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July 24, 2014

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Obama's "Angry Black Man" Criticism: Isn't He Also Half White?

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In light of all of the interesting analysis that others have done regarding why President Barack Obama can only get so angry about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I was wondering if any of this analysis makes sense. In fact, most of the controversy began when Dee Dee Myers, former Press Secretary under President Clinton, stated that Barack Obama needs to control his anger when responding to the crisis because he doesn't want to appear to be an angry black man. Obama made his threats apparent when he said that he was going to find out "whose ass to kick," which likely led to cheers from those who've been waiting for him to get tough with BP.

As I watched people analyze Obama's reaction, Obama's response, and the public's analysis of Obama's response, I thought about one thing: Did we forget that our president is also half-white?

I admit that I admire President Obama for quite a few reasons, one of which is that he seems to have gladly accepted the chore of being a black man in America. He marks "African American" on his census form, he attended a black church led by a pastor (Jeremiah Wright, who I respect tremendously) who almost cost him the election, and he married a black woman (Michelle Obama) who represents the essence of what black women are supposed to be.

Critics like myself have ridden Obama mercilessly about his obligations as the first black president, and he has responded to the challenges in the best way he could, by ignoring us periodically and sometimes giving us the nod and wink to say that he might help us out a little bit later. My love for Obama is laced with extreme skepticism, but only because I am skeptical of all politicians. But what many of us seem to forget is that Barack Obama has certainly taken the road less easily traveled by simply referring to himself as a black man, and not a "Caublinasian," half-white man, or anything else.

Therefore, when we talk about President Barack Obama being an angry black man, the truth is that by getting angry, he would also be an angry white man. In fact, I wonder why he can't simply be an angry American and leave it at that. All the while, we must ask ourselves whether it was Barack Obama who put himself in a box, or us as Americans who've boxed him in with our limited thinking. We look at him, and we don't see anything half white about him. We see a black man, with black skin and a beautiful black family. White America, which has spent 400 years being subconsciously trained to believe that black people are inferior, have loved Obama in spite of his blackness, rather than because of it. Some white Americans have allowed the black half of Obama to guide them toward a level of hatred not seen in our country for forty years.

The point of all this is to say that Barack Obama's anger, whether he appears to be an angry black man or not, is not as simply analyzed as we might think. With Obama's election, we got our first black president, but we also got our 44th white one. What's most interesting is that America's racial legacy is so tinged and complicated that we hardly even noticed the difference.



Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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