Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s critic of Barack Obama in From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation provided me with content on Obama that I was not previously familiar with. I had always seen Obama to have typical politician characteristics that include appealing to the masses of American including appealing to white people. Although, Obama’s race is acknowledged by everyone, and it would be not a surprise if black issues were close to his heart, Obama’s rhetoric often implies that he is not trying to show a so-called bias towards black people.
Obama’s reputation during his campaign as president versus his reputation as president raises the question of did he give black people in the United States false hope? Obama spoke directly about the concerns of black people in 2008. Obama spoke in a direct manner about racial inequality, and as a result, he was likely able to garner a lot of support and votes from black people as an outcome. The optimism around the possibility of Obama being elected was strong. For example, American rapper Jay-Z said that “Rosa sat so Martin could walk; Martin walked so Obama could run; Obama is running so we all can fly.” The disappointment that black people felt during Obama’s administration because of a lack of direct rhetoric that he used in his campaign could possibly be foreshadowed with the death of a twenty-two year old black man named Oscar Grant, who was shot by police officers in Oakland, California.
The disappointment can be seen with the murder of Trayvon Martin for example. Obama’s response to the murder of Trayvon Martin was a memorable quote: “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” It was disappointing that Obama did not come out and directly state his opinion, and the fact that he did speak showed significance and prominence of the issue at hand. In addition to Obama’s remarks on the Trayvon Martin case, some of his other remarks about black lives in the United States raised eyebrows from black people. For example Obama’s remarks on how black people need to take full responsibility of their lives to raise themselves out of their circumstances neglected the roadblocks and obstacles that prevented black people from rising up. Moreover, the lack of direct criticism shown by Obama of police officers shooting black people with an implicit bias was disappointing. For example, in the aftermath of the shooting of Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, during the protests that followed, there were Ferguson police officers pointing their weapons at unarmed civilians while they wore wristbands that had “I Am Darren Wilson” written on them. Although Obama has neglected to speak on important matters like this in a direct manner. He has addressed that there are racial inequality issues that need to be addressed and solved when he has discussed the need for police officers to wear body cameras and for there to be an end to zero tolerance policies. Perhaps the criticism of Obama comes from the fact that black people possibility expected more out of someone who was one of them when it comes to defending the rights of black people.