Do We Expect More of a Black President?
I thank Melissa Harris-Perry [“Black President, Double Standard,” Oct. 10] for letting me know that I am a racist for participating in the anti–tar sands pipeline rally and otherwise demanding that President Obama live up to his past rhetoric. I’ve refrained from criticizing Israel to avoid being called an anti-Semite. Now this.
Little Rock, Ark.
I thank Melissa Harris-Perry for taking the reader to a deeper point of view on the liberal white voter. It’s refreshing to read an article that bravely puts unpopular information in the context of facts supported by empirical data and not purely opinion. Her comprehensive grasp of American history, politics and social justice issues is astounding and informative.
I believe Melissa Harris-Perry is dead on when she argues that “liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.” I differ on her use of the word “racism,” however. I think the correct word is “errorism.” There is certainly a greater societal acceptance of African-Americans in leadership roles than in years past. But, like Harris-Perry, I think it is evident there is less willingness to hang in there through thick and thin with black leaders compared with white leaders. As I view it, those who go negative on African-American leaders like that are not in their own minds racist. I argue that they make a judgment error, which is objectively provable by comparing where white leaders turn unpopular versus black leaders.
As an African-American and a member of the so-called professional left, I find Melissa Harris-Perry’s column offensive. I voted for Obama because of what I then believed he stood for. I don’t believe white liberals are holding Obama to a higher standard than his white compatriots. I believe that, just like me, they are holding Obama to a standard of actually having a standard. After almost three years, I have no clue what the man stands for, what he believes in. Generalizing articles like this are an insult to all those who yearned for change and voted for him in 2008.
MESFIN M. MESMER
Melissa Harris-Perry may be our most astute analyst of the interface between race and politics, but her lens magnifies racial recidivism as a factor in white flight from Obama. It’s the economy, stoopid. Clinton benefited from Bush One’s enlightened tax hike; Obama suffers from Bush Two’s fiscal profligacy. It’s that simple. We also feel cheated. We were promised a Churchill, but we got a Chamberlain.
While I don’t doubt that American racism is continuously morphing into new and noteworthy varieties, I do not think Dr. Harris-Perry has found an example of it this time. I was in high school during the Clinton years, so Obama is the first president I’ve ever had the opportunity to have hope for. He inspired the turnout of record numbers of young voters, and we celebrated the election of our first black president with an optimism magnified by the eloquent and persuasive campaign rhetoric about hope and change. Needless to say to most Nation readers, I am beyond disappointed. Given our disillusionment, it seems more relevant to ask why those who maintain their support of the president continue to do so. He has broken many hearts saying things would be different this time.
ALLISON BELL BERN
As a big fan of Dr. Harris-Perry, I was utterly dismayed by her conclusion that a racial double standard is responsible for the drop in support for President Obama. She could not be more wrong.
I am deeply disappointed and pretty angry at the complacency shown by his administration. (By the way, my husband, who is black, is much angrier than I.) Bill Clinton was no progressive hero. But what has changed since the 1990s is the state in which we as a nation (and world) find ourselves. It is truly desperate, and looks to become only more so.
The middle class is slipping into serfdom, and the poor are invisible. We are on the brink of true, irrevocable environmental catastrophe, to which President Obama seems oblivious. People have lost their jobs and homes, healthcare is moving out of reach and the financial overclass is showing a disdain for the people not seen since the 1930s. Obama’s loyalty to our Wall Street overlords, personified by the continued reign of Tim Geithner (at the expense of true progressives like Van Jones and Elizabeth Warren), has left me without hope. We cannot afford a triangulating Democratic president now.
Palo Alto, Calif.
I’m African-American, 64, a lifelong progressive (Teacher Corps, Peace Corps, legal aid lawyer, law professor and public school teacher, international refugee relief worker, union activist, journalist) and, obviously having taken the 1960s way too seriously, I find myself living solely on Social Security.
I don’t know with whom Melissa Harris-Perry hung out during the Clinton administration, but in my integrated, conventional left social circles there was plenty of disenchantment with, among other things, Clinton’s welfare and financial “reforms,” the healthcare debacle, the Serbian bombing, the craven abandonment of Dr. Joycelyn Elders and Lani Guinier, the so-called “free trade” policies, the criminal justice system policies, and on and on.
So I don’t see the double standard. I see in Obama what many like-minded progressives of various ethnicities, social roles and gender identities (from Tavis Smiley and Cornel West to David Sirota, Glenn Greenwald and Jonathan Turley, from Matt Damon and Bill Maher to Rachel Maddow, Jane Hamsher and Amy Goodman) see: a civil-liberties-shredding, adventurist-war and national-security-state expanding, corporatist nightmare of a national/world “leader.”
ROY EUGENE BOGGS
This is a note of appreciation for Melissa Harris-Perry for her column (although she will probably find that her white colleagues, the ones who were “right on” and “you go, sister,” are distancing themselves from her because of hurt feelings). This one hit home—it is so true! I’ve been waiting since the election for white “progressives” to turn their back on Obama. I knew they could not hang on during the rough years, when things got really, really bad. When you are black in America, you stick it out during the rough times and survive. It’s much easier for whites to turn their back.
We have had nearly three years with every racist and ignorant comment and action imaginable and unthinkable hurled at our president—and still he has a legislative record that surpasses most presidents’. The lack of recognition and appreciation for that—especially from white “progressives”—is truly a double standard.