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.

 

Comments

shucks
Darwin's choice

I'm sorry, 4shizzle, you should be the first in line to be mentioned when refering to "low intelligence voter, blind follower, azz kissing clingon, and, general "dirt eating squab". I'll be sure to make it a point to put you at the top of the azzhat list. You've earned it.....!

shucks

I don't care - You and your opinions are worthless.
YOU are just a hardened idiot.

Darwin's choice, Hah !!!... Darwin's feces.

The Big Dog's back

Political strategy? For what? He's done running for President. More right wing mumbo jumbo.

Darwin's choice

Thank God he's done running for President! Now, would YOU please tell him he can stop campaigning!! How about "political posturing"? Do you understand that?

DBDBDB

Is Obama a self proclaimed black, or is he a white black? George Zimmerman was a white Hispanic according to the lame stream media. We will never have harmony until we realize there is only one race, the human race.

deertracker

Wake up! It was just a DREAM!

Darwin's choice

Obama is a "Halfrican", for media photo-op's, though, he just got off the boat from Kenya, by way of the ghetto someplace.

Actually, he is a "Mulatto", but that term isn't politically correct anymore.

Julie R.

I wouldn't want to be Zimmerman for love nor money. Even the President of the United States has condemned him.

Julie R.

All over the U.S millions of black men can identify with what Obama said ......... being followed in department stores ....... hearing the click of car doors as they walk by .........

That reminds me of an incident I had once. After unloading my groceries in the car, a car pulled in next to me. I got in my car and automatically clicked the doors locked. I then heard somebody say: "Ma'am, you didn't have to do that." It was a well-dressed older black man and it took me a second to realize he thought I locked the doors because of him ..... so I told him I always do that, it was a habit. He then said it's a good habit to have.

I still feel bad thinking that he thought I did it because he was a black man.

EZOB

Breakiong News: On his lawyers advice George Zimmerman is changing His name to George "Benghazi". There will be no investigation and you won't hear His name mentioned unless a Republican asks what happened to Him. Hillary will say, "What difference does it Make".

herbie_hancock

The ones that want to "give Benghazi a rest" are the ones that have something to fear if the truth comes out.

The Big Dog's back

Exactly what is the truth herbit?

herbie_hancock

We don't know because the White House is making the suvivoirs sign non disclosure agreements, so you tell me, why would the white house not want people knowing exactly what happened there? Or why is it taking so long to figure out who gave the go ahead for the IRS to target 300 conservative groups? Was it an official that George Bush appointed that plead the 5th in front of congress? Nope, it was an official appointed by obama, even by deertrackers math that doesn't add up.

grumpy

Why, or how, did the Pentagon tell the Congressional committee that the Colonel in charge there was retired and they could not tell Congress where he was? He is still active duty till the end of July or beginning of August. How does the Pentagon not know where active duty Colonel are? Or that they are still active duty? He is now scheduled to appear.

The Big Dog's back

So why do the ben crazies (right wingnuts) still talk about Benghazi?

There you go again

Mr. Big Dog,
Could it be because Benghazi questions have not been answered by the White House. By having witnesses sign non-disclosures the President has, once again, swept this problem under the rug. Gees, I thought you knew that.......

The Big Dog's back

Seeing how this "non story" came from a right wingnut Congressman who won't disclose his "sources", what proof do you have of this?

goofus

Here's your proof and what really happened in Benghazi
http://conservativefiringline.co...
And once again don't disregard the facts from a conservative blog, disbute the facts with your facts

The Big Dog's back

Everybody lies but you and right wingnuts.

The Big Dog's back

Oh and BTW goof, there are no facts in your story to dispute.

The Big Dog's back

Since when are Congressmen not required to disclose their sources? Espionage? Treason? Hope they investigate this wacko wolf and jail him.

grumpy

Since the first Congress was convened. The chairman of the committee is like a judge in court. He is the person in charge. I would suggest you do some studying on procedures in Congress. That will tell you what is allowed and what isn't.

The Big Dog's back

He's a sub committee chairman of an unrelated agency derp.

There you go again

EZOB,
That is the most laugh-out-loud comment that I have ever seen on SR blogs. Way to make fun of the truth!

Darwin's choice

That's incredibly funny!!

grandmasgirl

There are so many comments on here that I agree with, but if I commented on every one that I want to, I would sound like Big dog or some others. I wish we had a "like" button.

Cobbwebb12345

I think many of "you" people might want to be more careful about what you write and what you say. It would not be ONLY a million telephone conversations being searched for mere words, but also the animosity being thrown at our President.

Our watchdogs have an eye on you and they will not wait until December to learn "who is "naughty" or "nice."

Are some of you assassins, waiting for an opportunity? Do you have a seamstress in the family who can help you resurrect the clan?

S w Rand 2016

I'm sure we won't be taking any advice from someone who says things like "Do you have a seamstress to help you resurrect the clan?"

Don't listen to this fearmongering divider (I refer to Cobbwebb12345). Say what you want. Discuss.
No one cares about Obama. In 2016, he is out and Senator Rand Paul is in. Ch-ching! Jobs everywhere!
Discussion is healthy so that people do not lose focus on each others' viewpoints. It might be important someday, in retrospect.

The Big Dog's back

rand doesn't have a snowball's chance in he!!.

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