Monday, January 12, 2015

President Obama's Legacy in Historical Context

Frankly, if I were a historian and New York Magazine asked me to weigh in on predicting what President Obama's legacy will be in the future (especially with 2 years left in his second term), my response would be to ask, "What part of the word 'history' do you not understand?"

But it did give Thomas Powers an opportunity to actually put the question in proper historical context.
With the caveat that his administration is not yet finished, and two years is a long time, how will history judge Obama?

One theme dominates American history from its origins to this morning’s news—the consequences, and how to deal with them, of the importation into the United States of Africans as slaves. President Barack Obama is not a descendant of slaves but he is black and that fact has unloosed or perhaps only illuminated a renewed white political resistance to racial equality that future historians will record as the third phase of the struggle by white Americans to retain political and social control.

The first phase, centering on the question of slavery, extended from the counting of black slaves as three-fifths of a man in the Constitution of 1787 through ratification of the 13th Amendment banning slavery in 1865. The second phase, triggered by white shock at the social revolution implicit in the end of slavery, centered on white use of vigilante terror and control of the courts to deny political and civil rights for black Americans. Soon after the civil-rights acts of the 1960s ended the second phase, a third emerged, triggered by white shock at the fact of black legal and political equality.

The first line of white defense in each phase has been denial—denial in the first phase that slavery was cruel, exploitive, and wrong, and denial in the second phase that lynching, Jim Crow laws, and whites-only primaries were intended to control African-Americans. In the third phase, it is denied that implacable Republican hostility to Obama has anything to do with race; that the all-Republican South, like the all-Democratic South which preceded it, is primarily an instrument of white control; that voter-ID laws are aimed at blocking votes by blacks and Hispanics; and that the predominance of white men voting Republican (64 percent in the midterm elections) is explained by race. History suggests that it takes roughly 50 years for denial to run its course; after that, everybody will know what the struggle is about, and no historian will blame it on Obama.
 Hmmm...sounds just like what Rev. William Barber said.

1 comment:

  1. There are those in the media whom just won't accept the fact that President Obama made history. They won't accept the fact that he's the best President of our generation. The general idea of a Black man being considered "great" scares the hell out of them, because it goes against their ever growing sense of entitlement & White privilege. You see this with Obama's critics on both the left & the right.

    Obama's greatest legacy is reminding the world that Racism against Blacks on every level still very much plagues our society & that we [All people] should not ignore nor condone it.