President Obama Avoids Race In Brazil
By J. Smith
The president can leave the United States — sometimes with his family, sometimes with a gaggle of journalists following close behind — but always with the knowledge that America is still a developing country when it comes to race. The languages may translate, but in many instances the nuances of open racial dialogue do not. As Obama toured Brazil during his 5-day trip to Latin America, The New York Times noticed that where Brazilians have been proudly flaunting the progressive implications of the their first female president, ours has been mum about his historic victory.
The Times reports: “But Mr. Obama, on the second day of a five-day tour of Latin America, once again seemed to sidestep mentioning his own racial background in appearances here, even as Brazilians…said that he had inspired millions in this country bcause of his African heritage.”
While Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, celebrated her position as the first female in office and pointed out how special it is that it happened during the same time Obama became the first black to do so in America, Obama has kept completely quiet about race. This, in a country with one of the largest black populations outside of Africa. The United States is another.
Back to that knowledge I am certain that he always carries with him: Obama is a smart man with a great memory. He remembers the way his country reacted to his unapologetically pro-black pastor during the election. He remembers how he was essentially forced into that weird and, quite frankly, ridiculous “beer summit” with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and the white officer who arrested him. He remembers how half the country and a top rated “news” network errupted with hate and anger when their precious country fell into the hands of a black president. He remembers his citizenship and patriotism being questioned because his father is Kenyan.
He knows that people are watching and waiting for the first sound bite they can grab of him showing any kind of pride in his heritage for the chance to say he’s showing favoritism or has an alliance that would benefit the black community more than, well, whites (or anyone else I suppose, but I’ve been picking up some selfish vibes from the fear-mongers). I won’t claim to know his logic, but mine is that he hasn’t spoken about race abroad, even when it is completely appropriate to do so, because half of our country would find every single way to distort and manipulate it.
I don’t agree with avoiding discussions about race or letting some white people’s fear of black pride prevent you from publicly embracing and celebrating your culture with others, but in his position, I can certainly understand it. However, that is all the more reason why he should be doing just that — embracing and celebrating. If our president won’t take a stand against pretending like race doesn’t matter, then when will America ever become a racially developed nation?