President Obama became president during a difficult time in America, and he faced some very specific challenges that no other president have had to deal with. Never before in United States history has a president been forced to present his birth certificate just to shut people up, for example.
The racism that President Obama has experienced is certainly unique to his presidency, but, as a recent interview with Christi Parsons and several of his former political mentors proved, the negativity has not stopped him from succeeding. In his interview, Obama spoke about the unique challenges he has faced, and delivered the perfect message to the people who refused to vote for him simply because he is black.
President Obama was asked the following question regarding racism he’s experienced:
“I’ve been around, which you know — my dad was a state rep, and I was there, my son is there — was there. But I looked at it a little bit different, Mr. President. I think they were afraid of you, more so than anybody else. It’s one thing — like with George Bush or anybody else, they may think, well, we might suffer through him for two years — or two terms, but I think they were actually afraid of you. They were afraid of you for a couple of reasons. Number one, you were black. And I talk to my Republican friends — and I’ve got a lot of them — and that’s all they could ever talk about, was the race card, the race. You know, “he’s a nice guy,” he’s this, he’s that, but he’s black. Well, get over it.”
Obama delivered the perfect response, one that shows he knows how turn a lot of ugliness into something positive.
“Look, I’ve always said this, that I have no doubt that there are people who voted against me because of race, or didn’t approve of my agenda because of race. I also suspect there were a bunch of people who were excited and voted for me, or I got political benefits because of the notion of the first African American President. So those things cut both ways.
I think that a lot of proof that we are a lot further along than we were is I got reelected. So it would be one thing if the first time that it was just an accident. The second time, I won again. And each time I got more votes in consecutive terms.”
President Obama concluded”
“So although there’s no doubt that there are pockets of the country where some dog whistles blow and there’s underlying racial fears that may be exploited, overall, what’s more the case I think is just the straight, hardball politics of running against an incumbent and beating the heck out of them and softening them up. Because if a whole bunch of stuff gets done, he’s going to get the credit.”
There was and still is definitely no shortage of racist Americans hoping to see President Obama fail, but they have been and are going to be disappointed. He will go down in history not just as the first black president, but as a president who accomplished some great things despite the odds against him.
The full interview, via the LA Times, can be found here.