Sunday, January 31, 2016

African American journalist writes about the battle which defines the Presidency of Barack Obama.

Everything I do, I do for you.
Here is just a sampling of this amazing article written by Los Angeles journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan:

From the instant he became president, Obama has been a black cultural touchstone like nothing I’ve seen before. His presence has changed everything, realigned our thoughts and arguments about ourselves and our progress and our country, affirming some things and disproving others. As so many people have said to me, his symbolism has been the most influential thing about him. It’s also been the most controversial. As president, he is a black man waging a battle against the racist tendencies of the very system he was elected to lead, fighting daily to effect ideals of unity and common good that were never meant for black people at all. This is the spectacle that black folks have followed anxiously, more so than his policies, many of which have been shaped — not in a good way — by his failure to effect those ideals. The failures, the over-compromises, are Obama’s acknowledgment of defeat; that includes his almost total silence on the subject of blackness itself, which for black folks feels like the worst defeat of all. And yet we watch Obama struggle and sympathize with him, with his thwarted ambitions and his failures, because to be what he’s trying to be — black, idealistic and president — is nothing less than superhuman.

This is the battle royale we have been watching, with Barack our accidental folk-hero protagonist fighting an enemy far bigger and more insidious than anything faced by folk heroes such as John Henry, Joe Louis, or Malcolm X. Those men were pitted against a machine, against white men in a boxing ring, against the self-doubt of black people. But Barack is pitted against America itself. America and its entire monstrous history of racism that has been roused anew because he has dared to try and show the country something, dared to be black and chiefly idealistic rather than black and chiefly critical, imploring or righteously angry. For this sin of initiative and imagination he is still being punished, and we are still watching the battle unfold (years later he is still standing tall, but he seems to be losing by degrees, sinking into the ground by quarter inches) in a kind of collective agony and fury that will take many more years to put into words. So much is at stake: If Obama loses his idealism, loses what he began this whole enterprise with, then blacks will have lost, too, even those of us who never believed in the enterprise of One America in the first place. The question about what would happen if there was ever a black president is no longer rhetorical. It is being answered.

As I read this I had two thoughts.

First that as a white man, especially one who grew up in Alaska, I will never be able to fully appreciate what it must be like to deal with the things that President Obama has to deal with every day.

My second thought was that I was ashamed of the country that the election of Barack Obama revealed us to be.

It was so much easier to deny our inherent racism until we were confronted with it everyday as we have been since 2008.

All I can hope is that once President Obama leaves office that people will really start to see just how important, historic, and competent his presidency truly was, once distance and time make it clearer for us to see.

I also hope that whenever we get ready to elect the next black president, or first Hispanic president, or gay president, or Asian president, or even woman president, that the path Barack Obama blazed with his two bloody hands will make it that much easier for them to do their jobs.


  1. Love this, and love your commentary here Gryph. Thanks.

    1. Boscoe7:18 AM

      "...ashamed of the country that the election of Barack Obama revealed us to be."

      Agreed. And the thing that really amazes me about it is when you take that sentiment and run it through the filter of conservative brain disorder, it comes out: "most racially divisive president ever."

      ...Kind of like: "how dare you hold that mirror up to my face so I can clearly see how ugly I am."

    2. Anonymous8:33 AM

      Bingo, Boscoe, but they're proud of it.

    3. Anonymous10:57 AM

      Boscoe, I just had this EXACT conversation with a conservative this morning--he insisted President Obama (or "that man", as he called him) was "the most divisive president ever". I replied, "only to racist ignorant assholes who are furious there's a black man in the White House." That shut him up.

  2. Anonymous4:33 AM

    Exemplified by the famous alaska politician who felt the need to tweet in favor of public use of the N word, and who said that this first black potus "shucks and jives".

    1. Anonymous5:19 AM

      ANs was overheard stating " Sambo beat the bitch".

    2. Anonymous7:36 AM

      Yet she soooo lusts after him.

  3. "All I can hope is that once President Obama leaves office that people will really start to see just how important, historic, and competent his presidency truly was, once distance and time make it clearer for us to see."

    With the 3-second attention span of most Americans, Obama's stellar and defining presidency will quickly sink beneath the collection consciousness. The atrocities of George W. Bush have been easily swept under the carpet.

    It's all The Next Big Thing -- and afraid these days it's Trump who is, above all and most importantly, entertaining -- loud, "strong", willing to say what they are thinking, RICH (therefore blessed by Gawd), with a hot wife (...three hot wives).

    And... Trumps sounds just like his supporters, when they're drunk.

    The majority of Americans are not deep thinkers and they will try, with his election, to elect somebody as shallow as they are. The "Ugly American" brand of decades past is now running the show. Expect a Brain Drain, post haste, if this happens.

    But we must stay hopeful.

    My dream is to see a rout of Trump tomorrow and watch him tweet (then sue) every Ohio voter that didn't vote for him.

    1. That's Iowa voter, but we understand the area, it's all fly-over country.

    2. That's Iowa voter, but we understand the area, it's all fly-over country.

    3. Sorry -- same number of letters. But would say the same thing about Ohio if they don't vote for Trump.

    4. Boscoe7:19 AM

      Well, just like everything else, it'll all depend on how the history books and documentaries paint him in the future.

  4. Anonymous5:22 AM

    Well Gryphen, even in Alaska you ahe to do more than hope. You have to be part of the change. How many times have you overheard a "joke" against Natives or any other minority in Alaska and let it go? How many times have you not spoken up?
    BTW Gryphen I don't mean to pick on you, but if you truly want to be part of things getting better then we all need to be outspoken and even angry at slurs against any minority.

    1. I was suspended in high school for hospitalizing a fellow teenager who called my Athabaskan friend a "Salmon cruncher" and then pulled a knife on him.

      Have taught diversity and respect to rooms full of young children for thirty years or more.

      Advocated for the specials needs of native Alaskan youth in courtrooms and mental health team meetings for the last eighteen years.

      Made sure that native Alaskan children receiving mental health services were housed, fed, and clothed appropriately.

      Blogged about racism directed at the native people in Alaska multiple times.

      Blogged about the destruction of the native culture by the Catholic church and others more more than a dozen times.

      Yeah I think I have provided some support.

      I'm sure I could always do more of course.

      What is it that you've done again?

    2. Anonymous6:43 AM

      Great response to a condescending, scoldy comment, Gryphen.

    3. Anonymous9:39 AM

      First of all to anon @ 6:43 am it wasn't meant to be condensing or scolding in any manner.
      As to Gryphen, I'm just the Native American kid that was spit on, beat up, kicked out of stores by adult white people, shamed by adults on just about a daily basis, called a squaw by my 2nd grade teacher daily. And that was just by my grade school, Teachers and their families.
      I've been openly discriminated against, had the the title of Valedictorian stolen from me because they couldn't have that going to the "indian", I've been paid less at jobs and openly told it's because of my skin. I have been grabbed and groped numerous times by adult men until I started carrying a knife in the 5th grade, that didn't stop the adult men in the nearby town from trying, including the "most respected people in town" including 2 pastors, the banker, and most business owners.
      But what have I done?
      I have, as an adult. Made sure every child/adult in my Tribe has the opportunity to go to college by being a driving force and on the planning committee of using our Tribal casino dollars to build a college instead of just handing out large sums of money. I have also been in DC muliple times fighting for our rights with the BIA. I have been a witness in US Senate hearings fighting for the rights of Native American parents not to have their children stolen.
      I have counseled Native American women who have been sexually assaulted and gotten laughed at by police depts, I have taught them comprehensive courses in self defense so they can protect themselves.
      I have worked with many younger Native American children, including my own to be proud of who they are while having to put up with racism on a daily basis throughout their lives from all fronts, including from many "progressive liberals" in their communities.
      In a few simple words, I've lived it every day of my life and fought it every day of my life.

    4. Anonymous11:17 AM

      9:39'- thank you. You're a true leader.

  5. Gryphen; I think that the better image may have been bloody back rather than bloody hands, but that's just me.

    1. Anonymous7:32 AM

      Aside from Gryphen's otherwise excellent commentary, the bloody hands part gave me an image of one with blood on his hands, a guilty violent person.

      It's obvious what is meant, but maybe "battle scared hands".

      As for this president, I sadly feel that I might not live to see another of his caliber. But have faith that there will be another at some point in the future.

      (Sorry Gryphen, don't pay no never mind to us back-seat writers :)


    2. Anonymous9:14 AM

      5:22 President Obama is FLOGGED for us ALL everyday starting on January 20th, 2009 and continues to this day.

  6. Sharon5:36 AM

    Very well said....both of you

  7. As odious as the last eight years have been, I'm glad that the rock of nativism, hatred, and discrimination has been turned over. Maybe in the sunlight, it can be finally acknowledged and talked about. Obama has been a terrific president.

  8. Anonymous6:45 AM

    People, we elected him TWICE. Our country is flawed in many ways, but we elected an intelligent, rational, wise beyond his years, black man to the office of president TWICE. It exposed lots of ugliness in this country (and in people we love) but it also brought lots of good. And as to doing enough for black people, while we still have a long way to go, I never hoped to live long enough to see a person elected in spite of the color of his skin.

    1. Anonymous7:27 AM

      Excellent comment.
      Thank you!

    2. Anonymous9:15 AM

      Thanks, Anon at 6:45 am. President Obama embodies the very best in this country.

  9. Anonymous6:49 AM

    Gryphen your personal comment gave me goose bumps and positive shivers.

    Thank you Bro :)

  10. Anonymous7:24 AM

    Unlike Kaplan, I don't see President Obama as "losing by degrees, sinking into the ground by quarter inches." In fact, I see him standing taller than ever when the odds were stacked against him from the get-go. No bent back here, $arahbitch!

    People do forget easily but, if one looks at the ghastly mess he inherited from Dubya and Republicans determined to undermine every last thing he proposed, his accomplishments are that much more glaringly admirable.

  11. Anonymous7:27 AM

    I think the article paints President Obama as weak. He may not have conquered racism; However, he brought it straight out into the bright sunlight, no easy feat. He has strength, grace, and integrity, something that has been lacking in the presidency for generations.

    1. Anonymous8:13 AM

      I came away thinking much the same. As a political journalist, she should also know that there is only so much a president can do under our form of government, else be accused of usurping his/her power.

      He certainly did pop the ugly zit of inherent racism in this country.

    2. Anonymous9:41 AM

      You are wrong, the racism was always there and John McCain and Sarah Palin made it acceptable to be so out in the open.

    3. Anonymous11:31 AM

      ok, we're wrong. You're right. Whatever.

  12. Anonymous7:39 AM

    What This Georgia Republican Just Said About The KKK, Slavery And ISIS Will Blow Your Mind
    A state Republican in Georgia made an astonishingly racist set of remarks, in his defense of the South’s Confederate and racist history.

    State Rep. Tommy Benton has flat-out denied that the Civil War had anything to do with slavery, compared the Confederate leaders to the Founding Fathers, expressed his profound displeasure with what he called “cultural cleansing” of Southern history. He insisted that the KKK was not a racist organization – but rather “a vigilante thing to help keep law and order,” claiming that made a lot of people “straighten up.”

  13. kraftysue7:44 AM

    Our president receives over 30 death threats a day......I can't imagine how he keeps on trying to improve our country with the wisdom, humor, and energy he demonstrates every day.

    1. Anonymous8:05 AM


  14. Anonymous8:19 AM

    The author's perspective is similar to what I heard voiced by one of Larry Wilmore's Nightly Show regulars: disappointment that Pres. Obama wasn't more of a black president. Our black citizens have lived in a country where power was always held by white men so I understand, but can't fully appreciate, some would want him to be primarily their president. My heart breaks at the racism his presidency brought to light and I'm sick of journalists and pundits talking about the angry voters who are disappointed by the political establishment and the economy when it's all about racism. Pres. Obama is the best man who has been president during my lifetime. I have great hopes for his future and what he'll achieve after his term ends.

    1. Anonymous8:42 AM

      And what exactly is the definition of "more of black president?" Sometimes you just want to pound your head on the wall.

      58 years old here, and by FAR the best president of my lifetime.

    2. Anonymous9:12 AM

      I certainly think that Barack Obama has been the best president of my life, except for my infancy when President Roosevelt was still alive. And Michelle Obama and their daughters and the "First Grandma, Mrs. Robinson," have served us so well.

  15. Anonymous8:21 AM

    The racists will be equally unnerved by a woman president.

  16. Anonymous8:30 AM

    "I'll tell you what's at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you." ~ Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson

    We've got a lot of lowly white men (and women) in this country who wither in the light of Pres. Obama's intelligence and dignity.

  17. Anonymous8:35 AM

    President Obama has to be the most tormented President in history. He began his term with hope in people's better selves, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, believing he could overcome attitudes of racism, bigotry, by staying neutral and being fair. He behaved as an advocate for all, keeping his promises as a candidate. He never was a turncoat; he set out to keep promises before his election; he never faltered after he was elected. No one can accuse him of being a chameleon. He produced what his elect wanted.

    The right insisted on finding fault in every thing he said or did, suggesting he was racist and unfair and a dissenter. The accusations were relentless.

    These past 7 years have been as peaceful in the U.S. as anyone could hope, considering the world's problems. It's been painful to hear the 'right-wing' slander and obfuscate the progress of Obama.

    He didn't resist, and continued on. They tried to impeach him, bully him into quitting, desecrate everything positive he tried to do, and their schemes and hate show the world how intolerant America really is. It's been a spectacle of shame to all the world.

    1. Anonymous9:00 AM

      The media excitedly provides a platform and megaphone to the slanderers and bears the lion's share of responsibility for our national shame. Not too many years ago, the likes of David Duke were shunned by the media; now, we have them doing all they can to promote and puff up Donald Trump, Sarah Palin.

    2. Anonymous9:19 AM

      Totally agree, 9:00 AM, because investigative journalism has long been dead; now the more sensational the better.

  18. Anonymous12:19 PM

    I voted for Hillary because I thought America was far too racist for a black president.

    When Obama got the nomination I was overjoyed and assumed I'd been wrong.

    I wasn't wrong.

  19. Anonymous12:32 PM

    I don't think any writer so far has any legitimacy to make criticisms of President Obama. We are not stupid and we are not blind, we can see for ourselves. But we don't buy books that trash the president, the Right-wing does because they need to support haters.

  20. Anonymous12:42 PM

    If only I was a computer brain I would
    visually put this out there. If Trump wins the whole thing, I picture him sitting
    behind the Oval Office desk with the desk
    overflowing with platters of meats , fruits
    greens, a huge ham , roasts and desserts expensive wines and behind him ,on the wall, a large painting of his wives and
    Palin all lounging in the nude, plus on either side of the desk, a black woman and a black man to serve him. I don't see him
    any other way. Maybe just the wives in the
    painting. Palin would be under the desk!
    Write those books and give those speeches
    President Obama . No constraints on you
    after your more than successful terms.

    desk a black woman and a black man to serve
    him! That is how I see that man!

  21. Anonymous1:31 PM

    Anonymous 12:42 pm I forgot to delete
    those two {doesn't make sense} lines
    before I proof read. As I said, not a computer brain, but trying to do better.

  22. Anita Winecooler3:56 PM

    He's done a lot to bring the issue of race to the forefront, just by being himself, twice elected by a majority. I dated outside my race, and the overt racism was nothing compared to the ingrained racism in my lily white WASP neighborhood. We'd get stares, tires slashed, graffitti and property damage from both races. What took the cake was a professor on our street who called me a "n word lover" then ran in his house, and wouldn't answer the door when I knocked. So I called the school he had tenure in, called the cops, and cornered him when I took photos of him tossing a slim jim laced with rat poison in my back yard. The jackass had no defense whatsoever, admitted what he called me and apologized seven ways to Sunday. I refused to accept, he was fined, he lost his job and worked for community college in the audio visual department, a noble job that probably pays a sixth of what he used to make.

    How dare a privileged white man entertain the idea he's better than anyone else based on their skin color, and not have balls enough to address the person he hates, picking on his girlfriend instead.

    I don't see a seismic change coming regarding racism in my lifetime, but President Obama opened a door that wasn't available to people of color before, and that, alone, took courage, grace and intelligence.


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