When Barak Obama became our nation’s first black president, millions of American’s celebrated the end of racism in our country. After all, they said, if a black man can ascend to the highest office in the land then there is no limit to what a black man can achieve.
Now five years later, our black president continues to find himself held back due to the color of his skin; his agenda thwarted in part by those who view him as somehow inferior due to his “blackness.” Instead of serving as a beacon of hope for racial equality, Barak Obama’s mere presence in our polarized society has become a lightning rod for the deep racial divide that exits in our country. Even as president, Obama’s blackness is holding him back.
In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict there are those that would have this president speak out forcefully against what they perceive as a glaring miscarriage of justice. But Barak Obama knows that he cannot respond in the same way that a white president could.
This morning we watched a black Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and a black Georgetown law educated, former head of the RNC talk about parenting their sons. They explained how they had to counsel their sons on how to act if stopped by a policeman: “turn on the dome light…roll all the windows down…keep your hands on the wheel…make no sudden movements…address the officer with respect…do not look the officer in the eye.” Both said that they gave their sons this advice not as a matter of teaching respect for law enforcement…but as a matter of life and death.
On July 27, 1967, President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed the Kerner Commission to investigate the cause of the race riots which had raged in Detroit, Los Angeles and Chicago. The commission found that the riots resulted from black frustration over a lack of economic opportunity. It faulted the federal, state governments for failed policies in education, housing and social services. The commission warned: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal.”
Much has changed since those findings were released almost 50 years ago. Yet much remains the same.
We still live in a country where there are two societies…separate and unequal.