Race has never been an easy issue to discuss openly in this country. Alas, today’s political climate is making it even harder for any person of color in the public eye to speak on their reality without inviting an onslaught of criticism from those who lack sympathy about it.
Undoubtedly learning his lesson about speaking on racial matters from his pulpit in the aftermath of Henry Louis Gates' arrest, President Obama addressed the shooting of 17-year-old Florida teen Trayvon Martin with great care. Calling the nation to join as a collective and do some “soul searching” while we wait for investigators to uncover exactly what prompted this tragedy, the president acknowledged Martin’s parents and noted, “You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
While GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney released a statement echoing President Obama’s sentiment about tragedy and the need for an investigation, the peanut gallery of the primary opted to politicize the president’s remarks by…accusing him of politicization.
First, came the world heavyweight champion of racial overtones himself, Newt Gingrich, who told Sean Hannity on his radio show: “Is the president suggesting that if it had been a White kid who had been shot, that would be OK because he wouldn't look like him? That's just nonsense. Dividing this country up -- it is a tragedy this young man was shot.”
Then came faux friend to “blah” people everywhere, Rick Santorum, who condemned the Sanford Police Department for dragging its feet in arresting Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, but had pointed remarks towards Obama as well.
The former Pennsylvania senator told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt: “And then, this, it is -- again, politicizing it. This is, again, not what the presidents of the United States do. What the president of the United States should do is try to bring people together, not use these types of horrible tragic individual cases to try to drive a wedge in America.”
Joining them is former presidential wannabe Michele Bachmann, who claimed “race shouldn’t be a factor” in this issue as “all human life is valuable.”
In other words, these three want to feign an interest in humanity by trying to strip the president of his. How does President Obama’s audacity to acknowledge race and racism translate into an assumption that he could care less if a White teen were wrongly killed, too? Why can’t we speak about prejudice as if it’s not a problem that all Americans should be concerned about?
What would be more fitting? A sing-a-long to: “We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones to make a better place so let’s start giving.”
Can we stop holding hands now and get back to American life as is versus how we posture it to be from our bubbles? Senior White House advisor David Plouffe called Gingrich and Santorums’ comments “irresponsible” and “reprehensible” and cited them as another key reason why the Republican primary “at some points has been more of a circus show, a clown show.” The only thing Plouffe left out was that the accusations are also hypocritical.
Newt Gingrich is the same person who said that he’d like to go to the NAACP convention to tell the Black community that we “demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.” Around the same time Santorum said “I don’t want to make Black people’s lives better” through government aid. And Bachmann once accused Obama of “failing Black America.”
So it’s okay for these folks to politicize other grievances within the Black community? Why? Because it doesn't impact them directly? Because it serves their (often racist, ahem) agenda? President Obama didn’t make a Malcolm X "Message to the Grassroots"-type speech, nor did he go hard in describing just how difficult life is for men who look like him and Trayvon. But with political opponents like these, who needs to?