Following my cover story in the current issue, and this message from an African-American professional woman, Nancy Wallace, about the Jackie Robinson-like pressure on Obama not to "let down his race," a few more. One reader writes:
Obama is also demeanor-constrained in the opposite direction from showing hot anger: he can't even be seen wearing sunglasses in public, since that would be seen as looking "too cool" - in the Malcolm X sense.
As it happens, Obama has actually been criticized on this score!
Reader Michael Harrington writes:
I am glad you ran that supplemental post that mentions how the president's demeanor may be sort of a construct due to the possible unfortunate implications of him getting too angry or emotional and fulfilling some awful stereotype. I am assuming that he is walking quite the tightrope a lot of the time, lest he scares America with his fury and we as a country decide he might not be able to "deal with the pressures of the job".
This is something I have been thinking about lately, partly because I am a Black man that works mostly with non-Black people in a leadership capacity and have to walk that tightrope, partly due to discussions I have been having with white associates outside of those professional settings, and partially due to reading Toure's latest book (Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?) and thinking about what he said about some of the most recent Black politicians, including President Obama.
I do not know if you read that book (I think everyone should, regardless of ethnic origin) [JF: I have not yet], but he makes the salient point that to be successful in politics or business as a black person (I feel this applies to Latinos as well), you have to be as inoffensive as possible, lest you make people feel uncomfortable or guilty. I am not surprised that the woman who emailed you the other day had a nervous breakdown, since this puts a lot of strain on Black people that I assume (I don't know if it is true) most white people don't have to deal with. I also found that talking about this with non-white people, even in a casual setting upsets them a lot. I brought up this point in regards to the president, and I was either scoffed at, talked over, or was ignored. I cannot imagine what the president and his family are going through, but I assure you that he knows very well that it is in his best interest to seem as rational and objective in public as possible, since it is apparent that many people in this country still have deep issues with race and the perception of how certain groups play out their "racial roles"...
Even though I am Black, I don't blindly support the president because of his race; I support the president because I am an American citizen and I am glad that the representative of the country is a rational, brilliant person who seems to want to learn more. I suppose most people that become the POTUS are exceptional by definition, but it is interesting that Barack Obama has to be both exceptional and for all intents and purposes, as flawless as possible. It almost seems like he has to stifle his humanity due to the color of his skin.
After the jump, one more, on the Chris Christie/Harper Lee angle.