From Reniqua Allen’s piece, The First Black President Has Made it Harder to Talk About Race:
Right now the nation has embarked on a massive conversation about race surrounding the tragic death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. On Friday, President Obama weighed in. “I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out: How does something like this happen?” he said.
It’s an important conversation to have — but I fear it won’t lead anywhere. After all, we’ve seen plenty of these debates in recent years, invariably prompted by some tragedy or controversy. Think Troy Davis. Or Shirley Sherrod. Or Jeremiah Wright. Or Henry Louis Gates Jr. Or even Rodney King. We have big debates over racial prejudice and disparities in this country, and then nothing happens.
And this is why, for the most part, discussions on race don’t matter. Yes, it is true that this President has willfully and intentionally abandoned any meaningful discussion on race, but that’s who he is. We’re talking about a constitutional law professor President who signed NDAA, a “community activist” who watched with indifference as nonviolent OWS protesters were arrested, and an anti Iraq war President who signed the Patriot Act. Obama is everything he says he’s not. He has ushered in the modern Orwellian era.
Having said that, it is also worth noting that any discussion Obama initiates around race is really pretty futile. What matters more than what Obama says are his policies as they relate to structural racism. You can make your mouth say anything, whereas your actual policies have a real, tangible, and quantifiable impact.
The bulk of our energy is best spent navigating racism and devising methods for survival, such as how to escape the industrial prison or military complex, and how to support each other via strong – and real- friendships.
We should opt out of these crass conversations which are absent of humanity. Those conversations are luxuries of a different time and era; we’re not there yet. Focus. Hunker down. Turn inward.