I’ve just finished reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ remarkable, sweeping, eloquent article in the Atlantic about Barack Obama and American race relations. I need to read it again, and maybe a third time, to fully absorb it. But suffice it to say that Coates has firmly identified the central dilemma of Barack Obama’s political career from the perspective of virtually all Americans of every background: he cannot escape being the First Black President, and for that reason, is imprisoned by racial perspectives which, ironically, inhibit him from doing much of anything to address the continuing racial tensions that afflict us.
That Obama is being held to a higher standard of “color-blindness” than any past president becomes obvious through Coates’ eyes as he examines the constant pressures he has endured to avoid any word or deed that would undermine his legitimacy as president of “all the people.” It certainly hasn’t taken much for Obama to occasionally fail that test in the eyes of his detractors, as Coates amply illustrates in his account of how Obama’s purely human reaction to Trayvon Martin’s death inadvertently politicized the incident and was used to excuse the expression of raw and primitive racial stereotypes of the kind his election had supposedly made obsolete.
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