by Dr. Boyce Watkins
(Yourblackworld.net)–This morning, I saw a quote that someone passed me from the singer Frenchie Davis (the one who really won American Idol, but wasn’t given the award), who said, “I love Joe Biden. He is the angry Black man that President Obama can’t be.”
Frenchie’s quote was similar to another assessment by Professor Michael Eric Dyson at Georgetown University, who said that President Obama was overly deferential to Mitt Romney because he was afraid of being stigmatized by the media as being too angry. Dyson and Davis aren’t the only ones to make this argument, others have said that President Obama’s dismal performance in the debate was simply due to the fact that he didn’t want to make White people afraid of him. You know how those angry Black men can be. Perhaps we can find other excuses for the reasons that our president let us down: He had a cold, his feet hurt, he ate some bad pizza, he had a bad dream the night before, he has a fear of crooked microphones, whatever. While it certainly makes sense to support the president, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to excuse every mistake that he makes. This is a common problem in the African American community, where leaders who are exalted to superhuman status are given every excuse in the book for bad decisions and bad outcomes.
I’m sorry my friends, but I’m not buying it. I’m sure that President Obama knew about the pressures of the job before he decided to take it. Even he admits that he didn’t give his best performance.
Let’s be clear on the “Angry Black Man” stigma. I know it well, because my colleagues have defined me to be an angry Black man for the entire time I’ve been on the faculty at Syracuse. My classmates at The University of Kentucky defined me to be an angry Black man whenever I wrote in the campus paper. My teachers defined me to be an angry Black man all through elementary school. This is a label that burdens you, but it is also one that I accept. Perhaps if more Black people got angry about the condition of our community, we would be in a better place.
Here’s one thing that is typically true about the angry Black man stigma:It only applies when you’re angry about things that White people don’t care about. If you get angry about mass incarceration of Black men, White people might tell you to shut up. But if you get angry about global warming, they applaud you. If you get angry about the piles of body bags holding Black children on the south side of Chicago, they want to fire you from your job. But if you get angry about gay marriage, they give you a job in the White House. President Obama hasn’t uttered a word about racial inequality since Tupac was in diapers, so he has no reason to fear the stigma of being an angry Black man.
The fact is that there is no reason for President Obama to fear the stigma of being an angry Black man, because his constituents want him to get angry. When BP decided to turn the Gulf of Mexico into a can of motor oil, liberals were upset at President Obama because he didn’t get angry enough. They want Obama to be angry about the economy, the environment, the vultures on Wall Street, and all the other things that make liberals march in the streets. If anything, the American people are disappointed that the president is too nice to protect their interests, which might explain why they aren’t going door-to-door for him like they did in 2008.
Obama’s license to be angry was given to him when over 50 million Americans selected him to be President of the United States. Allen West was given the chance to serve in Congress after being angry enough to become the darling of the Tea Party. The idea that Obama would somehow offend the millions of Americans who are seeking a strong leader to get them out of a tough situation is absolute nonsense.
What’s the point here? I know that Obama surrogates on MSNBC have the express assignment of getting President Obama re-elected, but the fact is that you have to be honest in how you analyze him. You can’t see all that is Obama with rose colored glasses, like a grandmother excusing her grandson every time he fumbles during the big game. Obama is fighting in a dirty arena that is built for tough leaders. If he can’t stand the heat, then he should have stayed out of the kitchen; the president knows this himself.
(Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition)