Tag Archives: Gov. David Paterson

Hating on Obama- Is it Racial?

One thing is for sure. You’ll never hear President Obama himself say so.

For him to do so would simply feed a frenzied media cycle that would last at least a week. “Obama Plays the Race Card,” the headlines would scream. Yet more and more black folks I talk to are starting to believe a good deal of the opposition to this President is based on the inability of some Americans to get used to a black man in the White House.

People will point to everything from Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You Lie” during Obama’s speech to the joint session of Congress, to likening him to Hitler, to that oft repeated phrase “I want my country back”.

Rep. Joe Wilson
Rep. Joe Wilson

And they have a point. Of course, no one who makes these statements would admit to hating black people. They say they’re judging Obama on his merits (or lack of same).

Still, their language, and the slavish devotion to the agendas of the Glenn Becks of the world give some people pause.

glenn-beck

What’s troubling is more black folks want Obama to call out his opponents for their perceived racism. In fact, some are taking him to task for not doing so. And these are not “militant nationalists”, who often get dismissed even inside the black community. No, these are the people in the barber shops, the hair salons, and yes, some folks in the political establishment as well.

However, consider the impact if the President did speak out and call out some of his opposition on racism.

Here in New York, Gov. David Paterson, in a radio interview, hinted that some of the media coverage of his tenure was tinged with racism. The media had a field day. There were more stories using the media’s favorite crutch words, the “race card” than had been written in a year.

All this speaks to the central role race still plays in American political discourse. The election of Barack Obama, post racial though it may have seemed, didn’t change that. President Obama knows this. That’s why his references to race are usually talking to black people about responsibility rather than the nation as a whole about dealing with race prejudice.

Those who want him to strike out at the Joe Wilsons, the Glenn Becks, the Jim DeMints of the world are bound to be disappointed.

jim_demint
Jim DeMint

Justified or not, it’s not going to happen. That leaves a stark choice for black America. Should we do that heavy lifting for the President? Or should we — of all races — simply keep discussing it among ourselves?

You tell me.

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Gay Marriage- A Civil Rights Issue?

As support for gay marriage seems to be gaining traction across the country, there’s a bone of contention that’s arisen with some people in the black community. That would be the comparisons made between the struggle for gay rights generally and the civil rights movement spearheaded by the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the vanguard of black opposition to both that framing and gay marriage is a large number of black clergymen.

One major flashpoint for this debate happens to be in New York State, where Gov. David Paterson, who is black, is championing a gay marriage bill making its way through the state legislature. Last month, he likened the fight for gay marriage to the fight to end slavery. Further, he took religious leaders to task for not speaking out on the issue.

In fact, many have. In California, for example, the fight to pass Proposition 8 restricting marriage to opposite sex couples was helped by support from both black clergy and black voters. Despite polling that says attitudes against gay marriage may be softening in the general population, black communities seem to be holding firm against it.

The gay rights-civil rights comparison is red meat to the black clergy, many of whom recognize the central role religious leadership played in the struggle for equal rights. They subscribe to the notion that being gay is a “lifestyle choice”, unlike being black. On the other side of the coin, black religious leaders have to contend with the fact that numbers of their congregants are themselves gay, though in many cases not out of the closet.

So how to cope with this disagreement among two groups who ought to be allies? It’s always tough to speculate on what those who have passed before us would do if confronted with this question, but it is fair to ask what would Dr. King do? Would he oppose gay rights after having fought so hard for black rights? One would like to think he wouldn’t. 

Have black clergy who oppose gay marriage and the gay rights-civil rights comparison become, in the words of one black clergyman “the very thing that oppressed them”? That may be a little harsh. These folks, and the people in the black community they represent, do have long held beliefs about homosexuality. 

Yet they still can’t answer the central question of the gay rights debate. How are they, or any other group for that matter hurt by allowing gays to live their lives as full citizens? 

What do you think? Is it wrong to compare the struggle for gay marriage to the civil rights movement?

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