gave while on the campaign trail are what got him elected. Despite what Blacks may think, we weren’t the only ones to get him elected. Whites, Asians, Hispanics and people of other nationalities helped. It was a collaborative effort. The rainbow coalition of folks who elected him is evidence of where this country can go in regards to racial unification.
They’re also evidence of the basics of Obama’s campaign message: change. As he touted throughout his campaign, people need and highly desire change. We want a person in the Oval Office who can look at things for what they are and react in a way that’s responsible and change-evoking—even if it is a bit touchy.
Obama has the ability to do that, but relative to race, he hasn’t lived up to the expectations. The White House’s initial reaction to the heavily edited tape of Shirley Sherrod, a longtime Black Department of Agriculture worker, proves my point.
Before even viewing the entire tape or hearing the dedicated employee’s stance, the White House and USDA officials hurriedly fired Sherrod. They fired her so hastily because they felt that doing anything but that would mean racial favoritism was being shown on Obama’s part.
Our president needs to stop tiptoeing around race issues and just “be.” I’m confident that with his high level of intelligence, professional and political experience, as well as his ability to reason fairly, any decision he makes—as long as he remains true to himself and his own convictions—will be the right one.
He also needs more minorities as close advisers. Our beloved Michelle and Valerie Jarrett aren’t enough.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd agrees that some sort of change to the president’s close network needs to be implemented.
In a recent column, she said “(Obama’s) closet advisers—some of the same ones who urged him not to make the race speech after the Rev. Jeremiah Wright issue exploded—are so terrified that Fox and the Tea Party will paint Obama as doing more for Blacks that they tiptoe around and do less.”
I’ll be the first to say that I understand the importance of being politically correct. I also understand that because Obama is the first Black president, he’s being held to a very tough standard. However, I’m a firm believer in going back to the basics. If addressing issues head-on was effective enough to get him elected, than that same strategy will be effective enough to keep him in office for another term.
(Reprinted from the Indianapolis Recorder)