The Problem With Obama’s Faith in White America

The Problem With Obama’s Faith in White America

The Atlantic

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Virginia Commonwealth University

The president’s optimism about race blinded him to the pervasiveness and stubborn persistence of racism.

I screamed a lot while reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s My President Was Black. When I was done reading and screaming, I cried.

The last time I felt this far removed from this president was when I first worked so hard to elect him.

In 2007, the very idea of a President Barack Obama was ridiculous to me. I was and am southern, god bless. I am black. I come from black people who are southerners even when they were New Yorkers for a spell. We are the black American story of enslavement, rural migration, urban displacement, resistance, boostrapping, mobility, and class fragility. In this milieu we, as a friend once described it, know our whites. To know our whites is to understand the psychology of white people and the elasticity of whiteness. It is to be intimate with some white persons but to critically withhold faith in white people categorically. It is to anticipate white people’s emotions and fears and grievances because their issues are singularly our problem. To know our whites is to survive without letting bitterness rot your soul…

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