“Writing Is Always Some Type of Interpretation,” Ta-Nehisi Coates

I am still listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates and just got to “Fear of a Black President.”

President Barack Obama is the most successful black politician ever, but he got there by never defining issues as racial and acting as a monument to moderation.  When he stepped outside this construct, he was immediately attacked.  He was attacked because blacks demanding access to power has grown acceptable, but a black (President) exercising power has not.  White opposition can express political rage, black politicians and especially President Obama cannot respond in kind.

Obama said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin.”  And white Americans acted quickly to reframe the idea that a white man shooting a black kid was not the real issue.  Race and racial inequality wasn’t  really the issue.  We can’t talk about that without talking about the importance of blacks shooting blacks and blacks shooting whites.  Why weren’t they getting equal attention.

Coates makes many points from scholarship and perspectives uniquely his, but I find a two argument that explain the election of Trump.  Until Obama, the American presidency was the last bastion of white superiority … proof that only white men were qualified for and capable of handling higher responsibilities.  When he was elected a second time, those powerful whites spent their time limiting his exercise of power – not as President, but as Obama (the black President).  Obama’s speeches were inspiring and sought to be unifying.  His actions, however, disappointed those that thought he really would change things.  By refusing to address race, he refused to enact change on the issues and dreams that got him elected.

I have interpreted the Coates’ essay and the events in my lens.  I am outraged, but I am a white woman who got a college education without much trouble, found jobs when I wanted or needed them, and established a career that evolved up the ladder.  My cry as I grew up was nearly always, “You’d let me do that if I was a boy.”  My argument as an adult is usually, “What makes you think the woman should do that rather than the man?”  My perspective is different, but my sense of justice and equity doesn’t let me ignore the racial issues.  Does yours?