UPDATE - 6/9, 5:45 PM | Lachlan Markay: One of CNN's primary sources for this piece has endorsed the notion that "Rev. Wright's anger about the domestic and foreign policies of the USA are well rooted – and documented – in the current reality of the USA." Details below the jump.
The excuses keep rolling in to explain why President Obama is seemingly detached from the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.
On Wednesday, CNN.com reached a new low by blatantly playing the race card: President Obama is afraid to look angry in public because white people historically haven't liked angry black men.
This conclusion was offered by four supposed experts (all of whom were sympathetic to Obama), with no one else mentioned to provide any ounce of skepticism.
Apparently CNN's logic goes something like this: Obama grew up being afraid of offending white people, so he developed a natural aversion to public displays of emotion, which means his cool response to the oil spill right now is the final product of white bigotry.
Writer John Blake got straight to the point with his headline "Why Obama Doesn't Dare Become the Angry Black Man." It was all downhill from there (h/t NBer Mr. Shy):
Here's proof that President Obama has indeed ushered in a new era in race relations.
Who would have ever expected some white Americans to demand that an African-American man show more rage?
If you've followed the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, you've heard the complaints that Obama isn't showing enough emotion.
But scholars say Obama's critics ignore a lesson from American history: Many white Americans don't like angry black men.
It's the lesson Obama absorbed from his upbringing, and from an impromptu remark he delivered last summer. Yet it's a lesson he may now have to jettison, they say, as public outrage spreads.
Notice the sleight of hand being used here: President Obama's election advanced race relations further than even he is enlightened enough to realize, causing him to be puzzled by white Americans suddenly wanting to see emotion. And we know it has to be true because there are scholars who say so!
Who are these scholars? Sadly, the answer is all too predictable.
Up first was one Saladin Ambar who made an off-putting analogy to Samuel Jackson:
"Folks are waiting for a Samuel Jackson 'Snakes on the Plane' moment from this president as in: 'We gotta' get this $#@!!* oil back in the $#!!* rig!' But that's just not who Obama is,'' says Saladin Ambar, a political science professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
How innocuous that Ambar was simply called a political science professor. Left out of CNN's coverage was the fact that Ambar has long been a fan of President Obama, and has used his respected position as a professor to glorify Obama's policies in front of college students.
Next came liberal activist William Jelani Cobb who agreed wholeheartedly with Ambar, but this time with a book to sell:
Some of the same people crying for Obama to show more emotion would have voted against him if he had displayed anger during his presidential run, says William Jelani Cobb, author of "The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress."
"It would have fed deeply into a pre-existing set of narratives about the angry black man," Cobb says. "The anger would have gotten in the way. He would have frightened off white voters who were interested in him because he seemed to be like the black guy they worked with or went to graduate school with -- not a black guy who is threatening."
Cobb is one of many university professors obsessed with race whom the media keep on speed dial to help with this very subject. It came as a surprise to exactly no one that he saw racism at work yet again.
As to the substance of his commentary - that President Obama could have blown it by getting emotional during the 2008 campaign - CNN was helpful enough to find yet another expert to corroborate the claim:
Evoking the specter of the angry black man almost cost Obama his shot at the White House, says Paul Street, an author and political activist who worked with Obama in Chicago.
Street says videos of Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, angrily condemning America were so dangerous to Obama's campaign because it hinted that Obama may have been an angry black man behind closed doors.
"Rev. Wright almost cost him his run for the presidency because of fears of the angry black man," says Street, author of the upcoming book "The Empire's New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power."
"What was Rev. Wright but the ultimate symbol of the angry black man who is going to take revenge," Street says.
That symbol is hardwired into American history and popular culture. It's Nat Turner, the slave who inspired a bloody 19th-century uprising. It's Malcolm X, the black militant who denounced "blue-eyed devils."
It's the hip-hop and rap artists who populate contemporary radio.
Street's entire point was that Jeremiah Wright was toxic for all the wrong reasons. Americans weren't afraid that Obama agreed with a hateful ideology, they were just repulsed by the thought of a black person who sounded angry.
According to the article, such superficial racism showed up again in 2009:
But Obama has "gone off" before and that didn't work too well for him, says Ambar.
During a news conference last summer, Obama casually said that police acted "stupidly" when they arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates in his home for disorderly conduct after a confrontation with a white police officer.
Obama's comments infuriated many white people, and even some black supporters. Obama had to have a Beer Summit to calm the public uproar.
"He flashed genuine anger," says Ambar. "At that moment, when he touched on the issue of race, he spoke frankly and passionately about what he felt and it got him into a big deal of trouble."
Once again, the message being relayed here is all too clear: if you disagreed with Obama's handling of anything from Jeremiah Wright to Henry Gates, you're a racist who just doesn't like anger spouting from black people. Obama had "casually" thrown in a comment about stupidity, but somehow it was a passionate display of "genuine anger" anyway, and thus he got in trouble for being too emotional.
But the most shocking observance from an expert was yet to come. The article closed with a quote from John Baick, assistant professor of history at Western New England College, who insisted that the oil spill was just a passing inconvenience in the bigger picture:
"Our commander in chief has many burdens, and among them is our history and culture," Baick says. "Compared to the weight of that, the current BP crisis and the years of environmental damage and cleanup must seem transient."
That's right, folks. Weeks and weeks of an endless gush of oil, billions of dollars gone, human lives lost, entire species in peril, thousands of jobs hanging in the balance, and the coast of poor states like Louisiana virtually destroyed for what could be many years - all of this is some transient thing compared to Obama's personal fear of white America.
There might be some out there who think President Obama should stop worrying about who he offends and just make the tough choices a leader has to make, but CNN would have none of that. Nothing in the article suggested that maybe, just maybe, Obama supporters were making excuses to cover for an ineffective president. The entire premise was accepted and passed on to readers as plain fact.
Four experts tapped to express an unprecedented amount of sympathy for our poor beleaguered president, and no one around to provide balance of any kind.
That's the Most Trusted Name in News hard at work.
Paul Street, whom Blake quoted in discussing the supposed racial roots of Americans' resentment towards Rev. Wright, wrote the following in April 2010:
Obama's famous and instantly lauded "race speech" in Philadelphia - where he saved his candidacy by distancing himself from his former "angry black" preacher Jeremiah Wright - was quite conservative. As Black Commentator's Bill Fletcher noted, Obama "attributed much of the anger of Rev. Wright to the past, as if Rev. Wright is stuck in a time warp, rather than the fact that Rev. Wright's anger about the domestic and foreign policies of the USA are well rooted - and documented - in the current reality of the USA."
Despite such efforts to appease white sentiment and notwithstanding the sorry record of the Republicans under Bush and Cheney amidst the onset of an epic financial meltdown and Great Recession, the hideously bad Republican presidential ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin still won a good majority of the white vote (particular in the South) on Election Day - hardly a sign of racism's defeat.
He has also called himself a "revolutionary socialist" and bemoaned the "American global 'killing machine.'" Is this the sort of academic CNN considers a credible source? Does the network think it responsible to publish his claims about race relations in the United States without also publishing an opposing view?