President Obama, Viewed Through a Racial Lens

Critics, from Cornel West to Newt Gingrich, fail to see his situation clearly.

Posted:
 
gingrichobamawestsplit400
Newt Gingrich; Barack Obama; Cornel West (Getty/Getty/FilmMagic)

What is it about Barack Obama's race that makes some people act crazy, if not downright vicious? The latest sign of unchecked insanity turned up in the recent anti-Obama diatribe of Princeton professor Cornel West. The president of the United States, said West, is "a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats." Now, isn't that a tad bit nasty and delusional?

But such rantings are not limited to West. Nor do they start with him.

Diane Fedele, a California local Republican leader, displayed her own meanness in 2008 when she included in her party's newsletter a picture that showed the face of Obama surrounded by watermelon, ribs and a bucket of fried chicken. The photo, which was shaped as a currency note, had the inscription "Obama Bucks" under his picture.

Associating black people with poverty programs is a shopworn tactic of bigots. The same year Fedele produced her pictorial, a joke circulated on the Internet that listed American presidents and the currency denominations that bore their faces. It read: "Washington, $1 dollar bill," "Jefferson, $2 dollar bill," "Lincoln, $5 dollar bill," "Hamilton, $10 dollar bill," "Jackson, $20 dollar bill." Then it said, "Obama, Food Stamps."

So it should have come as no surprise when Newt Gingrich, well known for his slurs, took to the podium before a Republican crowd in Georgia last week and described President Obama as "the food stamp president." Gingrich was trumpeting an old, bigoted line.

Fedele said she produced her newsletter photo because she was offended that Obama had at one point during the campaign called attention to his race. He was coming across as black. Duh!

West, on the other hand, finds Obama's blackness wanting. He charged that Obama is "most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart ... and very effective in getting what they want." Not stopping there, West looked inside the president's head and declared that Obama "has a certain fear of free black men." Continuing his analysis, West opined that Obama grew up in "a white context" and "he's always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white."

Au contraire, say those on the other side. They look at that caramel-colored president and see the incarnation of all that they fear and loathe.

Hear Rush Limbaugh on Obama's race:

-- "If Obama weren't black, he'd be a tour guide in Honolulu."

-- Obama wouldn't have given the order to take out the Somali pirates if he had known they were "actually young black Muslim teenagers."

-- "Obama has disowned his white half ... he's decided to go all in on the black side."

-- In "Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering."

-- Obama is "more African in his roots than he is American" and is "behaving like an African colonial despot."

-- "Obama's entire economic program is reparations."

Thus the debate among those who view everything through a racial prism: "Obama's too black!" "He's not black enough!"

It's absurd. In truth, it reveals more about those who indulge in this pastime than about the president of the United States, who seems absolutely comfortable in his own skin.

Read the rest of this column at the Washington Post.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Comments
The Root encourages respectful debate and dialogue in our commenting community. To improve the commenting experience for all our readers we will be experimenting with some new formats over the next few weeks. During this transition period the comments section will be unavailable to users.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your continued support of The Root.

While we are experimenting, please feel free to leave feedback below about your past experiences commenting at The Root.