President Obama Can Handle it, But I Can’t

January 26, 2012  |  


In the past three, going on four years, you may have noticed something. President Obama can handle it. By it I mean everything his job as President of the United States entails and all the extra, unwarranted, latently or blatantly racist foolishness that goes with it.

Initially, I too became incensed when the President was openly disrespected. Listening to Rep. Joe Wilson call him a liar in the middle of his healthcare speech, watching as “birthers” and Donald Trump demanded that he produce his birth certificate after he was well into his first term, and seeing a protester interrupt his commencement speech at Notre Dame was enough to make my blood pressure rise. Not only would this have been disrespectful for any layperson to experience, but this inexcusable behavior was being directed at the President of the United States. A president the American people elected.

I couldn’t find solace in the situation until I read an article about the president and his mother in the New York Times. It was a very detailed piece, but the part that stuck out to me was this:

“After lunch, the group took a walk, with Barry running ahead. A flock of Indonesian children began lobbing rocks in his direction. They ducked behind a wall and shouted racial epithets. He seemed unfazed, dancing around as though playing dodge ball “with unseen players,” Bryant said. Ann [his mother] did not react. Assuming she must not have understood the words, Bryant offered to intervene. “No, he’s O.K.,” Ann said. “He’s used to it.”

Reading that paragraph was my “aha moment.” After that article, I came to understand, with calming clarity, that President Obama was meant for this. Not only was he meant for it, he is capable of handling the pressures, the criticisms, the racism and the outright disrespect that comes with it.

But notice I said he can handle it; I, on the other hand, cannot.

Even though I continuously refer to that paragraph to keep myself from popping a blood vessel, incidences like yesterday’s exchange on an Arizona tarmac send me spiraling down that dark hole.

I woke up this morning to news that yet another form of disrespect had been hurled at the president, this time from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

The president and Brewer already have a rocky relationship because of a book she wrote. In it she says that the president lectured her when she met with him to discuss the Arizona immigration law in 2010.

Yet, Brewer asked to meet with him again and a white house official said: “He’d be glad to meet with her again, but did note that after their last meeting, a cordial discussion in the Oval Office, the governor inaccurately described the meeting in her book.”

As far as we know there is no record of their conversation on the tarmac yesterday, but Brewer and reports mention that her book might have been the point of contention.

Fine, whatever. What gets me about the whole thing is what Brewer said to reporters:

“I felt a little bit threatened, if you will, in the attitude that he had, because I was there to welcome him.”

Really, threatened?

That word, or ones like it, always seems to creep into the discourse when some whites have to deal with blacks in positions of authority. Everything’s fine when we all agree, but the minute a black person in power expresses an alternative viewpoint, suddenly someone is being threatened.

Is it so outside of the realm of possibility that a white woman could have a disagreement with a black man without the interaction becoming threatening, even if that man is the President of the United States?

Why is the slightest sign of contention from a black person so often regarded as hostility?

If I could speak to Brewer, I’d ask her, How were you threatened, boo boo? Threatened physically, threatened emotionally or threatened intellectually?

If I had to guess, it would probably be the latter.

Being that the president has made himself so accessible, it’s not hard to see why people think they can talk to him whenever they want, however they want. But what they fail to realize is that this guy, although down to earth, is an intelligent, levelheaded Harvard educated man. You’re probably not going to catch him off guard.

God knows what the two talked about yesterday, but I’m willing to bet money that Brewer was no match for his wit and overall preparedness. When she realized what she was up against, she popped off, no longer able to control her emotions. How else would you describe someone putting their finger in the President of the United States of America’s face?

If anybody should have been threatened, it should have been the president. Brewer is lucky she wasn’t swept away by the secret service.

I’d be surprised if President Obama addressed this encounter publicly; he’s too much of a class act.  In fact, those who were there to witness the exchange say it looked like President Obama walked away from Brewer in the middle of the conversation.

He’s a far better man than I am woman, because if Jan had stuck her finger in my face, she really would have known what it feels like to be threatened.

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