Retro-Comment On Obama


Being elected to the world’s highest office is formidable, esp. for a person of color in a nation with a long history of slavery, a recent history of segregation, whose policies supported apartheid, and whose cultural measures, as the Times reports, show bias and animus tied to race. More, Obama’s election moves race away from its traditional role in conflicts tied to bias and opportunity, and for the first time, puts race as a construct in the halls of power. That unparalleled feat the people acknowledge in the excitement Obama generates as he travels. Pictures show small handshakes and greetings that break protocol but reveal how the world’s common people appreciate his mantle of power.

Prof is using an old paradigm, seeing “minor” successes, but mainly ignoring the expansion of humanity for all implied in the Obama presidency; the central stage, the acceptance of competence, intelligence, and even shortcomings by leaders of color; of a family whose love is visible, of a personal comfort that sets its own standards without shapeshifting, including Obama’s remarkably snide humor (which he bottles!). His political calculus misses these points.

Prof also misses a critical lesson found in folk wisdom and in history. Every racial advance had a strong pushback of institutions and events; slavery, sharecropping; civil rights; the lost of community institutions; lynching after emancipation. Lynching empty chairs is only one of Obama’s, as instructive as is a political review.