When the Words Will Not Stay Inside

I wasn’t going to write a blog today. After all, it’s Saturday and the Open Championship is on TV. But there are words inside that will not be denied.

I suspect that’s the way it was with President Obama yesterday. A lifetime of suppressed feelings, masked – as he says in one of his books – by smiling and making no sudden moves, simply burst out of him. Unannounced. On TV.

How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man?

Does he have to become the president of the most powerful country in the world?

And, even then, must there be those who snicker and sneer, call him liar to his face, question his birthplace, circulate tasteless and even obscene caricatures of him – and his family – among their friends?

How ugly is that?

For all its virtues, there is a lot of ugliness in America. And that ugliness is often so deeply ingrained that it is not even recognized by those in whom it resides. Yes, I am playing the race card. So lynch me.

It is time to play the race card, dammit!

When six Florida jurors can so blindly and blandly dismiss the death of an unarmed black teenager at the hands of a grown-up shooter, who happens not to be black, it is time to call it what it is – consciously or subconsciously – racism.

When Florida’s laws are so racially skewed that at least one juror felt she had no alternative but to acquit the shooter, it is time to cry shame.

It is time for the leader of the free world to tell it like it is. And he did, mildly and without visible signs of outrage or anger, but without mincing words. This, for example:

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.  There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

You know it was politically dangerous talk.  He is being widely criticized for it. The right-wing propagandists are working it to the max. They even charge the president with inciting race riots.

But you know he was doing no such thing. You know that was the last thing on his mind. Or in his heart.

And the way I see it, it is high time for America to hear what is in Barack Obama’s heart.

Illustration from Mario Piperni dot Com.

Click here for the president’s speech.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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