From The Grio — President Obama has become a racial enigma. When it comes to the black/white divide in America, Obama is believed to be everything from Clarence Thomas to Malcolm X, depending on whom you ask. The right-wing identifies Obama as a radical black man who hates white people, and the progressive black community sees Obama as yet another political sellout fresh off Harvard Yard.
The “great” Bill Cosby once said, “I don’t know the recipe for success. But the recipe for failure is trying to please everybody.” Therefore, in Cosby’s world, every high ranking black political figure, including Obama, is destined for certain failure.
Whether Obama will go down as a failure or success as president has yet to be determined. I personally believe that his greatest achievement occurred when he was sworn in as the first black president in American history. Like any good marriage, things can sometimes head straight downhill after the honeymoon.
President Obama has been as silent as a church mouse on some of the most riveting and racially-traumatic events to occur in recent U.S. history. He had nothing to say about the shooting death of Oscar Grant, the wedding eve slaughter of Sean Bell or the police shooting death of 7-year old Aiyana Jones. This inactivity may be frustrating to those who thought that Obama’s election was the second-coming of Juneteenth.
The president added insult to injury by then going out of his way to speak out on the inconvenient porch fight between Henry Louis Gates and Officer James Crowley. The clear message being sent was that if you are politically connected, powerful, and wealthy, your issues might be addressed. But if you’re just a black man or woman shot in the street, you probably won’t matter very much to this president.
On the specific issue of Shirley Sherrod, the president took the noble step of speaking with Sherrod and working to have her reinstated. This was an important move for Obama, given that the Sherrod firing was one of those folded arms, pursed lips, neck-twisted, “so-what-you-gonna-do-now-Barack?” moments for black America. Black folks were angry about what happened to Shirley, because it has happened to so many of us. Fortunately, Obama passed the test and avoided appearing to be yet another black man unwilling to stand up for a black woman in distress in order to save his own rear end.