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Randall: “I am just saying, I forgot Obama was Black too.”

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25 Responses

  1. Anon says:

    Do we similarly forget that Obama is white sometimes? Obama is half black, half white. One could suggest that that makes him no more black than white. Largely by centuries of racist convention, we have referred to somebody who is half black and half white as black. This is evidenced by the controversy over SNL’s decision to use a white actor to portray Obama in its skits. Yet if a black actor had been used, would he same controversy have erupted that a white actor was not being used, as Obama is, of course, “white.”

    Is a move toward a color blind society, where people are not judged by their skin color, at least reasonably consistent with Obama’s approach?

  2. Anon says:

    I would add to the questions above: can one reasonably assert that a politician is not “liberal” because he has not explicitly taken on one (of the many) issues important to liberals? Health care reform would have benefitted (and perhaps still will benefit) millions of poor people, including millions of African-Americans; it is Obama’s #1 priority; and despite all of his focus on it, he can’t get it passed. How is talking about the polarizing issue of race going to help solve these kinds of problems faced by poor Americans, African-American or otherwise? Is the need for affordable health care not “an immediate interest” of the black community?

  3. Racial justice is about eliminating or reducing the racial disparities. Merely because blacks will benefit from a policy does not make it a racial justice issue– the policy has to actually work to reduce disparities. Affordable health care insurance is of little help if doctors, nurses, effective transportation, etc are not available.

    Racial justice, today, has more to do with the policies, pracitices that discrimination or maintain disparities than “judging someone by their skin color”. If colorblindness only meant not judging someone by their skin color – I would be for it. But what most people mean and what I think Obama means, is not judging the impact that policies and practices have based on color.

    So what is needed is a racial impact assessment on any proposed policy, practice or program and then a redesign if they show a racial disparity. That wasn’t in the economic stimulus bill. . . it remains to be seen if it will be in the health care.

    I don’t refer to Obama as Black because he had a black parent, I refer to him as black because that is how he self-identifies.

  4. Ken Rhodes says:

    >>In a recent e-mail conversation, law professor Vernellia Randall raised some interesting points about President Obama’s lack of focus on racial justice issues. …etc.>>

    I think the points are interesting, but most definitely, absolutely, without a doubt, interesting in the reverse direction than Professor Randall intended.

    I believe Professor Randall, being an attorney grounded in the advocacy system of legal justice in our country, has (probably without realizing it) taken an “advocacy” view of the President’s responsibilities. I don’t agree with that.

    I voted for Barak Obama for President. That’s President of the United States, not President of the NAACP. Also, I did not vote for him for head of the EEOC. I did not vote for him for head of the Civil Rights Commission, nor for head of the Civil Rights Enforcement Division of the Department of Justice.

    I sincerely hope that my President will support all those noteworthy individuals, and many others, in the pursuit of their job responsibilities, which should help achieve the objectives Professor Randall desires.

    But that sumbich is my President as much as he is hers, and I worked just as hard for his election as she did, and his job is to do the best he can, in equal measure, for ALL of us Americans.

  5. Ken, once again falls into the trap of saying “all americans”. Question How can President Obama be president for ALL AMERICANS without addressing issues of racial justice. If he doesn’t address issues of racial justice doesn’t that make him president of just – some americans.

    Whether you voted for to head the civil rights commission or not – IN FACT, as executive of the United States the Civil Rights COmmission is under his leadership. Civil Rights is much a responsibility of any president as national security, economics, health care, education, etc. A

  6. Jackson Pollack says:

    I guess the argument here is “There are racial disparities that public policy can solve and should concern us all. The President has not done enough to address them, to the benefit of us all.”

    On my read, Ken agrees with that. His point is “I didn’t vote for Al Sharpton, so I don’t want to hear a race-baiting lecture.”

    Why can’t we have a President who promotes public policy that deals with racial disparities without him badgering the public about it constantly?

  7. Some Americans need to know that Obama is addressing racial justice issues, just like some americans want to know what he is doing about small towns, etc. It is interesting that Obama has said very little about his racial justice policies– so I find it strange that anyone would think that he is badgering the public constantly. Or is the problem any discussion too much?

  8. The thing is, racial justice issues are not just Black issues. The entire community suffers. And so addressing issues of racial equality is not just a Black thing to do. It’s a good thing to do, no matter what a politician’s race may be.

  9. A.J. Sutter says:

    “It’s a good thing to do, no matter what a politician’s race may be”: which is a good reason to wonder why it should make a difference whether Obama is black or not. If it’s the responsibility of any President, as Vernellia reasonably points out in her 1:16 pm comment, then her argument based on his “forgetting he’s black” is less cogent than her argument based on his being the President of all Americans.

    BTW, please educate this expat what is the current nuance of difference between ‘Black’ and ‘black’ (see last sentence of Vernellia at 12:35).

  10. Ken Rhodes says:

    Professor Randall replies: >>Ken, once again falls into the trap of saying “all americans”. Question How can President Obama be president for ALL AMERICANS without addressing issues of racial justice. If he doesn’t address issues of racial justice doesn’t that make him president of just – some americans.>>

    Trap? Hardly. The key phrase, which Professor Randall overlooked while quoting me, was “in equal measure.”

    In her original post, Professor Randall wrote: >>Whenever he is asked about addressing the needs of the black community, his response is that “he has to help all Americans.” Aren’t black Americans a part of the “all Americans”? Is he saying that helping black Americans is in direct opposition to helping other Americans? Is “helping all Americans” just another code for “help white middle class Americans”. Can’t he do both?>>

    Can’t he do both? Of course he can. But does that require that he *single out* “the black community” in either his rhetoric, his policies, or his actions? I think not, which was the point of my key phrase “in equal measure.” I turn the question around, and ask “Is she saying that helping all Americans is in direct opposition to helping black Americans?”

    >>…too many black people and organizations are going to be too busy protecting the legacy of the “first black president” instead of protecting the immediate interest and needs of the black community and other communities of color. … I’m just saying. . . it is time for us to get our voice back; it is time for us to start fighting back!>>

    I believe Professor Randall is absolutely right that it’s time for disadvantaged minorities to (re)gain their voice(s) and advocate their cause(s). I simply believe that advocacy for a specific group of which he is a member is not the proper role for the President.

    And finally, Professor Randall wrote one thing which I find offensive: >>This is white liberal dream — to have a black person in authority who doesn’t address the obvious in racial justice issues — being freed of white liberal guilt.>>

    When I was in an Alabama jail in 1964, arrested for the “crime” of “agitating the darkies” (i.e., helping blacks to register to vote), I wasn’t there because of “white liberal guilt;” I was there because I thought I was doing the right thing. And I suggest to Professor Randall that it makes it harder to achieve your objectives when you insult your allies.

  11. Ken, it requires that he does something. and whether he talks about the black community, or communities of color or minority communities – Addressing racial justice requires that he talks about and does something.

    I am asking for president obama to advocate for racial justice policies and practices in the same way that he advocates for other issues. It is one of the primary role of the president to be an advocate — why not on racial justice.

    I will modify my statement – slightly – it is a “colorblind white liberal dream”. If you are not one of those liberals who acknowledges race problems but (a) don’t think they are that significant and/or (b) who believes that we can address racial problems with out specifically addressing racial disparities – than you are right – my statement was overly broad. On the other hand, I do not consider colorblind liberal to be allies. I consider them to be part of the problem no matter what their historical civil rights credentials might be.

  12. One other question, when white presidents advocate for religious groups (christian), racial groups (white), geographic groups that they are a part of you believe that is equally in appropriate? So a president from the appalachian region could not point the desparate unemployment in that region because he came from there? Do you really mean to say that white presidents have no business advocating for policies that primarily going to benefit white people? Are you saying that It is okay, for President Obama to advocate for the repeal for “Don’t Ask don’t tell” because he is not gay. However, if he was gay it would be inappropriate for him advocate for its repeal because it would benefit a group he is a member of?

  13. Jackson Pollack says:

    As Ken noted, “[I]t makes it harder to achieve your objectives when you insult your allies.”

    I think the issue here is one of tone and rhetorical focus. The President has a bully pulpit and can dominate the news cycle if he so chooses. Maybe some people don’t want issues of racial justice on the telly every single day.

    But they still might support policies that address racial disparities to benefit of us all.

    “I didn’t vote for Al Sharpton” is not really a facetious statement.

  14. Jackson, I don’t consider colorblind liberals – to be allies. I consider them to be a significant part of the problem. With allies like them who needs enemies. COlorblind liberals purport to want racial justice but they want it with little or no disturbance. I am reminded of

    No Struggle, No Progress
    Frederick Douglass, 1857

    The whole history of progress of human liberty
    Shows that all concessions
    Yet made to her august claims
    Have been born of earnest struggle.
    If there is no struggle
    There is no progress.

    Those who profess to favor freedom,
    And yet deprecate agitation,
    Are men [and women] who want crops
    Without plowing up the ground,
    They want rain
    Without thunder and lightning.
    They want the ocean
    Without the awful roar of its waters.
    This struggle may be a moral one;
    Or it may be a physical one;
    Or it may be both moral and physical;
    But it must be a struggle.
    Power concedes nothing without a demand.
    It never did, and it never will.
    Find out just what any people
    Will quietly submit to
    And you have found the exact measure
    Of injustice and wrong
    Which will be imposed upon them,
    And these will continue till they are resisted. . .
    The limits. . . are prescribed
    By the endurance
    Of those whom. . [are] oppress[ed].

    Men [and Women] may not get all they pay for
    in this world, but they pay for all they get.
    If we ever get free
    from the oppressions and wrong heaped on us,
    we must pay for their removal.
    We must do this
    by labor,
    by suffering,
    by sacrifice,
    and if needs be
    by our lives and the lives of others

  15. bho says:

    wow, what happened to the writing quality on this site?

    Second, how about some racial justice in the NBA? I don’t see the black community complaining about the obviously unequal representation in the NBA.

    And if you think this is irrelevant, you sorely misunderstand the root cause why blacks are struggling. Instead of focusing on school and long term prospects, many young black men hope to hit it big with football and basketball, without the necessary work on life skills.

    Maybe Obama should talk about that, much as Cosby has.

  16. I would be happy to trade any percieved racial equality in the NBA, for racial quality in health, education, income and wealth, environmental, transportation, housing, etc. When a black person with equivalent education as whites, they are less likely to be hired. That is institutional racism not personal failure. When blacks with equivalent education/experience as white earn 70% on the dollar, that is institutional racism not personal failure. When blacks with similar financial history as white’s are more likely to be denied a mortgage or to be put in risky mortgages, that institutional racism. When middle class blacks who similar ability to pay get different health care treatment, that is institutional racism. When blacks who commit similar crimes as whites, get longer sentence and more likely to get jail terms, that’s instiutional racism.

    I would be happy to trade any “advantage” in the NBA for eliminate of white advantage in these other areas – are you willing to trade.

  17. “I would be happy to trade any “advantage” in the NBA for eliminate of white advantage in these other areas – are you willing to trade.”

    This is the essence of modern-day liberalism: the good Professor is willing to make a trade, the costs of which would be borne by others (namely, the meritocracy-placed blacks in the NBA so dispossessed).

  18. Ken Rhodes says:

    MarylandConservatarian wrote: >>This is the essence of modern-day liberalism: the good Professor is willing to make a trade, the costs of which would be borne by others (namely, the meritocracy-placed blacks in the NBA so dispossessed).>>

    Maryland, in your single sentence you have shown misunderstanding of TWO important concepts:

    (1) “Modern-day liberalism,” Whatever the heck you meam by that, is certainly NOT what you said. Real liberals (such as myself) are more than willing to bear a fair share (or more) of the cost of any reforms we propose.

    (2) You have mis-cast Professor Randall’s remark in a most insidious way, claiming she proposes to forfeit a “meritocratic advantage.” Her entire point is exactly the opposite–that blacks excel in the NBA, not because they’re black, but because they are better basketball players. All she advocated, in her remark that you quoted, is that blacks in accounting, marketing, etc., should get paid equally to their white counterparts, not better. And that blacks applying for a mortgage should get equal treatment, and that blacks trying to get health care should get equal treatment. That, too, is what we liberals push for, irrespective of whether we are “colorblind” or whether we have a specific black advocacy agenda.

    And BTW, Professor Randall, I disagree with your characterization of “colorblind liberals” as “part of the problem.” It presumes that there is something called “THE problem.” In my life experience there are a LOT of problems. The fact that a person works on some of the problems does not prove that person blind to other problems, nor does it make that person part of any of them.

  19. Ken Rhodes says:

    Professor Randall wrote: >>Are you saying that It is okay, for President Obama to advocate for the repeal for “Don’t Ask don’t tell” because he is not gay. However, if he was gay it would be inappropriate for him advocate for its repeal because it would benefit a group he is a member of?>>

    Yes. If we elect a gay President, in attempting to “level the field” for gays he will have to take his actions behind the scenes, not by public advocacy.

    To become a public advocate for his own group would inevitably weaken the cause of equitable treatment for his group by creating a highly public lightning rod for his opponents. Far better he should promote his objectives by appointment of Chiefs of Staff for the military services who believe in that equality, and who will enforce it. Why is it better? Because it has a better chance of success. And that, not making friends and scoring points, should be his goal.

  20. Well, Ken I am at least as old as you (you date yourself from 1964 civil rights and so am I) As to THE PROBLEM OF GAINING RACIAL EQUALITY – which remember that is what I am talking about – the colorblind liberal is part of the problem of eliminating racial disparities and gap.

    The better success standard is not what I am talking about – prehaps a person would have better success advocating for his own group behind the scence – But your first statement was not to the success of the behavior – but to the appropriateness of it. YOUR QUOTE” “). I simply believe that advocacy for a specific group of which he is a member is not the proper role for the President.”

    I assume that when the next white male president is elected than he or she will be able to advocate for policies that benefit minorities and women but will not be able to advocate for policies that benefit white male?

  21. A colorblind liberal is a person who

    (a) profess to be a liberal
    (b) acknowleges the existance of racial disparities
    (c) believes that a focus on race is too disruptive
    (d) prefers policies and solutions that appear to race neutral or colorblind.

    The problem is
    (a) colorblind policies and solutions do not remove racial disparities and gaps
    (b) the colorblind liberal becomes an obstructist to implementing effective policies for eliminating racial disparities
    (c) they think because they are liberal that there behavior is not as counterproductive as conservative colorblind advocates.

  22. Ken Rhodes says:

    >>I assume that when the next white male president is elected than he or she will be able to advocate for policies that benefit minorities and women but will not be able to advocate for policies that benefit white male?>>

    I guess we are down to picking on words, now, since it is clear we are on the same side of the important issues at stake. But yes, that’s quite correct, a white male president would be quite foolish, as would ANY president, to advocate policies that favored white males more than some other group. And since we have both stipulated that ANY president is safe advocating policies that benefit all groups, but favor none, then the rest is angels on the head of a pin.

  23. Ken Arromdee says:

    During the campaign, people insisted on portraying Obama as a progressive, liberal even a radical.

    I didn’t see the liberal, progressive side then — and I am still waiting to see the liberal progressive side of Obama.

    I would consider another possibility: that he can be more liberal than the average and still less liberal than you personally.

  24. Ken – I am not sure we do agree. I believe that a president must advocate for all americans but not necessarily in equal measure — If the people in Applachian area is being hit hardest than the president should advocate for extra help for them. It shouldn’t matter whether he is from that region or not.

    It is a false since of equality to treat all people the same when in fact real differences exist in terms of condition and opportunity.

    Also, If a group is disadvantaged how do you remove the disadvantage without “favoring” them. If you mean by favoring giving attention where attention is not needed than I agree – but if you mean not giving attention even when attention is needed so that there is no appearance than I disagree.

    Furthermore, this standard of “All americans” really does mask out the needs of the minority. Here is an example: WHen we were building our new law school some of the women wanted a “lounge” area in or near the bathroom – so they could have a place to lie down when they were having their period. The men on the committee (it was all men) said that since they had treat men and women the same AND since men didn’t need the lounge, the lounge was not provided for the women.

    In this sense both men and women were treated the same with equal measure – but that measure didn’t have the same results.

    Treating everyone the samne in equal measure will mean that some people will get too much and some will get too little. If the goal is to eliminate racial disparities than you have to treat people in a way that will advance that goal — that means not neutral – not colorblind.

  25. Ken A, I am definitely more liberal than most liberals – I I generally think that most liberal are too far to the right.

    That said, based on objective and not comparison measures, Obama’s policies in almost every area are more centrist and moderate than liberal. Some he got tagged as the most liberal member of the senate one year but the context is this: (a) he missed a number of votes which would have challenged this position (b) he was only one vote different than then senator clinton – Who is also more centrist than liberal.

    He is only liberal as compare to George Bush.

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