Thursday, March 22, 2012

The invisible man as President

Yesterday as I was reading what Leonard Pitts wrote about the killing of Trayvon Martin, I was struck by how his words on invisibility apply to President Obama.

That's one of the great frustrations of African American life, those times when you're standing right there, minding your own business, tending your house, coming home from the store, and other people are looking right at you, yet do not see you.

They see instead their own superstitions and suppositions, paranoia and guilt, night terrors and vulnerabilities. They see the perpetrator, the suspect, the mug shot, the dark and scary face that lurks at the open windows of their vivid imaginations. They see the unknown, the unassimilable, the other.

They see everything in the world but you.

It's not hard to see in that description to roots of birtherism, President Obama as Kenyan socialist, and the attempts by Republicans to paint him as some radical out to steal our freedoms. Whether or not those who perpetuate these lies actually believe them or not is beside the point. What matters is that they find a comfortable "home" in the minds of too many Americans who have been conditioned for generations to see some kind of threat in every black face.

But it's not just wingers who too often succumb to this kind of invisibility of the man we elected President. Paul Glastris summed it up well in one sentence.

In short, when judging Obama’s record so far, conservatives measure him against their fears, liberals against their hopes, and the rest of us against our pocketbooks.

To me, this is where racism mixes with our authoritarian tendencies about wanting a "daddy" figure to fix all these problems and single-handedly make the world right. Just as the winger's blindness about the actual man in the office can always be counted on to ignite fear, this one is bound to leave liberals in their comfort zone of defeatism and disappointment.

In thinking about all this, I realized why the production of the video "The Road We've Traveled" was such an important opening salvo for the Obama campaign. That's because it dealt with the reality of what the President faced as he took office and the very concrete things he's accomplished. In other words, for those who watched it, the invisible was made visible. It dealt with the man we actually elected President and what he has done.

The truth is - no one can be forced to see what they will not see. But lets be clear, it's the fears/hopes that blind us to what this President...this flesh and blood man...has actually accomplished.


  1. President Obama's accomplishments are made even more impressive by the concerted effort to make him fail.

    There is a virulent strain of anti-black bigotry which holds sway over conservatives. And you are correct at their fervent desire to be ruled by a Strong Man. They attempted to mold George Worst President Ever Bush into this with his flight suit and brush clearing soirees.

    But, even now while it's mainly political to attack Barack on Gas Prices it underscores their desire to have a Dictator come in and set things up "The Right Way" for them to live...

  2. this was again wonderful smartypants. thank you