Observing Racism in Texas: The White Frame Again

I feel frustration and disgust when I hear racial epithets and see stereotyped images of rage thrown at President Obama during the pre-election period. Political cartoons worse than Thomas Nast’s nativist drawings appear almost daily in regional newspapers and on Facebook pages in south Texas. Pictures dominate the Internet depicting him with ape like features and some with huge ears and crossed eyes in awkward positions. Letters to the editor are filled with lies and hate about Obama with pledges to vote him out of office. Racist jokes and snide remarks are repeated in social settings, as well. Full – length ads in newspapers depict him as a socialist enemy and someone who is important to eliminate. What is happening to our society?

The Republican Texas Legislature wants to suppress voting with what Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Chairman, says is modern day poll tax and modern day Juan Crow laws and, “Republicans say to the Hispanic Community: Here’s your border wall: show me your papers now: and the dreams of your youth are illegal.” Furthermore, Texas Governor Perry says he will not honor President Obama’s decree opening educational opportunities to thousands of undocumented young people. Hinojosa says what keeps Texas Republicans up late at night is that Hispanic Texans make-up 28% of the eligible voter population, and that percentage keeps growing. And overwhelmingly Hispanic voters vote Democratic. He also points out that in a short time, Texas will change from a red state to a blue state because of these demographic changes.

In the past few weeks, Lubbock has experienced a high level of vandalism targeting Democratic yard signs. Hundreds of Obama signs have either been stolen or marked with the letter N, some wrapped with double chains, others sprayed with mustard or shot. This past week a Hispanic young man waited late at night to capture the vandals on his video camera. A group of young white men saw him and chased him in an attempt to take away his camera. Then he was assaulted. The following is a film of the event captured on camera and released by the police.

Gilberto Hinojosa is appalled at this behavior and says that while sign stealing is not unusual, what has happened in Lubbock is a violent statement and is racism. Racism, “we also saw when an Austin man lynched a chair after the Clint Eastwood talk at the RNC.” It drives voter suppression as does Voter ID laws that disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color. The Republicans deny that the vandalism and hate crimes are happening. They say the Democrats are doing it themselves. However, it is interesting that last week’s non-partisan AP poll found that 79% of Republicans harbor racist views, compared to 32% Democrats.

Voter suppression is happening in other southern states. Is it a coincidence that the same red states are those that were confederate states 150 years ago? In these same states, Jim Crow laws and violence prevented minorities from voting until 1965 when Congress passed The Voting Rights Act. Now Republican state governments are pushing to rescind the Voting Rights Act, they say is no longer relevant. However, George W. Bush enthusiastically approved its renewal a few years ago. Why are Republicans now against it?

Considering the AP poll above which points out that negative racial attitudes have failed to improve the past few years and could manifest in policy we definitely should renew The voting Rights Act (1965). To understand why this is happening and we continue to see racism in this society, we need to look at the history of the “White Racial Frame.”

The “White Racial Frame,” according to Joe Feagin, is the manner in which whites view themselves, and was firmly set with the founding of this country. With the history of American slavery it’s become “systemic racism,” Feagin reveals. First centered on African Americans, the oppression by the dominant white hierarchy continues to use racial stereotypes, metaphors and images of other people of color, as well. The purpose is to stir emotions that create prejudice and bigoted discrimination so whites can remain on top of the hierarchy. Today, with the demographics favoring the Hispanic population, propagation of discrimination is occurring toward the Hispanics. The AP poll found that 52% non-Hispanic whites had anti-Hispanic attitudes and with the threat of whites becoming a new minority racism will not go away anytime soon. It’s happening in Texas and it is very disturbing to Republicans. To understand better “The White Racial Frame,” please refer to Joe Feagin’s article.

Is (Hurricane) “Sandy” a White Name?

I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Texas, and so I’m used to hurricanes. Hurricane Celia was the Big One I lived through as a kid, and still have vivid memories of an entire rooftop of a house, floating down the street in front our house, a street which had become a river of debris. Today, I live in New York City where we’re all bracing for “Hurricane Sandy” and this has me pondering the politics of hurricane naming. At one time, we thought hurricane naming could be sexist ~ can names convey racial politics as well?

The practice of naming hurricanes has a long and complex history, once bringing in Greek letters, another round of numbering them, a couple hundred years of using Christian saints’ names, then the recent 40 years of sexism. It’s actually tropical storms that get named, and they retain their names once they reach hurricane strength. Naming storms, rather than, say, calling them by longitudinal and latitudinal numbers, serves a couple of functions: it’s a way to help people remember storms and it raises awareness about storm preparedness. Through most of my childhood, hurricanes were given female names, beginning with the letter “A” and running through the alphabet. That ended in 1978 when some feminists argued it was sexist to only use female names to designate storms. Since then, the World Meteorological Association has adopted the practice of alternating between male and female names. What does it mean that this storm has been designated “Sandy,” a name that spawns Internet memes that revolve around Olivia Newton-John as Sandy in “Grease” (as in this image below).

(Image from Queerty)

Over on the Twitter machine, I posed the question: “Is Sandy a white name?”  A couple of folks (@KatyPearce) disagreed with me there, including Dr. Cherie Ann Turpin (@drturpin) who pointed out that black OR white are not mutually exclusive categories when it comes to names.

She makes an excellent point, but the Internet memes of white-Sandy-from-Grease churn on like the storm.

So, it begs the question: does it matter what name a storm gets called?

I think looking at storm-names, and the storm-naming process, can give us some insight into racial (and gender) politics. The fact is that naming storms is a process that’s steeped in both racism and sexism. Even though the names are (supposedly) approaching gender parity now, the sexism that still permeates the discussion prompts this guidance from the AP style tips page for reporters writing about storms:

- Hurricanes don’t have sexes, no matter what the name. They should be referred to as it, not he or she.

- Avoid bad and sexist puns when using hurricane names. AP’s hurricane entry in the stylebook is worth quoting in full: “And do not use the presence of a woman’s name as an excuse to attribute sexist images of women’s behavior to a storm. Avoid, for example, such sentences as: The fickle Hazel teased the Louisiana coast.”

It’s this that gives me pause about calls like the one by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) for more racial diversity in the naming of storms. Meteorology as an industry has been historically (pdf) marked by racial exclusion, yet when someone like Rep. Jackson Lee points out the results of this, she gets pilloried by right-wingers for arguing for “affirmative action” for hurricanes.  That said, I fear the mindless racism that would be unleashed by naming a storm something that might be deemed identifiably African American.

Still, there’s some irony in the juxtaposition between the images of women featured on the front page of the World Meteorological Organization’s website - the organization that’s responsible for naming storms – and the image collectively conjured at the name “Sandy.”  Perhaps it’s time for another change in storm-naming, maybe drawing on Mayan gods or supernatural beings, rather than reifying U.S. pop culture constructions of white femininity.

Letter to Mitt Romney about Racism in the Mormon Church: From a Black Mormon Man

With the fast approaching 2012 elections on the horizon, there is one question left unanswered. As a widely circulated Associated Press article asked, “Will Obama’s Blackness Prevail Over Romney’s Mormonism in 2012?,” it went on to point out the unique and historical pairing of President Barack Obama, an African American, and Mitt Romney, a Mormon, who represent two oppressed groups in American society on opposite ends of the political divide as the two run for the highest office in the land. The article, however, went one step further and posed a second, equally challenging supposition—how much progress has been made against race-based discrimination? With two weeks to go before the presidential election, neither President Obama nor Governor Romney have used much personal fodder to attack the other, which is astounding given our inclination in American politics to severely trash the other candidate’s more exploitable areas. In this case, one would have guessed that the Obama camp would have by now unleashed on Mitt’s Mormonism and its racist past just as Reverend O’Neal Dozier told the Palm Beach Post, “If Romney is the nominee, President Obama’s surrogates will bring out [the] racist views in the Mormon Church.”  In fact, to his credit, President Obama has steered clear of the topic all together, leaving it to others to examine. And yet, the American press has been hushed on the topic.

Interestingly, despite the constitution stating that there shall be no religious test to hold public office (United States Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 3), President Obama was subjected to months of religious attacks prior to the 2008 election; accusations that still go on presently. But the national media has neglected to discuss Mitt Romney’s Mormon ties coupled with LDS racial folklore. Although I respect the regard given to our First Amendment and the separation of church and state, it leaves me wondering—is this a form of white privilege manifesting through our national elections or are republicans simply cherry-picking topics, peculiarly when this issue was addressed in republican primaries and has since been quietly shelved? (I would argue that they are one in the same.) But the American people have a right to know the totality of the character of the American president.

*

The Church’s racial past and present is a prime target for political attacks. On the verge of potentially winning the election, negative attention around the contentious subject of American racism would likely bring unwanted scrutiny to Romney’s political ambitions, particularly when, if successful, he will become the first white man to unseat the nation’s first black president. In January 2012, African-American analyst, Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. wrote an online paper titled “Mitt Romney and the Curse of Blackness” in which he gave his own interpretations to the Book of Mormon. Pointing to the candidate’s LDS beliefs, he found it “deeply troubling” that the Book of Mormon “says…explicitly and in numerous passages [that] black people are cursed by God and our dark skin is the evidence of our accursedness” (pointing in particular to 2 Nephi 5:21; 1 Nephi 12:23; Jacob 3:8; and Alma 3:6). Hendricks is pointing out historical racial metaphors of white=good and black=evil, which symbolism is evidenced in the visceral hatred that many white Americans have at the presence of a black man in White House. Is this perhaps the reason why the history of Mormonism’s experience with Blacks has been convincingly ignored by mainstream American media? Hendricks further remarked, “What makes this all the more problematic …is that at no time has Mitt Romney ever publically indicated that he seriously questioned the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon’s teachings about race, much less that he has repudiated them.”

 

Despite LDS claims as the “one true” church with a universalizing message, these are serious charges in which Romney has remained remarkably silent—not breaking free from his religious convictions, yet not offering any consolation with regards to the teachings of his faith that could provide a glimpse into his own racial beliefs, expressly his thoughts about black people. Virtually nothing has been said about his record on civil and social justice, including during his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts. Instead, what we often hear from the mouth of Mitt Romney on matters of race is a reference to what his father accomplished as the great social liberal that he appeared to be. Former Governor George Romney was something special—a white Mormon man with an outward public passion for social justice; something you don’t see everyday, particularly in the 1960’s. George Romney was a social liberal that fought for civil rights, often at odds with racist church leaders determined to alter his course . In 1967, as the elder Romney prepared for his own presidential bid, Jet Magazine picked up on a story where Romney stated, “he would leave the church if it ever tried to prevent him from working for the elimination of social injustices and racial discrimination.” Whether he would ever really have left the Church or not since, by all accounts, he was deeply devoted to the Church and its leadership, Romney took the time to seek the council of high-ranking church leaders on matters of race prior to his run for Governor of Michigan.

 

Mitt Romney’s efforts at instituting something similar to “Obamacare” in his state is, likewise, commendable; however, he cannot continue to avoid the difficult question that many Americans have a right to know, especially if Romney holds similar views as past Mormon leaders who believe Blacks are a cursed race. Mitt Romney and other Mormons today, just like his father did in the 60’s, continue to hear and receive negative messages about the character and disposition of people of African descent, despite the Church changing its official stance on race in 1978. Yet, I do not believe that Mitt Romney is a closet racist. I do believe, however, that he has deep-seated ideas in his head about black folk like most white Americans, particularly those who attend racially segregated churches like the Mormon Church. How could this not be? For most of our history—246 years of slavery followed by 90 years of Jim Crow, about 85 percent of our existence as a nation—we have struggled to truly come to grips with the meaning of freedom and equality, although we use these terms loosely and romantically. Racist images, ideas, notions and inclinations to discriminate (white racial frames) have spanned 20 generations of American life, and white Christianity has been a central fulcrum to justify unjust white enrichment remaining an anathema for black folks. In order to unlearn racism, one has to do serious work, taking a hard look at oneself and the benefits received from unjust enrichment. It has only been 34 years since church headquarters lifted the Mormon priesthood ban that barred black men from holding the priesthood and denied black women temple marriages, hardly enough time to unlearn an entire generation of white racist thinking and understanding about black people, especially given church headquarters has yet to offer up any rational explanation why such a ban existed in the first place. Instead, what is typically articulated from white Mormons and “bright” Mormons (socially-white people of color) for that matter when questions of race arise in the public domain is, “only the Lord knows why Blacks could not hold the priesthood.” Thus, we have an idea where the Church stands today. And further, we know where George Romney stood. But what we all want to know is, what is your position, Mitt?

~ This blog was originally posted here. You can follow Dr. Darron Smith on Twitter: @DrDarronSmith

 

White Journalists Write 93% of Front Pages in U.S.

The Maynard Institute has created this powerful infographic that illustrates the fact that white journalists wrote more than 93% of front page articles about the 2012 presidential election, according to a recent study by The 4th Estate.

 (Click for Larger Image)

About the Data

The data, from The 4th Estate, is collected from a sampling of news stories from US national print outlets, TV broadcast and radio transcripts covering the 2012 election. These stories are contextually analyzed and broken down by topic, sentiment and newsmaker. We have counted and analyzed the quotes and article level meta-data from all front page articles collected from a sample of 38 of the most influential print media in the U.S. market. We have researched and gathered the ethnic backgrounds of the journalists from publicly available information (Google, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Twitter, Web bios). We have compared this data against an American Society of News Editors survey of the 2012 minority representation at various print organizations. The 4th Estate’s parent company, Global News Intelligence, provides similar proprietary services for government and Fortune 500 companies.

 

 

The Persistence of Racist Imagery in U.S.

The Christian Right has come up with a new set of imagery that conflates religious racism with politics, indicative of how leadership from Blacks and American Indians become associated with the “hostile” and the “devil” that continue old paradigms. Here is a recent Facebook message making the rounds after the last debate.

 

The caption reads: “PRINCE OF DARKNESS HAS BESTOWED UPON AMERICA THE KING OF LIES”
(From the Facebook Group “Christians Against Obama’s Re-Election” )

At the time of this post, the image above has 3,602 “Likes” and 4,510 “shares” on Facebook, so there are more than a few people for whom this kind of imagery resonates. (In another, related image on the same group’s page, Michelle Obama appears in – photoshopped – prison garb.)  The “Prince of Darkness” label is associated with Obama as the “King of Lies” when it is the Whitened version of U.S. history that relies on distortion and untruth, similar to how Whites coming into contact with Native spirituality, as MneWakan (spiritual waters) called it the Devil (Devil’s Lake, Devil’s Tower, etc.), as dominant icons associated with religion and being Christian, are used to depict leaders that oppose racial domination, as being evil, or the Devil (Prince of Darkness).

Within this frame, God is seen as being white or at least European, (Rev. Wright is seen as beguiling). That is why the “Prince of Darkness” imagery seems to resonate with the predominantly white readers that Romney must get to 60 percent, but without explicitly mentioning race. This is why Haiti is so instructive. I dealt with this in a photo taken in a Port-au-Prince church where Jesus is depicted as a black (thought light skinned) and John the Baptist as a darker skinned black man, on New Year’s Day, 1981, independence day there, as an example of communication discourse not only to show how God is thought to be white, but that it is sacrilegious to say otherwise. This leads to dichotomous or binary thinking in communication, showing why Black is Beautiful was contentious (it is a simple positive declarative phrase) because most whites were hearing that White is Not, or why Vine Deloria’s famous work God is Red, thrown into binary opposites, is unacceptable.

In Haiti, the notion of the racialized Other emerges along with the Papal Bull of 1493 which connects the non-Christian or heathen “Indian” as a racialized “savage” needing to be tamed, domesticated, and subordinated. The rationalization works well, extending to post-genocidal slave plantations’ “Black” of African descent, fully developed by mid-sixteenth century, as the greatest of race-based colonies, with Spanish and Portuguese (Brazil) followed by Virginia and Louisiana by the English, institutionalizing the whole racial morass into the system we know today. The underpinning is precisely the confusion about White, Christian or English (later Anglo-Saxon) which sees the lower order races, by skin-tone, associated with the Devil and anti-Christian (Muslim, Jew, etc.) peoples, which the newly formed “white elite” employ to maintain dominance (Joe Feagin, The White Racial Frame).

Today, the irony is more pronounced, in the announced passing of Russell Means, an early leader of the American Indian Movement, in many ways its most famous, precisely because he came to represent all things wrong about the United States of America and its treatment of the First Nations people who preceded its colonial forebears on this continent.

 

(Russell Means, ca. 1987 – from here)

 

Imagery associated with AIM is the powerful takeover of Alcatraz prison island,  (imprisoned American Indian leaders in the past, similar to Mandela on Robbins Island) to the Trail of Broken Treaties in Washington DC, the takeover of the BIA, to the retaking of Wounded Knee, by Lakota elders to resurrect knowledge of genocidal killings of Indian peoples, countering dominant history of this country, with a paradigms of social justice pointing to a deeply racist, dominant group formation benefiting from slave systems for labor and genocidal conquest for land, all the while claiming it is a “democracy” – but for which people?
The white elite needs continued conforming to these racial paradigms to maintain its dominance, especially with an increasingly diverse population as its electorate. Obama represents both a threat and potential solution to this political problem. American Indian leaders are now acknowledged, but also represent a threat to the dominant discourse. Challenging these paradigms, falls to us and many others, since Obama’s removal will mean a temporary victory for white racial forces, continued control over the Supreme Court, and distorted racist rationalizations on historical democracy of the “Founding Fathers” as an obstacle to real progress.

Walking the Tightrope of Race: Social and Emotional Effects of Being the First

Thinking not only of the reaction to President Obama’s recent debate performances, but also of the manner in which he has been graded and depicted by political pundits, so called newscasters, and the general public on idiot blogs over the past four years, reminds me of a conversation my mother and I had when I was in the seventh grade. It occurred after I was publicly humiliated at school once my name and others were called, announcing our honor roll placement for the semester over the school PA system. I told her of my feelings associated with the backhanded compliments from unsupportive white peers and ridicule from a segment of my own racial group. I felt isolated and alone.

This especially held true because I was one of just two Blacks announced. This alone carried many issues and concerns. Nevertheless, my mother simply said, “Sometimes being a person of color is like walking a tight rope above folks waiting to see the blood spew from your fall.” She told me that on one side, non-Blacks will think you are still beneath them and cannot wait for your fall. On the other side were some of my own who hate that I was in a position they are not. For those reasons, they will at times subconsciously wish for your demise. This introduced me to the idea of division among Black America–a subject discussed at great lengths within Cool Pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America, by Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson. Today, we can witness an increasing division among Blacks due to socioeconomic status.

Regardless, to me, the jeering and division seems to become louder and wider as one begins to occupy spaces that have traditionally been denied due to skin tone. When one is seen as a rarity, “the oddity,” the air of subjugation, fear, and at times hatred becomes thicker and forces the lungs to work harder in order to endure. Many times the pressure is so unbearable, that psychological stressors can occur and affect the emotional and physical statuses of individuals. It can create strife within the formation of an identity.

I have witnessed how the president has been depicted. I have seen in print and within the context of news stories within the 24-hour news cycle that have painted him as “too Black.” On the other hand, was it that he has forgotten Blacks and their plight? People who I admire, such as Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, have been seen trailing this particular bandwagon. I have seen others note that the president is not aggressive enough and not acting like a “stereotypical scary black man.” During the second presidential debate, I received an automatic shock to my brain every time someone coined his approach to his political appointment as, “angry.” Whites have often deemed him as an illegal alien, monkey, Hitler, and other derogatory figures.

In the end, I feel we as a nation have for four years viciously watched in excitement a political tragedy. The essence of racism, as seen during Jackie Robinson’s rise, is still prevalent as the president continues to move along the racial tightrope. The effects on race are truly boundless. The Kool-Aid has been drunk by not only by those seen as oppressors, but also by those seen as oppressed. In fact, the thought that race within this presidential election is absent, is credulous at best.

Rosie Perez Takes on Romney

The Latino vote increasingly matters as this widely circulated clip from Rosie Perez contends:

Through comedy Rosie critiques the insensitivity and outright cluelessness of Romney’s claim that winning this election would be easier if he were a Latino.  That Romney could suggest that Latinos in the U.S. would be able to get elected more easily than he, as a white male, could only demonstrates how his life of extreme privilege has clouded his thinking.  In this claim, Romney makes an open comment usually reserved for “backstage racism” suggesting that sharing the life of a visible ethnic and racial minority would offer him an advantage. Rosie ends the video by arguing that this statement by Romney might just cost him the presidential election.

Perhaps Latinos will decide the 2012 presidential election outcome ensuring President Obama’s victory over Romney.  According to the Pew Hispanic Center 24 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the 2012 election.  Another Pew report finds that Latinos favor Obama over Romney by 3 to 1.

If Latino turnouts are so-so and the overall turn out is also so-so then the strength of the Latino voter turnout may only reflect the overall growth in the Latino electorate. However, in American electoral college land it is regional turnout that really makes a difference. For example, regardless of how much Latinos favor Obama over Romney Texas electoral votes will not be going to Obama, regardless of the margin of Latinos who vote for Obama. This is a huge deal because Texas represents a large part of the Latino community in the country. The opposite of Texas is Virginia.  According to Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions Obama and Romney are virtually tied.

However, Virginia Latinos still favor Obama by three to one potentially turning Virginia into a blue state come election day.

Perhaps increasing Latino political influence in the electorate will indeed result in Romney’s statement amounting to political suicide as Rosie (and many other Latinas/os) hope that it will.

Transcript for Fisher v. University of Texas

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Fisher v. University of Texas case that seeks to overturn the consideration of race in college admissions.  Joe had an excellent post about this case a few days ago, you can read it here.

 

(Abigail Fisher on the steps of the Supreme Court, from here.)

Once the court issues a ruling, we’ll be back with more analysis.  Until then, you can read the transcript for yourself, it’s available for download here (pdf). And, if you’d prefer to have someone else read it for you, and give you updates in a series of cogent 140-character updates, you can read through Jessica Luther’s Twitter timeline (@scATX) here.

 

“You’re a Mutt” : Racial Policing Practices

On June 3, 2011, three plainclothes New York City Police officers stopped a Harlem teenager named Alvin, one of 600,000 mostly Black and Latino young men who are stopped for no reason except their race (and gender) each year in New York.

The stop and frisk of would have been unremarkable, except that Alvin secretly captured the interaction on his cell phone, and the resulting audio, part of a new video released by The Nation, is one of the only known recordings of stop-and-frisk in action. When Alvin asks why he is being threatened with arrest, the other officer responds, “For being a fucking mutt.” Later in the stop, while holding Alvin’s arm behind his back, the first officer says, “Dude, I’m gonna break your fuckin’ arm, then I’m gonna punch you in the fuckin’ face.”
The video about stop-and-frisk (13:15) is here:

The audio was recently played at a meeting of The Morris Justice Project, a group of Bronx residents who have organized around the issue of stop-and-frisk and have been compiling data on people’s interactions with police. Jackie Robinson, mother of two boys, expected not to be surprised when told about the contents of the recording. “It’s stuff we’ve all heard before,” she said at the gathering. Yet Robinson visibly shuddered at one of the audio’s most violent passages. She had heard plenty about these encounters, but had never actually listened to one in action.

Although perhaps not surprising, part of what is compelling about this short video clip is that includes interviews with two members of the NYPD. With their identities disguised, two officers from two different precincts in two separate boroughs speak about the same types of pressures put on front line police from higher-ups to meet numerical goals or face disciplinary action and retaliation. Most chillingly, both officers use the word “hunt” when describing the relentless quest for summonses, stops and arrests.

The racial pattern of these stops – something like 87% of the stops are of Black and Latino young men – and the utter lack of effectiveness in terms of ‘policing’ – only 1% yield any weapons – highlight the stark racial policing of these practices. It seems clear that the NYPD’s policing is intended to exercise control over young men of color in the city, and that these policies are guided by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg. These unjust, racist police practices will remain in place until those at the highest levels of city government decide to take action to dismantle these policies.

Don’t Be Too Black, Mr. President

What does it mean to be Black in America? Many Americans caught a glimpse of it on national television during the first of three presidential debates. The President look disinterested, annoyed, preoccupied, not on his “A” game as some analyst remarked. Other pundits suggested that POTUS appeared tired looking and too nice. Obama supporters and those tough independent voters wanted more.

(Image from here.)

 

Remember, it’s been four years since the man has had a debate-he’s rusty. But amidst the fight of his political career, few have considered the enormous psychological cost of being black that the President must feel each and every time he’s on the stage. President Obama is not just another president in the long history of white presidents we’ve had in this country. He’s the first black president, and with that comes additionally burdens that only blacks and other stigmatized minority groups can truly appreciate. His overall likeability ratings are indicative of his daily performance of hyper-politeness, which is what black folk must do when working in predominately white settings. It’s in black Americans’ best interest to keep white folks happy and content as to not upset the racial applecart.

It isn’t natural, by any means, to always have to pretend to be nice to white people-not because you aren’t a genuinely nice person, but because those relationships expend too much emotional energy by feeling like you’re always on stage, teaching whites, or deflecting the many dominate white racial frames they hold in their subconscious mind about African Americans and other groups of color. President Obama must maintain his discipline and his composure or risk being perceived as “too black” and angry, even when it’s well within his purview to launch a counter offensive against Mr. Romney on several key topics like the notorious 47% remark, Bain capital, and why a guy with his stock-pile of cash only pays 14% in taxes?

Unlike Mitt Romney, however, President Obama must present himself (unfortunately) at times as stiff and professorial in efforts to put the white voter at ease over the presence of a black man in the White House, even though only 43% of Whites actually voted for Senator Obama in 2008. So the President has to play it cool and maintain his well-known calm demeanor. He cannot be portrayed as “too black” in the stereotypical sense like raising his voice and showing outward displays of emotion. Otherwise, his actions have the potential to associate him with dominant ideologies of black males who are seen as sub-human, violent, criminal, and “bad”-ideologies that are deeply rooted within U.S. society (and, hence, in our perceptions, attitudes, reactions, and language).

These rules were not established by President Obama, or other Americans of color for that matter, but are a result of a 500 year-old process of domination involving the use of language (white racial knowledge production) around black bodies inscribed in law, politics, education, medicine and every other major institution in society through a collective experience of human suffering, violence, psychological mayhem and the exploitation of labor and land theft. President Obama must work within the established and contemporary racial order or risk the perception of him as a public danger in the White House because his race is a “liability”-the elephant in the room that no ones wants to talk about.

This may be to some extent why he avoids the question of race altogether (at least publicly) so far in his administration. And though the specifics of Romney’s plan for president never materialized throughout the debate, the Romney camp looses nothing by ruffling the President’s feathers in hopes of lighting a fire under him to get him a little more animated and, hence, a little more “black” to the average white viewer. President Obama has all the ammunition to reveal the facts and expose the loopholes of his competitor’s presidential platform that currently lacks in substance.

The President can even celebrate a bit today given the national unemployment rate has fallen to 7.8%. Mortgage rates are at an all-time low as well, which suggests that the nation is moving in the right direction for many middle-class Americans. So President Obama’s task in the next debate is to maintain a course of calculated assertiveness, “attacking” his opponent’s platform with these additional talking points. But don’t be too black, Mr. President. White America has shown they can’t handle that (at least 57% of them can’t).

 

~ Follow me on twitter @DrDarronSmith or visit me at www.darronsmith.com