Playing It Safe

Coming into this course with previous experience in this topic, I assumed I would be prepared and conditioned to the material, at least in the beginning. However, this week I was really surprised when I found myself sinking into my old white-girl-ways. As we discussed Obama’s speech in class, in which he responded to Reverend Wright’s comment on racism in America, I sat quietly while other’s expressed Obama’s “chickening-out”. Although I completely agreed with this view point, it took me a little while to get there.

After listening to Obama’s speech, I remember admiring it’s eloquence. I even agreed with many points, such as how everyone in this country has a responsibility, white or black, and we have to work with each other. I just listened, and although it had many contrasts to Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech to the APA, I just automatically assigned those contrasts to different periods of time, different needs, and a different audience. I didn’t even think to criticize Obama’s speech, and I assume many white American’s didn’t either.

As we discussed the speech in class, I realized that many white American’s would be satisfied with that speech because they were the target audience. The speech was safe, with little depth towards the real issues of racism. In fact, Obama even said “let’s focus on the real issues…” implying the war or the economy, pushing racism aside like it’s unimportant. It makes me wonder, Did I over look this because I am white? I definitely heard it, but it had a much different meaning to me after we had discussed it in class. It became more clear to me that Obama was just safe to keep the white population’s votes.

Someone in class also brought up the media, which I thought was interesting. Maybe since the media glorified Obama into a celebrity, he became one of those “white” black people, like Oprah. Ironically this doesn’t help the issues of racial divide in America, in fact I think it could have made it worse, allowing white people to say “see, we voted for a black guy, we’re not racist.” It must be a tough position for Obama though. How can one become more of an activist after already gaining the trust of many white American’s? He will surely face resistance and hostility and risk not winning for a second term. Well we all came to the realization that he played that speech safe so he could win the election, but what more could he have done after he had already won without losing his white following?

1 thought on “Playing It Safe

  1. One of the frustrating things about Obama being the first Black president, is that he is faced with a double edged sword. The things he says and does will be attributed to his race, whether he likes it or not. If he talks about the racial issues, then it’s something he takes a “special interest” in. If he doesn’t talk about race, then is he doing a disservice to his race? This is something that many people of color have to deal with on a regular basis. Do you choose to talk, or do you choose to stay silent? If you choose to talk, you run the risk of being written off as that angry minority. If you remain silent, then nothing will change. My other friends of color and I have the same conversations over and over again about classroom dynamics. “Why should I have to educate them?” “If I don’t then who will.” I personally feel like it’s a tough call. Although I was frustrated that Obama did not go further in one of his only speeches about race, I don’t know what else he could have done to maintain the White vote.

    As someone who thinks that these race issues are very real issues, I wonder if maybe I’m expecting too much from Obama. Is it fair for me to expect that he cares? Maybe he truly is disinterested in rocking the boat.

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