- Racial Equity
- Talk About Race
In the last few weeks much discussion regarding a unique matter involving race has surfaced within the African-American community. Such is the case, as President Barack Obama’s appearance on the daytime talk show, “The View”, in which he classified African Americans as a “mongrel people” has provoked feelings of displeasure among some members of the group.
Obama’s characterization of Americans of African descent as “mongrels”, germinated in response to a question spawning from the show’s executive producer and co-host Barbara Walters, in which the Head of State was asked to expound upon an issue regarding his ethnicity.
The President’s use of the term “mongrel” in describing African Americans, registers as a technically adequate expression, as it defines an individual in possession of genetic matter from more than one racial group. However, the word “mongrel” – historically used by white supremacists opposed to miscegenation – functions, more commonly, as an expression employed by dog handlers in classifying a specific species of canine. Consequently, such peculiar phrasing on the part of the President has resonated among many within some African-American quarters as a great affront.
That Obama, then, in the next sentence suggested white Americans are too of a “mongrel” class – thus broadening the application of the term – functions not to diminish this reality.
It is not within the history of white Americans they have been classified among the beasts that inhabit the Earth as have black Americans since the arrival of the first enslaved African on these shores. The White American has largely enjoyed a station of abundant privilege, in the face of an African-American people, that have struggled unceasingly to have their complete humanity recognized.
The fact that President Obama is of partial African ancestry does not function to psychologically prohibit such an inherently offensive statement from projecting from his person, as the source of his part African identity – Barack Obama Sr. a native of Kenya – held no significant position in his life as a parental figure and or caretaker.
Obama was raised by grandparents of another race in lands physically and culturally far removed from the overwhelming majority of black Americans. Resultantly, the infusion of ethnic sensibilities, relative to an African-American population which descends from a people historically dehumanized by an unrelenting oppressor never initially developed within the psyche of our nation’s 44th President.
Obama was not brought up by those who emerge from a people enslaved for centuries in which opposition to this abominable institution invited the unforgiving sting of the whip or terminal force of a noose.
Obama was not nurtured by those whose heritage encompassed the incessant lynching of its men for the slightest perceived offence leveled toward a white woman.
Obama was not reared by those whose lineage consist of a people existing in an era in which, for any of its members, to stand in the name of the slightest semblance of justice, induced the presence of hooded riders in the night – a collection of profoundly racist American citizens committed to the practice of terrorizing and ultimately slaying any black individual who would be so bold as to challenge white authority.
Obama was not trained by those whose legacy recognizes a heritage in which its population was deemed so socially unacceptable; the larger society constructed a separate and grossly inferior society in which this people – by law – would be forced to function within – an act of social control designed to keep white citizens from having to engage the black masses in any manner that would constitute a state of equality.
Obama was not instructed by those whose history bespeaks the inability of its members to assemble in mass, vote or seek redress within an impartial justice system – an American court system, historically designed to uphold the tenets of white supremacy in leveraging its power against those persons of a darker complexion.
Obama was not directed by those whose descendants were denied basic human rights in which their ability to secure adequate housing, food supplies, medical attention or an education was often rendered nonexistent, as it lay in the hands of a thoroughly tyrannical ruling class – a governing body, largely supported by citizens acutely indoctrinated with a religious theology which proclaimed the existence of such an apartheid state, a manifestation of divine providence.
Lastly, Obama was not guided by those whose history bears the mark of having been perpetually excluded from the ranks of those for whom a society regards as fully human and thus by implication was – and is often still – reduced to the grade of that of an animal in the minds of many of its members.
While Obama’s early development – in some manner – was influenced by forces varying significantly from those of most black Americans; reason would suggest the leader’s scholarship affords him the intellectual awareness to understand the subtle comparing of an African-American people to that of a canine sub-species represents an insult to the group.
Obama’s keenly perceptive speech, given during the Democratic primaries, regarding the politics of race and its damaging effects on the welfare of the American public – to include black citizens – bears witness to this proposition.
In light of this reality, it may be suggested, that perhaps Obama’s phrasing in response to Walter’s potentially divisive question represents a tactic. A strategic approach, in which the “taboo” subject of miscegenation, is in jest, dismissed through the indirect framing of the issue within the context of interspecies dog breeding. A calculated maneuver designed to avoid inspiring vexation among segments of an American public, often proven, psychologically incapable of rationally engaging the matter.
Such an interpretation of the President’s behavior is supported in the fact Obama has on more than one occasion, regarded himself as a “mutt” when addressing the issue of his racial identity. A conceivably humorous expression designed to “play down” this perennially contentious issue.
In employing such an approach on “The View” however, Obama for the first time included an entire black American people, many of whom were bound to find some level of irreverence in the subtle analogy. However, a population composed primarily of ardent supporters, subsequently more likely to excuse such an extraordinarily distasteful use of language.
While Obama in some measure surrendered the dignity of an African-America people in making his insensitive remark, such phrasing exacts a far less personal toll on the leader himself.
As a function of Obama’s cultural upbringing and socialization within societies essentially void of an African-American presence and attending experience, those profoundly unique sensitivities this group possesses find virtually no residence within the psychological schema of this nation’s President.
In addressing the issue of race, Obama has seemingly chosen to take the path of least resistance. The President has elected to engage in a veiled form of gamesmanship in attempt to contend with an American public still unable to emotionally grapple with this often explosively polarizing topic. Obama’s political maneuvers have unfortunately now come at the expense of the African-American community.
A black people in jeopardy of losing their identity with every move.