Governing While Black

I need to write about my perception of how black leadership is received and followed, or should I say, more accurately, not received and not followed. The United States of America is a racist country, in my opinion. Even with the election and re-election of Barack Hussein Obama, neither Washington nor Wall Street, which is still controlled by white men, will cooperate or capitulate in any way, shape or form to black leadership, including Barack Obama.

I have heard many pundits talk about what Obama needs to do in order to get the Republicans to work with him or at least get them to demonstrate some level of rational discourse. All of their suggestions are borne out of white cultural norms. What some people don’t understand about Barack Obama is that although he can be a galvanizing force that brings many different kinds of people together (look at the demographics of his re-election), he leans culturally black, and this influences his governing style.

Each time I hear the word “failure” associated with Barack Obama, I cringe. Then there is the other negativism such as, “leading from behind”. That one has become one of my most hated of slanderous insults hurled at the President. The campaign yielded several gems like, “Food Stamp President”, “incompetent”, “uppity”, “lazy”…the list goes on, but I won’t bore you.

I recall back in the 1990’s, for a brief period, there was more of an emphasis on cultural education. This has gone by the wayside in the 21st century. In fact, there seemed to be notable racial disconnects post Rodney King and O.J. Simpson.  Maybe I’m the only one that sensed it, but I think that things changed racially for the worst in the United States, yet again, after those events.

I came of age during the seventies. It was the time of “All in the Family” and “The Jefferson’s” on television where the words “bigot” and “honky” were commonly used without offense. Even the famous comedian Richard Pryor had a short-lived television show during the seventies where he pushed the racial envelope on a weekly basis. The society was a little more open during this brief period regarding matters of race. Today, as a black person I can’t even use the word, “nigger”. There it is. I wrote it.

What I’m saying is that race is still a taboo subject for many. Which means, we are not talking about what I need to talk about at this point, the country’s inability to work with or follow black leaders in business, education or politics, just to name a few. We are still too few and far between. My own experiences in corporate America have solidified in my mind the reluctance, unwillingness or inability of some people to follow black leadership. I can relate all too well to Mr. Obama’s struggle with Congress, in particular with Republicans. They throw up impediments, and then when progress is stymied, they imply, infer or declare that the black leader cannot make progress. It’s an old, ugly game.

Black people do not lead as white people do. The styles are uniquely different, as they should be based upon cultural characteristics and societal influences. Black leaders face unique challenges. As a black person who has held leadership positions, I have been second-guessed, devalued and undermined numerous times. I have also worked under black leaders who were skilled and knowledgeable, and yet they too were unduly vilified and/or devalued. Their primary offense was that they were black and in charge. This too appears to be Mr. Obama’s burden.

Mr. Obama is forced to prove or defend his record in ways that a white president would not have been required to do. Mr. Obama has also been disrespected like no other sitting President before him. He has been heckled in the White House Rose Garden, called a liar before a joint session of Congress and accused of being un-American or a non-citizen of the United States. At times during the 2012 campaign it appeared that some Republicans actually longed for Bill Clinton, or any Democrat other than the black guy.

Although Mr. Obama has proven himself to be quite skillful as a leader, a brilliant campaigner and very successful at governing, it is ridiculous that he is still regularly characterized as a weak leader. I find this curious, and disturbing given his many accomplishments. He was re-elected! We may have elected the first black president twice, but until we get over our collective racial dysfunction, we will not learn anything from having elected this black leader.

L. Jackson/ 12.05.2012

1 thought on “Governing While Black

  1. Charlene Weaver

    Well, what can I say other than “speak the truth”! Sometimes I cannot even watch the utter disrespect. I take long sabbaticals from even watching the news, in fact. Were he a white President, someone would have gone to jail for even speaking to the President of the United States of America in some of the ways President Obama has been spoken to. Even with the Connecticut slayings, I noticed that a news reporter on CNN basically BLAMED the President for there not being better gun control in place. Excuse me but…weren’t thousands….THOUSANDS…of people being murdered BEFORE he became President? And, how are these guns getting into the United States anyhow? Not by black men, I assure you. And, yet, it is President Obama’s fault? So, I agree with you… There is a lot wrong with America’s idea of freedom, respect and equality. Other nationalities who come here, illegally at times, receive more respect than a black man born and raised in the United States of America; even one who may happen to become President! So, what then? We tell our children that they can become the President of United States of America but just don’t expect to be treated any differently than a field hand? Remarkable. May as well skip that part of the song that says, “O, the land of the free and the home of the brave”. Uh…no… Not if you are black. Not in this land they call “your land” and “my land”. Uh…no. Not everybody’s land, at all… I knew that when I was fired from my first job at a senior citizens’ facility, when I was just 16 years old. One day I decided to help another employee deliver dinner trays to seniors who were “room-bound” and left my post “on the floor” for all of two minutes because the dining room was just opening and the first seniors were usually slow going through the cafeteria line. Usually, a few servers would line up on the wall and assist seniors who needed help carrying trays and other servers would volunteer to help whoever had to deliver trays to “room-bounds”. I volunteered and told the other servers I would be right back. When, I came back to my post, however, a TEMPORARY white supervisor who was not much older than myself said that I had abandoned my post and I was fired — escorted from the property like a common criminal — for assisting the employee and abandoning my post. The owners of the facility, who lived on the premises, escorted me out. (Threw me out into the dark and told me I could no longer be inside the building.) The individuals who usually gave me a ride to the bus-stop or all the way home were still “on the clock”, so I either had to wait outside in the dark or walk for blocks in the dark, alone. I walked alone to the bus-stop and went home. When the black manager returned from vacation one week later and I picked up my final check, I explained the situation to him and how I had harmed no one, with other employees validating my story. But, he was powerless to do anything about it. I never forgot that experience. Never. It revealed LOTS to me about society — the difference between white America and black America. Racism is, indeed, the culture of this land. If you are a waitress in a senior citizens facility or President of the United States of America, it doesn’t matter. Racism is, indeed, the culture. Period. Whenever I hear words like equality or unity, I automatically know they are not talking about me, not from the depths of their souls. They are saying it on the surface, but underneath they are wrapping a noose around my neck, calling me a nig— and wishing I was dead. Real talk.


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