Obama the black man

President bares his self in passionate speech
Associated Press
Jul 21, 2013


Something in President Barack Obama's voice caught Gregory C. Ellison's ear. It was fleeting, subtle, and easy to miss — unless you're a black man, too.

"In between his personal reflections on what it feels like to be an African-American man, and the history of pain and his strategic plan, there was what I call a very pregnant pause," says Ellison, a theology professor in Atlanta.

"If I ever have an opportunity to talk to President Obama, I would ask him what was he searching in his soul during that pregnant pause?"

Obama was wrapped in presidential authority Friday as he talked to a nation rubbed emotionally raw in the week since the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was acquitted in a Florida courtroom.

Then, in a move hardly anyone saw coming, Obama unwrapped himself, and put his own young, black face on Martin's dead, young, black body.

This first black president, the guy accused by some of running from his blackness, of trying to address black folks' needs on the down low, suddenly lifted the veil off his black male identity and showed it to the world. It was something no American president before him could have done.

He had to do it, Obama said, because "Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago."

And also because America needs to understand why so many of her citizens are in pain about Martin's death, and why black citizens, especially, are having a hard time looking at this as anything other than the latest manifestation of what Obama called "a history that doesn't go away."

All over the United States, millions of black men could painfully identify with what Obama said as he spoke about what he called their shared reality. Of being followed in department stores. Of hearing the "click" of car door locks as they walk by. Of women holding their purses close while standing next to them in elevators. Of police — or anybody, really — believing them to be criminals without knowing what's truly inside their heads or their hearts.

"That includes me," Obama said.

Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, thanked Obama for identifying with their son in such a personal way, and encouraging them as they work to turn their grief into a public "conduit" for racial healing.

"This is a beautiful tribute to our boy," they said.

Greg Carr, chairman of the Afro-American Studies department at Howard University in Washington, said the president "has an authenticity, because he does signal to the black community that he too has experienced what we experienced."

At the same time, Carr said, Obama danced with risk, daring to speculate on whether Martin, too, could have claimed self-defense under Florida's stand-your-ground law, which was often cited as grounds for George Zimmerman to fire the shot that killed the unarmed teenager in February 2012.

Obama asked the nation to search its soul about this. He invoked his "convening power" as president to bring people together to sort out ways to help young black men "feel that they're a full part of this society." He made clear he doesn't want a national dialogue on race that is steered by politicians because "I haven't seen that be particularly productive."

"I thought it was very wise of him," said Sterling Speirn, president and CEO of the Kellogg Foundation, one of 26 private philanthropies that agreed in April to work together on addressing the needs of young men of color.

"You can't just come out and pass laws and have a new initiative. ... It's not an abstract issue anymore, and perhaps this is the best way the president can lead the way," he said.

Obama's candor came just before "Justice for Trayvon" vigils and rallies scheduled Saturday in 100 cities. Civil rights activist Al Sharpton, organizer of the demonstrations, said the fact that Obama weighed in about stand-your-ground laws, the focus of those demonstrations, will help "set a tone for both direct action, and needed dialogue," while the Justice Department considers whether to pursue civil rights violations in Martin's death.

White House aides said the president had quietly digested the public's reactions, especially those of African-Americans, since a six-member jury acquitted Zimmerman last Saturday. He had conversations with his family and friends, both inside and outside the White House.

He told senior advisers Thursday that he felt it was important for the country to hear from him on the subject in a broad yet much more personal context, beyond the statement he issued shortly after the verdict.

When he appeared in the White House briefing room Friday afternoon, he had no prepared text, no teleprompter. All he seemed to rely upon was his skin and the experiences he's had inside it.

Ellison, an assistant professor of pastoral care and counseling at Emory University's Candler School of Theology, said what Obama laid out was what it feels like to be "cut dead," a 19th century slang term meaning to be snubbed on purpose, or completely ignored.

This is where Ellison's head was as he listened to Obama's speech, and felt that the president appeared to check himself midway through — something black men tend to do, Ellison said, when they find themselves heading into an emotional place on racial matters. In that moment, Ellison sensed, Obama's black man sensibilities may have led him to think, "I am the president of the free world, I can't go there."

"Something happened in that pause," Ellison said. "And how many African-American men have to take that pause on a daily basis, you know?"


Ross is The Associated Press' Race and Ethnicity editor. AP writer Suzanne Gamboa contributed to this report.



There you go again

The title should read "Obama the White Black Man".


A good leader tries to unite not divide! Pres. Obama is doing his best to divide this country more so than any other president before him.

The Big Dog's back

more than bush2? more than nixon?


Yes. Please tell me an instance when either one of these guys stood in front of a televised audience and basically denounced the white man for not understanding the plight of black people.

I am not racist and facts are facts. There are more murders committed by black people yearly than any other race.

The Big Dog's back

1st you said divide. Now you're turning it racial?


Pres. Obama is making this a race case. You know like dividing the blacks and whites. Do we really have to play this game?

The Big Dog's back

Let see, how many Presidents of color do we have to compare him to? NONE! All have been WHITE!

BULLISDEEP's picture

White is a color


First off stating the facts is not "turning it racial". In this case the "facts" are actually wrong though. "Register" the general statement that more black Americans commit murder than anyone else is false if relating it to actual numbers. If you going off the numbers, white Americans actually commit more murders because there are almost 4x as many white Americans than black Americans. Even though white Americans outnumber black Americans in nearly every criminal offense category in the 2012 FBI crime report, the numerical differences is marginal (within a couple %points of each other in almost all categories). So if there are almost as many black Americans committing the same number of crimes as white Americans, it would explain why your odds of going to prison as a black American is higher than a white American...because there are 1/4 the number of black Americans yet they commit almost the same number of crimes as white people.


Statistically based on percentage of race and crimes committed.

It is interesting that Chicago has one of the highest black on black crime ratios yet we fail to see Obama, Jackson, Sharpton, NAACP and their likes standing on a podium in the middle of a Chicago ghetto berating the black man/woman for committing those crimes! Nor do we see any protests or marches. Why do you suppose that is?


because nothing motivates people like hate.


Is the NAACP even needed any more?

thinkagain's picture

Title to this article should be, “Obama the race-baiting half and half man”.

Darwin's choice

What's the word you don't want to use when describing a group of blacks, that starts with an "n" and ends with an "r" ?

Darwin's choice

And, here's something that will make deertracker, 4shizzle, big dog, coasterfan, and all you other cheerleaders take notice...


Payday for George!

Darwin's choice

The answer is "neighbor", racist!

BULLISDEEP's picture


Darwin's choice

And, here for all to see, proof of the "idiotacracy" Obama has created with his "rockstar" personality! Starring, in no particular order: Deertracker, The Big Dog, Coasterfan, and 4Shizzle! With many other guest appearances!

This is a "must see" video!!!


Darwin's choice

And, finally, Mr. Obama, a good read.....
By Patrick J. Buchanan

Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America .. Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation.. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.... This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.. Jeremiah Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the '60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream. Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks -- with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas -- to advance black applicants over white applicants. Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated their time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.
We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude??

Barack talks about new 'ladders of opportunity' for blacks. Let him go to Altoona and Johnstown, and ask the white kids in Catholic schools how many were visited lately by Ivy League recruiters handing out scholarships for 'deserving' white kids...? Is white America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of white America ? Is it really white America 's fault that illegitimacy in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent?

Is that the fault of white America or, first and foremost, a failure of the black community itself?

As for racism, its ugliest manifestation is in interracial crime, and especially interracial crimes of violence. Is Barack Obama aware that while white criminals choose black victims 3 percent of the time, black criminals choose white victims 45 percent of the time?

Is Barack aware that black-on-white rapes are 100 times more common than the reverse, that black-on-white robberies were 139 times as common in the first three years of this decade as the reverse?

We have all heard ad nauseam from the Rev. Al about Tawana Brawley, the Duke rape case and Jena . And all turned out to be hoaxes. But about the epidemic of black assaults on whites that are real, we hear nothing.

Sorry, Barack, some of us have heard it all before, about 40 years and 40 trillion tax dollars ago. This needs to be passed around because, this is a message everyone needs to hear!!!

OK...........will you pass it on ?

YES. I did but will you?

Because I'm for a better America

I am
Not racist,
Not violent,

Just not silent anymore."

The Big Dog's back

Did buchanan take his white hood off for this?

Darwin's choice

Funny, but I still would like the "halfrican" to answer!

Tool Box

The DOJ will drop the investigation after viewing this. http://www.pjtv.com/?cmd=mpg&mpi...

Darwin's choice

Deertracker, Big Dog, 4Shizzle should all watch this. It may be mind numbing for them to see the truth, and not the media darling poster boy, but they would have another perspective.