The Obama Paradox

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2017-01-09 21:25Z by Steven

The Obama Paradox


Jamelle Bouie, Chief Political Correspondent

Our first black president has an unyielding faith in the goodness of America. It got him elected. And it will cost him his legacy.

The myth of Barack Obama usually begins with his speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and for good reason—it was the speech that jump-started his political career, putting the then–state senator on the fast track to national office. But it wasn’t the speech that made him president. That speech was delivered at a moment of crisis. His former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was in the middle of a media firestorm over a sermon he had given in 2003 in the wake of the Iraq invasion. “No, no, no. Not God bless America,” thunders Wright in the now-infamous video. “God Damn America!”…

…For Obama, who built his political appeal on his distance from this rhetoric—from the tenor and tone of traditional black politics—Wright’s sermon was a disaster in the making. To operate in the mainstream, to attain influence and power, black public figures have to navigate a narrow strait of acceptable behavior. They cannot indulge their anger or give way to their passions. And for Obama, who sought an office all but reserved for white men, he had to prove that he wasn’t an Al Sharpton or a Jesse Jackson, that he held no resentment or frustration with the country. And so on March 18, 2008, Obama delivered an address in Philadelphia now known as his “A More Perfect Union” speech. In it, he repudiated Wright’s anger without dismissing its sources, and along the way he demonstrated the qualities that have defined him as president: a sense of balance, a willingness to look to the better angels of his opponents, a belief that there is always common ground…

Read the entire article here.

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Nation of Cowards: Black Activism in Barack Obama’s Post-Racial America

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-08-23 01:37Z by Steven

Nation of Cowards: Black Activism in Barack Obama’s Post-Racial America

Indiana University Press
176 pages
6 x 9
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-253-00628-8

David H. Ikard, Associate Professor of English
Florida State University

Martell Lee Teasley, Professor of Social Work
University of Texas, San Antonio

In a speech from which Nation of Cowards derives its title, Attorney General Eric Holder argued forcefully that Americans today need to talk more—not less—about racism. This appeal for candid talk about race exposes the paradox of Barack Obama’s historic rise to the US presidency and the ever-increasing social and economic instability of African American communities. David H. Ikard and Martell Lee Teasley maintain that such a conversation can take place only with passionate and organized pressure from black Americans, and that neither Obama nor any political figure is likely to be in the forefront of addressing issues of racial inequality and injustice. The authors caution blacks not to slip into an accommodating and self-defeating “post-racial” political posture, settling for the symbolic capital of a black president instead of demanding structural change. They urge the black community to challenge the social terms on which it copes with oppression, including acts of self-imposed victimization.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Is America a Nation of Cowards or Has Attorney General Eric Holder Lost His Mind?
  • 1. The Teaching Moment that Never Was: Henry Louis Gates, Barack Obama, and the Post-Racial Dilemma
  • 2. “I Know What’s in His Heart”: Enlightened Exceptionalism and the Problem with Using Barack Obama as the Racial Litmus Test for Black Progress and Achievement
  • 3. The Audacity of Reverend Wright: Speaking Truth to Power in the 21st Century
  • 4. Setting the Record Straight: Why Barack Obama and America Cannot Afford to Ignore a Black Agenda
  • 5. Pull Yourself Up by Your Bootstraps: Barack Obama, the Black Poor, and the Problems of Racial Common Sense
  • Index
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The Preacher and the Politician: Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, and Race in America

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2011-10-21 21:43Z by Steven

The Preacher and the Politician: Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, and Race in America

University of Virginia Press
October 2009
160 pages
5 1/2x 81/4
Cloth ISBN: 0-8139-2886-9

Clarence E. Walker, Professor of History
University of California, Davis

Gregory D. Smithers, Visiting Associate Professor of History
Virginia Commonwealth University

Barack Obama’s inauguration as the first African American president of the United States has caused many commentators to conclude that America has entered a postracial age. The Preacher and the Politician argues otherwise, reminding us that, far from inevitable, Obama’s nomination was nearly derailed by his relationship with Jeremiah Wright, the outspoken former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side of Chicago. The media storm surrounding Wright’s sermons, the historians Clarence E. Walker and Gregory D. Smithers suggest, reveals that America’s fraught racial past is very much with us, only slightly less obvious.

With meticulous research and insightful analysis, Walker and Smithers take us back to the Democratic primary season of 2008, viewing the controversy surrounding Wright in the context of key religious, political, and racial dynamics in American history. In the process they expose how the persistence of institutional racism, and racial stereotypes, became a significant hurdle for Obama in his quest for the presidency.

The authors situate Wright’s preaching in African American religious traditions dating back to the eighteenth century, but they also place his sermons in a broader prophetic strain of Protestantism that transcends racial categories. This latter connection was consistently missed or ignored by pundits on the right and the left who sought to paint the story in simplistic, and racially defined, terms. Obama’s connection with Wright gave rise to criticism that, according to Walker and Smithers, sits squarely in the American political tradition, where certain words are meant to incite racial fear, in the case of Obama with charges that the candidate was unpatriotic, a Marxist, a Black Nationalist, or a Muslim.

Once Obama became the Democratic nominee, the day of his election still saw ballot measures rejecting affirmative action and undermining the civil rights of other groups. The Preacher and the Politician is a concise and timely study that reminds us of the need to continue to confront the legacy of racism even as we celebrate advances in racial equality and opportunity.

Table of  Contents

  • “They Didn’t Give Us Our Mule and Our Acre”: Introduction
  • “The “Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost”: Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, and the Black Church
  • “I Don’t Want People to Pretend I’m Not Black”: Barack Obama and America’s Racial History
  • “To Choose Our Better History?” Epilogue
  • Text of Barack Obama’s March 18, 2008, Speech on Race
  • Notes
  • Index
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