Since when can’t the president talk to the nation’s children?
In the first nine months of his term, President Obama, as all great presidents, has not shied away from weighty issues of concern to Americans: the losses on Wall Street, the unstable economy and the loss of jobs, and his current battle to become America’s first president to successfully advance healthcare legislation that includes everyone.
The president has done so by facing hard truths and irrefutable facts, not running from them or pretending they don’t exist. Recall the summer of 2008 when he encouraged Americans to talk about race. Many resisted having to look at the racism in their mirrors.
Three recent high-profile incidents have shown how the president has skillfully led the nation into a debate over race that those who seek the protection of anonymity in their white sheets of nullification and reversal did not recognize.
The first incident was with Professor Gates of Harvard, in Boston, Mass. The level of outrage at his use of the word “stupid” – a word his opponents use all the time about him – is telling.
The second incident was the president speaking to the nation’s school children on the occasion of the opening of school. That so many Whites protested is another “tell.” He broke an age-old taboo developed during slavery plantations days: the taboo that a Black person must never be allowed to influence White children. As the president does so, he becomes a “nightmare” haunting their attempts at nullification and reversal.
Something convinced some people to believe that this president was going to spin some kind of Black voodoo. But he didn’t. He spoke to America’s children in the role he plays so well, that of a father of two daughters who is concerned about their education. He also plays the role of a husband married to a woman, the daughters’ mother, who is equally challenging about the importance of education.
Who better than they to speak to America’s children about the number-one key to personal and professional success: education?
The third incident was his Wednesday speech on health reform, not only to a joint session of Congress but to millions of Americans around this nation and millions more watching from around the world. The debate over health care still has a lot to do with who can afford it and who cannot. Regardless of the final who-or-what-pays policy, he made clear to all what African Americans have long understood: Race is part of the equation, as Blacks have too often and in too many places been excluded not only from medical attention but also from medical schools.
President Obama released his speech 24 hours before, and, given the responses, it became quite clear that the forces of nullification and reversal were caught off guard. He was presidential. He was caring. He knew how to sidestep the minefields. He showed his experience, his political savvy, and his understanding of the opposition that he will continue to face over the next three and a half years.
In a word, he showed the greatness that has eluded many White would-be leaders, which is in part where the current anger and opposition originates. A job well done, Mr. President, on three very interesting platforms: Cambridge/Gates, school children, and a promise not to be intimidated or outmaneuvered as you work to keep promises made to the American people in your campaign of 2008.
As the president works to end nullification and reversal, we are reminded of the key words of Nellie Stone Johnson, co-founder of the DFL: “…Education …Jobs …Housing.” Here in Minneapolis education, North High is being closed. Here in Minneapolis employment, we still see purposeful noncompliance regarding hiring Black workers and contractors. Here in Minneapolis housing, more Blacks are being added to the Diaspora of Hollman/Heritage Park.
Metro Gang Task Force update
The Twin Cities’ two major newspapers continue to refuse to practice fair journalism, which contributes to their ongoing loss of readership. Over a year ago, you couldn’t read either paper without seeing the names of Black officers and their pictures plastered all over the two major dailies in a negative light, while they simultaneously refused to identify White officers involved in overtime and other abuses.
Now they refuse to identify the White Metro Gang Task Force policemen being investigated. Journalism is not intended to lionize those in power, but to hold those in power accountable.
Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of key civil rights organizations, including the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com; hear his readings and read his solution papers and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.
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