The column, titled “Why Obama Must Reach Out to Angry Whites,” lays out the case of why it would be a plus for the president to travel the country to come face to face with his critics as a way of countering Donald Trump’s grasp on white people who resent Obama and the way he’s running things.
“He shouldn’t say much at all. He should go primarily to listen, even if it means he has to endure being called nasty names to his face or risk being spat on. Because when you cut through the political rhetoric and fearmongering and empty, overheated debates, that’s the one thing people in those communities believe they haven’t received and want most—to be heard,” the column’s author Issac Bailey writes.
“…But the current president—the nation’s first black president, born of a white mother, married to a descendant of slaves, father of 21st-century daughters—can use the allure and mystique of his office to speak to the American public, and all of its myriad, divisive factions, in a way no one else can.”
Despite his “well-intentioned” attempt, Mediaite labeled Bailey’s effort “misguided while noting how much of a sour note his column hit with black people on Twitter. Noting that Bailey is black, twitter users leveled a barrage of critiques against him, saying he is engaging in “tomfoolery,” is perpetuating the “magical negro” trope, and repeatedly identifies the burgeoning non-white majority as a “problem.”
For his part, Bailey acknowledged how Trump’s “ugly rhetoric just might force the country to finally contend with a problem many don’t even want to acknowledge exists: that we are fast becoming a nation in which minorities make up a majority of the population.”
Examining Bailey’s column, Mediaite pointed out that the columnist failed to cite the speech then-Senator Obama’s gave on race during his 2008 campaign “and everything that followed it.”
It was during that speech where Obama directly responded to the concerns of “panicked Whitey, and in the middle of it, granted those fears a legitimacy that no other politician could have gotten away with.” That being the anger of most “working- and middle-class white Americans” who “don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race.”
Among those referenced by Mediaite are white immigrants who’ve worked hard throughout their lives, “only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.
“They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time,” Mediaite explained.
“Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding,” the site added.
Despite Obama’s efforts to reach across racial lines, the reality, according to Mediaite, was that “Whitey’s party” was already conspiring against him “hours before he was even inaugurated.”
Nevertheless, the site goes on to suggest that whoever becomes the next president will have their hands full in explaining to “a majority of Americans, white and non-white, what’s in it for them.”