Personally, it isn't the President's demeanor that bothers me or, I suspect, most conservatives, it is his actions. We don't need him to feel our pain, just to demonstrate the competence that supporters swore he had and thus propelled him to the presidency.
But now Obama's seeming lack of passion is being defended as the required care that a black man must demonstrate in order not to be perceived as "an angry black man." On CNN, John Blake wrote that "Obama doesn't dare become the 'angry black man.'" Blake then goes on to quote liberal sources as evidence for this argument.
If you've followed the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, you've heard the complaints that Obama isn't showing enough emotion.At the Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart echoed this defense of Obama.
But scholars say Obama's critics ignore a lesson from American history: Many white Americans don't like angry black men.
It's the lesson Obama absorbed from his upbringing, and from an impromptu remark he delivered last summer. Yet it's a lesson he may now have to jettison, they say, as public outrage spreads.
"Folks are waiting for a Samuel Jackson 'Snakes on the Plane' moment from this president as in: 'We gotta' get this $#@!!* oil back in the $#!!* rig!' But that's just not who Obama is,'' says Saladin Ambar, a political science professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
African American men are taught at very young ages (or learn the hard way) to keep our emotions in check, to not lose our cool, lest we be perceived as dangerous or menacing or give someone a reason to doubt our ability to handle our jobs. Think of the emotional corset women in leadership positions are expected to maintain to ensure they never cry in public or show TOO much compassion for fear of raising the same doubt and seeming weak.Capehart then goes on to explain how prominent and educated black men have absorbed the lesson since they were children not to show rage or they will be tagged with the "Angry Black Man syndrome" and be perceived as too scary for the public to tolerate. That is why Obama must maintain his cool demeanor.
I pose this question because over the last two weeks, I have watched and listened with increasing frustration to the criticism that President Obama hasn't shown enough emotion, enough rage over the ceaseless flow of BP oil choking the Gulf Coast. Sure, I, too, have asked the president to connect more with the American people over this disaster. To show a little emotion. But I have never and would never advise Obama to do what movie director Spike Lee advised last week on CNN: "One time, go off!"
We all know one of the reasons why Obama won't "go off."' He's just not wired that way. Despite the feisty interview he did with NBC News's Matt Lauer that aired this morning, overt expressions of rage (or any overheated emotion) are not in his personality. That's why Maureen Dowd has consistently dubbed him President Spock. And Obama's cool, "say what I mean and mean what I say" demeanor is exacerbated by his reliance on the TelePrompTer.
But he can't "go off." And I want to talk about why.
It is funny that writers like CNN's Blake and Capehart must explain to liberals like Maureen Dowd, David Bonior, and Bill Maher that their demands for Obama to show anger are ignoring the dilemma of black men. They're just ignorant white folk who don't understand black men. And Spike Lee is just not realizing the demands on a black leader in public life. I'm sure that, as true liberals, these critics will apologize and stop calling for Obama to demonstrate passion.
I'm not clear how public expressions of rage or some Clintonian lip biting would have made a dang bit of difference in the Gulf. But this is a clever twist on the race card to get critics thinking about the tragedy of the successful black man who can't show his emotions (someone tell Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton about this) instead of focusing on true mistakes that have been made in handling the oil spill.