On Tuesday, November 4, 2008 the Liberals and the vast majority of Blacks – with the tacit help of the Conservatives and Values Voters who stayed home in droves rather than vote for the centrist Sen. John McCain – elected Sen. Barack Obama to the office of President, and on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, America Inaugurated him as the 44th US President.
From November 4th through January 20th the American media and the blogosphere have been abuzz with one single meme – America has elected its first Black President. In an orgy of self-congratulation the media has made sure to focus on Obama’s race, either centering articles on it or injecting references to it in articles about the incoming POTUS. It is difficult to find anything on the election or Obama what doesn’t mention he’s our 1st Black President.
The blogosphere has been similarly awash with such things, but also includes more direct – and often gloating – glorification of our electing an African-American or Black President. They’ve tend to also include claims that Obama’s is the fulfillment of MLK’s Dream, paraphrase and/or parrot Michelle Obama’s “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country,” comment, or crow variations of, “My President Is Black” – often including, “— and now so is yours!”
In response – in what is admittedly at least in part a fit of peevishness and Distopian angst – I’ve personally dubbed January 20, 2009 as Black Tuesday.
All bitterness, angst, and peevishness aside, I have a couple of significant issues with the intense focus on the meme or trope of Barack Obama being America’s first Black or African-American President. I will never deny that Obama’s race made his election historically significant. I don’t think it should be the defining theme of President Obama though. That (mis)defintion would do a great disservice to both Obama and America.
A False Ending
This seeming orgy of self-congratulation strikes me as wrong because it could easily engender in many the belief that America is now Post-Racial, that racism has ended in America except for a few aging social dinosaurs. America likes neat and tidy ending; they like closure, even when it’s false. This attitude toward Obama’s election just makes it to easy for us to think that racism has a fixed point in time for its ending.
Racism is alive and well – even though we elected Obama as POTUS. It’s staring out at us through the hate and distrust filled eyes of Whites, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Muslims, etc… It’s not going away anytime soon, and when it does finally pass into history I doubt society will even recognize exactly when it ended. The election of Barack Obama, a man identified as Black, to the office of President is a milestone in race relations, but not an endpoint or terminus. It is irresponsible of the media to rave about our doing so without also mentioning that fact.
There is a possibility that there is a sinister component to the media’s defining of President Obama as America’s 1st Black President. All during the 2008 election cycle – even during the primaries – the MSM was heavily tanking for Obama. In the general election they started manufacturing a racism, racialist, or “racial tinged” argument about nearly anything that the GOP said against Obama. The media’s current behavior could just be an extension of this tactic.
If President Obama is defined by his race by the American media, then it becomes very easy for that media to vilify any argument against him or his actions as being racist. Examples of this could be seen by the MSM declaring that “Socialist” and “Palling around with terrorists” were both racist – technically they said “racially tinged,” but that’s just a dog-whistle and everyone knew it – comment.
What the media says – if it plays to the preconceptions of the masses – the people will believe and act upon. So if the MSM is trying to define President Obama by his race, they’re not just being irresponsible; they’re violating every tenet of journalistic ethics and committing a gross crime against our nation in the process.
A Final Note
America’s election of a non-White man to the highest office in the land was a historic event, and one every American should be proud of – even those of us voted against him based on his politics. Let’s just keep it perspective, not get carried away with congratulating ourselves, and not let Obama’s race be used by the media or anyone else to marginalize, quell, or silence legitimate opposition to him and/or his policies and actions.