Race relations are the worst they have ever been in America, a number of my white friends tell me. I have also heard radio and TV shows blame it all on the eight years of Obama's presidency. "He has been the most divisive President ever," they say. My opinion is the reverse. I am mystified. For me Barrack Obama has been as racially a unifying force than all previous Presidents. My friends, CEOs and leaders of major organizations, are sincere and well informed. Yet our vision of the same moment of history and conclusions are diametrically opposite?
The reason for the current opinion, I think, is that for eight years, Obama, a black man, has been a constant reminder to a swath of white America that blacks are always with us. Many whites have very little to do with blacks; they don't socialize; their neighborhoods and their kids' schools are segregated. To many, black Americans are a separate tribe whose lives are unimaginable and only seen on Crime reports and prison movies. The existence of the black race is something many would just as soon forget. And so a black man in the White House was a constant reminder of that which they would rather have forgotten.
For me seeing Obama in the White House filled my heart with pride. It was magnified by the fact that his time was scandal free. I wished he had paid more attention to Africa's many problems. But I understand that he couldn't give Birthers more ammunition by appearing to favor his father's birthplace.
What he did was rise to supreme eloquence at the wanton murder of children, the senseless gun violence, and other citizen on citizen atrocities. When nine black churchgoers were cut down by a hate filled misguided white youth Obama consoled the community in a manner that a President should. But few would have sung "Amazing Grace" with the congregation as Obama did.
The Smartphone revolution with its videotapes of police shootings of black men and women surfaced, recording what was common knowledge to black America. Some whites associated Obama to blacks' anger this and the Trayvon Martin killing by George Zimmerman triggered. I found it hurtful that the Tea party crowd would liken him to Hitler and Birthers (like our own Congressman Coffman) would question whether he was or was not an American.
To the chagrin of many blacks Obama acted and operated above race and color.
At times it was as if he was not a black man - but an American who grappled with matters that affect us all: a cratering economy, healthcare, gun violence, the environment, etc. At no time and nowhere did he ever add fuel to the cauldron of racial hatred. He was the tireless and constant appeaser.
Given his even keeled demeanor Obama never lashed out against an obstreperous and hateful white congress. Te-Nahese Coates (who wrote "My President was Black") explains this by saying that because Obama was raised by whites he never experienced the never ending racial torment that black Americans live. The simmering anger in the souls of America's black folks never touched him. He was equanimous before racist onslaught.
All of this is in the way of explaining that Obama was truly a post racial man. In his humanity and never ending optimism he labored for the American nation. I could see it. But for some white Americans he was a mirror that daily reflected their own racial animus. It disturbed the "good race relations" they always imagined when nothing was ever reflected in their non-existent mirror. To them the White House doesn't belong to a black man or a white woman.
Our government has now reverted to a white man with his white male cabinet. Race relations in America are however better today than they were when I landed on these shores. A simple proof is the march of millions of women of all races across every city in America to protest the current racist, misogynistic white president. That these whites and I discuss Obama's supposed stirring the pot of racial discord is another proof of racial dialogue. With time America might yet reach that "more perfect union."