There is a famous quote by Fannie Hurst (1889-1968), a successful American writer: "A woman has to be twice as good as a man to go half as far."
Canadian feminist and former mayor of Ottawa, Charlotte Whitton (1896-1975) took that thinking a bit further: "Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult."
After six years of the presidency of Barack Obama, the same can be said of African American males. I have lately been wondering if a white man were in office during these tumultuous times of global and humanitarian crises if he wouldn't be given more slack from the American people. I doubt that the majority of the public would not rally behind him as our Commander in Chief while he made difficult foreign policy decisions.
We have to remember we are only 50 years beyond the days of Jim Crow, the segregated south and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Many whites, particularly of the older generation, may have subconscious feelings of superiority to blacks. My father, who passed in 2012 at the age of 92, is an example of this. Although, he evolved and supported Obama in 2008 and beyond, I recall him telling me when I was a kid that there were studies that proved that whites were more intelligent than blacks. I never believed it and even at a young age I felt the deck was stacked against African Americans from having learning and economic opportunities.
But the fact that my dad, a self proclaimed liberal who received a Masters in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and who became a staunch supporter of civil rights in the 1960s, had that belief shows how pervasive that thinking was in the 1940s and 50s.
When President Obama was first elected there were great expectations placed upon him from both sides of the political spectrum. The right has held him to an impossibly high standard and they seem to blame him for anything wrong that happens, domestic and foreign from the humanitarian crisis on our border to the downing of a Malaysian domestic airliner over the Ukraine by Russian forces to the conflict in the Gaza Strip.
The leftists also had impossible expectations of him that no human being is capable of, black or white. It's true that Obama promised that he would "fundamentally transform the nation" (a phrase that had conservatives shaking in their boots), but he is not Superman and there were too many changes that needed to be made and there are limitations to the office of the Presidency.
President Obama has promoted progress in the recovery from the Great Recession of 2008 by helping to create private jobs while lowering the unemployment rate, got us out of Iraq (although that nation is now in peril), is getting us out of Afghanistan, killed or captured Osama bin Laden and many other high level al-Qaeda leaders, passed health care reform, passed Wall Street and credit card reform, saved GM, ended DADT, supported and promoted gay marriage, passed the Lily Ledbetter act and a hate crimes bill, boosted domestic oil production to make us less dependent on foreign countries, and recently passed a VA bill to help Veterans with their hospitalization. I could go on and on. Here is a list of 50 of his: accomplishments.
All of this was done while cutting the deficit in half and spending less than any president in modern history. Which makes me scratch my head when his opponents accuse him of being a "big government spender." It was also accomplished with the least productive congress in history for the last four years after the GOP took control of the House of Representatives.
So while there are the usual second term scandals (some phony, some not), the botched roll out of the ACA, and the unfulfilled promises of closing Guantanamo Bay, not passing Immigration reform, and not passing background checks on guns, I think history will judge him well.
I used to think that Democrats were often too quick to use the race card in accusing the right wing of criticizing Obama. Now I think it may be too often be true.
Many were hoping he would unite the country that has been divided into red states and blue states. However, even though that was his desire, because President Obama is the first African American to hold the office, he has become somewhat of a lightning rod highlighting the issue of race relations in our country.
For example, there was a great uproar in 2009 when the president defended Professor Henry Louis Gates of Harvard after he was arrested by Cambridge police officer Sergeant James Crowley for trying to get into his own home when he had lost his key. I was heartened at the time to have our leader speak his feelings of understanding the too often familiar ordeal of his academic friend. I was emotionally moved when he had his beer summit with Professor Gates and Officer Crowley and Vice President Biden. I felt at the time it was a step in healing racial misunderstandings.
Many also felt Obama was out of line for weighing into the slaying of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida saying, "If I had a son he would look like Trayvon." I found it brutally honest.
Yet, many will say calls of racism are unfounded because there are conservative black commentators on Fox News and politicians like former Representative Allen West (R-FL) and Herman Cain, GOP presidential candidate in 2012, and Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican party in 2010 who often unfavorably critique the president.
I think every one of those prominent black Republicans can thank President Obama because I believe his election has forced the GOP to publicly showcase their conservatives of color to counter-balance the cries of racism against their party. Of course, the Reverend Al Sharpton has also experienced more exposure, having his own show on MSNBC.
As for the president, I see him as the Jackie Robinson of politics. He has had just as much hatred and personal attacks hurled at him as Robinson and he has taken it all in stride without allowing it to keep him from doing his job.
I know of no other president who has been called a liar during his State of the Union address, been compared to Hitler and the Joker, been hanged in effigy, lampooned as a rodeo clown, been demeaned in a float with an outhouse saying "Obama's library", had the greatest number of threats to his life than any modern leader, threatened with an unprecedented lawsuit from the speaker of the House and impeachment from some Republicans while he has broken no laws, and accused of using too many executive orders while the truth is he has the second fewest number of any president in the last four decades.
I also find it particularly disturbing when his wife is targeted by right wing pundits and social media. First Lady Michelle Obama has also been exemplary in her dealing with this unfair criticism. I, for the life of me, don't understand how supporting military families and fighting childhood obesity are controversial issues.
An under-reported fact is that hate and anti-government groups have grown 813 percent since 2008, signaling a huge backlash to the election of our first African American president.
These are perilous times here at home and in the world and I for one am glad Barack Obama is our president. I believe his calm and well researched approach to crises has been misunderstood by his opponents. He attempts to solve problems by going to the root of them such as addressing the drug cartels in Honduras and Guatemala by meeting with the leaders of these countries. He works to solve conflicts diplomatically first with sanctions, not rushing into battle.
History will have the final say on President Obama's legacy. But keep in mind whatever he, a black man, does he must do it twice as well as a white man to be judged as half as good. Luckily for him and us, this is not difficult.