The Bridge: The Obama Conundrum


By Darryl James

I said it during the presidential campaign and I said it when Barack Obama was elected.

His election will be used to polarize a nation, rather than unite it.

Although more of us are smarter and beyond racism than we used to be, there are still corners of racism that will hold on with tooth and nail to a world they are comfortable with.

That world is a world where Blacks and whites are bifurcated in language, culture and living quarters.

And the conundrum Obama represents is both good and bad.

It’s good because Obama’s existence is forcing racism to be played out in the most public manner possible on the world stage, which means that more people with open minds and hearts can see how ignorant and ugly racism is and so move away from pretending that it does not exist.

It’s bad because all of the venom held by the confused angry racists is beginning to boil to the surface once again.

Those of us who paid attention and who have working brains understood the schism between the young progressive whites who supported change and the backwoods redneck dirt farmers who refuse to move beyond outdated ideas of Black people.

And the dirty, dirty media plays a great role in fanning the flames by overemphasizing and beating discussions to death.

But what all of those things create is an atmosphere where the entire world can see that America is still very much focused on race and racism. No matter who denies it or pretends that it isn’t a major issue, America is not “Post-Racial.”

This nation has made a major symbolic move, but it is still sullied by the angry jackasses who are driven by their hatred.

Most of the anger stems from the same place that always provides anger—the pain of lower and middle class white America.

The recession hit the nation hard, but was taken more to heart by whites than any other group. This group traditionally holds the belief that they are more American than anyone else, and accordingly, should benefit more and suffer less.

Unfortunately for them, the current tide of change did not discriminate and ravaged communities all across racial lines. That ravaging has left many whites angry, feeling desperate and looking for someone to blame.

Ushered into the White House on a tide of desired change that followed changes in society, particularly the nation’s demographics, President Obama is now the icon for change, and for many angry, frightened whites, the icon for all that is wrong with America.

His iconic existence facilitates the anger of those angry whites who ignored the eight years of wanton warfare and economic depravity waged by George W and facilitates singular focus on the rapid changes sought by the nation’s first Black president.

Hiding behind Obama’s pursuit of health-care reform, frothing racists claim that Obama will usher in socialism and dictatorship and so liken him to Adolph Hitler, of all people.

But anyone with a working brain can see the opposition is more directed at Obama the Black man, and not really at any policy.

A cursory examination of Obama’s health care policy pursuits reveal distortions and outright lies by opponents who clearly oppose the man and not the policies.

These same people show up to rally against health care plans as well as Obama’s bailout programs, which curiously extend on the bailouts Bush initiated.

After all, where were these people when Bush was grinding the nation and the world economy into the ground?

Curiously silent.

So, it confuses me when I hear anyone—Black, white or otherwise—refer to America as “Post-Racial.”

From what I can see, race and racism are in the forefront like never before.

And really, that’s part and parcel of the Obama Conundrum.

While the first African American President represents change, to some Americans, he also represents everything that is wrong and ugly about America.

He represents change because a great deal of people of all colors had to come together to get him elected. Frankly, many of us never thought we would see the day.

But he also represents everything wrong and ugly, for the throngs of stupid Americans who have begun to raise him as a scapegoat for all that has gone awry, using his image to fill the rosters of hate groups and to fuel hateful racist activities, while claiming that there is no more racism because of his election.

As for the Blacks who are raging against Obama, they are no different than the bonehead Negroes who opposed Dr. King and who supported Reagan and both Bushes. These self hating ignorant Negroes come out of the woodwork in order to disagree with things that frankly, don’t exist.

However, it should come as no surprise to anyone that whites at the lower end of the economic strata would start to show their racist stripes. These are the same people who have traditionally promulgated racial strife.

And, if we take a look at who voted for Obama (younger whites) and who now believe that they are under siege (older whites), we begin to understand why racial strife is re-emerging.

Our current economic climate has been harsh to older white men who have seen their unemployment rate hit nearly twice that of the national average, while Blacks and Hispanics have not even come close to setting records.

To the frightened, angry white man, people of color are to blame, particularly those Black people who “took their jobs.”

Of course no person of color has literally taken the jobs of older white men.  This is simply the code of the racists who want to lead the white brigades against the men of color who now have the potential to make them the real minority and, in their minds, take over the country with the election of a Black president.

And of course they are speaking and acting in code. The strongest taboo in America is to admit to racism. America has spent more than forty years denying that the vestiges of racism have a strong toehold on pockets of the nation.

But what else would explain the upsurge in hate groups and the sudden widespread interest by older whites in the minutia of national policy?

It’s like watching a sporting event where one team scores, yet the announcer says that the other team is playing hard and leading the game.

We saw this with the beating of Rodney King, where an entire nation and a jury refused to see the beating of a Black man by a group of white men.

It’s an ugly game of smoke and mirrors.

The nation is being polarized and the first Black president is being stuck right in the middle of controversy that he did not create and is not addressing.

The same groups of people who coalesced around Obama to put him in office will have to continue to stand together even as they are being pulled in many directions by fractured interest groups.

They must deal with some confounding puzzles.

In order for the nation to become truly “Post-Racial,” it must finally deal with its racist legacy.

That’s a major part of the Obama Conundrum.

Darryl James Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.” Now, listen to Darryl live on every Monday from 8-10pm, PST. View previous installments of this column at You can reach James at

2 Responses to “The Bridge: The Obama Conundrum”

  1. […] The Bridge: The Obama Conundrum « Black Men In America […]

  2. Richard Morton Says:

    As a Black Man in America, i can say: No Truer words have ever been spoken.

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