tv After Words CSPAN March 12, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm EST
barack obama and the politics of race in america >> thirdly, the interveners who pull out this knapsack and put them into power realize they are so weak they are likely to collapse and say to themselves we cannot allow our allies to fall a part and the interveners never leave and now you have an empire. not a free government. a new civil war, a new trocity
trying to afford a government on itself. >> "after words" is next. eric dyson joins us to discuss race and the obama presidency. >> who is barack obama when it comes to race? >> guest: he is a really complicated human being. one of the smartest men to occupy the oval office who thinks about the issues of race.
he showed the knity gritty of race and grappled with the consequences and talked about shifting between a father who is from kenya and a white mother from kansas and their heritage. and he speaks about a biracial child trying to fit in. he is a man who has a brilliant understanding but is residence to address the issues. the moment he begins to speak on race, his poll numbers take tank but there is finger pointing at him. we could say that is anything he does. the division is not in society
but it is in his black body. never again can this presidency as an institution exist without having the history of a black man grace the roster for two terms and do it with insight and elegance struggling with race and trying to find the best way to address the nation. >> host: let's talk about the struggle. you mentioned the numbers dropped and early on in the presidency was the beer summit issue. you address that in the book. let's talk about. >> guest: professor henry gates, renowned professor from harvard, returned from china and discovered his door was jammed and got a driver to help him
jimmy the door. a passerby saw it, thought something was skew, and the police came and discovered it was professor gates home but there was talk and tension. professor gates was lured, if you believe that story, which i think he is telling the truth of course, on to his porch and then arrested. the president said this is my friends. and he said he acted stupidly and when he said that it caused an entire week of controversy. professor gates and the arresting officer were brought to the white house with vice president joe biden and
president obama for what was dubbed a beer summit to resolve the broader structural issues. that set the tone for the president's engagement with race. it is controlled and as rare as possible. >> host: that moment was a foreshadowing of things to come. he spoke the conversation of racial profiling and toward the end of the term we had treyvon martin could have been his son. talk about the relationship and that link through your book. you talk about martin and ferguson and talk about the issues from the beer summit all the way until the end with the sermon at the mother emanuel
church in south carolina. >> guest: president obama is contending with racial crime and violence. individuals victims of private crime like george zimmerman killing treyvon martin and the white gentlemen who killed jordan davis in a fit because his music was too loud and he didn't like it and shot him dead. when we look at the police man being killed by darren wilson and in california, dillion roof, murdered nine insert souls. both from the state obama represents, through the police
and their violence toward unarmed black men and women, and in the broader society, where white racial violence had a resurgeance under the first black presidency barack obama had to contend with the ebb and flow of race and how he would address it. you play a significant role in many instances because you asked questions that were on the minds of millions of black people. so i want to thank you on behalf of black america for the kind of questions you asked because they were timely and they were relevant. if they are not necessarily questions the president wanted to address but he did respond when you forced him to respond. so the point is that barack obama determined early on this is not a kind of argument and conversation i want to have. i am going to go hesitant to disgauge in rhetoric because it
is inflaming passions and acerbate tension instead of relieving them. when the flair among racial hostility came he would slow to the uptake. he would not engage with that issue. wanting and prefering to allow it to slide on the one hand. when he did address the issue of race, occasionally the chide black america and lectured them about their moral failings versus the structural inequities. as i argue in the book, his strategies are strategic. making specific his criticism of black people but making it explicit. that contrast showed us barack obama's thinking about race and
the difficulties he confronted trying to address it. >> host: we only have an hour and i want to continue to get your reasoning about what you think. but one of my favorite movies is blue ridge and you talk about the moment of this. >> guest: the president has fantasy of like i wish i could say what i really believe. i am sure every person has fantasized about that. >> host: off the record sometimes. >> guest: off the records they will do so. i am sure all presidents do. but you can imagine the tension of living in the skin of barack obama is more weighed down as the first black chief of america and the first black president of the united states. his aids say he fantasizes about
going warren baity and that move was was put out -- bullworth was a movie that arranged for somebody to kill him. >> host: holly berry was his love interest. >> guest: very grassroots, and articulate and he got a second take on life. he started speaking in gangster rap. he was politically incorrect with black people and people with deep pockets. he was telling the truth as we saw it. a kind of donald trump figure in one way with quite a difference, right? so obama fantasized about doing a similar thing. there were bullworth moments
especially at the white house correspondents dinner. he wanted to be to address this stuff. at one dinner he said for all of my conspiracy minded figures who think i am trying to control america you are right. and in the second term he said i sang al green and in the second term i will sing young jeezy who made a song my president is black. it was a way of paying back the rhetorical comments he had made and paving the way for other young black people to support this president. i talk about the fact that recently at a white house function and a transgender latino immigrant was making
noise saying obama do something about the issues. he was like you have to go. he said i am usually good with people interrupting but right now i cannot do it. one of the moments of the white house correspondent dinner, the last one, he has a staffer speaking what his real mind and the translator said you are a little crazy and i have to distance myself from you. he had a bucket list. he said something that rhymes with bucket and we all knew it. it was funny but also a relief valve for the deeper tensions surrounding this president and his ability to speak to them >> host: it is interesting. i see a difference between first term barack obama and second-term barack obama
particularly second-term fourth quarter barack obama. talk about the differences you are alluding to and speaking to and also why do you think he was not able to do the "bullworth" moment the first time? >> lots of considerations. once you get elected you want to be reelected. it is one thing to be elected the first black president but to get reelected may be more difficult. the first time he had no record. he was a senator for a little while. he was a clean slate on which people inspired hopes, dreams and fantasies and projected on his thin body their ideals. but now, when you got a first term, you have done stuff that people like or don't like. they are supporting you or critical of you.
so now, with that record weighing on him, the public's consciousness about who he is, and he has to be as moderate as possible to cast himself as a figu figure who could carry the base as a democrat and win re-election. when he won re-election, people talk about the forecast and saying there is going to be more radicals. i don't think they thought obama was going to speak swahili and paint the white house back but thought he would be more explicit in his expression of race but he wasn't until he was forced into it. remember after his election, martha bud, then congressman from ohio who was the head of the congressional black caucus. he said you have diversity in terms of gender but there is not in terms of race andee we are
disappointed in you. that may not been a move marsha burn would have made because black people were intolerant of any criticism of obama. one of the strengths of black people collectively speaking is saying the president must do the right thing and hold him accountable. remember the story that president fdr was in the office as president and met with the
worker leader and the great education leader of black people and put forth the black agenda and roosevelt said i agree with everything you are doing and go out there and make me do it. go into the public sphere and tell them you are pressuring me do this. that should have happened with president obama. why didn't it? he is the first black president. he was in fairly assaulted by the right wingers. he wasn't pushed until black lives matter rolled up and then barack obama had to make some
very serious sfeepeeches like i selma and the beautiful sermon he delivered at mother emanuel church. >> host: african-americans were trying to support him but trying not to give republicans or anyone against him fodder to go after him. talk to me about the chapter you wrote saying something about my reporting and on page 165 we will read that in a moment. talk about the fold of black folk. >> i just finished reporting debois. i am talking about giving s
signification to black people. barack obama has pointed his finger and said you are not doing the right thing. that is a tradition in black america that rolls all the way back to slavery. black people hold them accountable. don't tell me about what the white man is doing or the obstacles you have. tell me about what you are doing like moses in the bible. leave what you have at your disposal to change your life. black people believe in that. but believe in structural impediments being removed. obama has said, holding black people responsibility, and no one is going to argue, the problem is when he shapes and frames it in a certain fashion, he makes it appear as black people are uniquely disposed toward pathological behavior. and he throws them before the public in ways that might be in
appropriate. as the commencement speaker the president started saying hey look, and this was a black man's college are martin luther king gradup from. at that college, you know, barack obama, the president said that look, you must get everything that you must work hard. that is good. but he says nobody is going to give you something you didn't earn. they have earned it. they graduated from college that day. the only person who didn't earn degree that day is barack obama because he got an honory degree.
and he said black people have to make no excuses and this group hasn't made excuses. he wasn't just speaking to the audience but to the broader white public. and i think many black people rightfully were upset. i was asked about the 50th anniversary of the march on washington and he made disparaging arguments. he said black people were responsible for the stalling of the civil rights movement. and i think that unfortunately you know, he scolded again, black america with some poor history. you know, he is usually an excellent interpretor --
interpreter of the history. there wasn't much space in the culture to argue with obama. jessie jackson, making the comment about wanting to offer the president a severed package, and black people responded to the -- >> host: that was on fox news before he became president. >> guest: when the camera was rolling and the microphone, too, and he made the comment he wanted to cut his testicles off because he was speaking down to black people. he was assaulting black people in a condecending way.
>> host: there was the joke you have obama and jesus because they held him so high. so was he in the wrong to say that? >> reporter: it ain't like all black people could come to the meeting. so that is malarkey but there is something to be said for going to black institutions and engaging in privacy where you can say some more stern things. all ethnic racial groups do that, and all sexual orientation groups do this. but what was most offensive to me is the president took the occasion of a grand celebration of the 50th anniversary of the march on washington or the occasion of a graduation as a historically black college to be harsh in demeanor and language
that was unnecessary. and as the president of the united states of america, you have the biggest voice. you amplify your voice more than anyone else in the country. his targets are done willingly, with intentions and understanding the consequences. was he in his right? of course. but he was wrong to do so within his right. he was wrong to exploit the extraordinary support he has received. 97% the first time and 93% the second time around. black people always vote in high numbers for democrats but even for black people those were impressive numbers. >> host: this goes to a topic in the book. i cannot sound like martin. i am going to read a piece from page 165 from the chapter the scold of black people and the topic is are you better off? a press conference in 2014 was
noted the president was fearless in targeting gender to make a point that blackness and not race took a back seat. all of the reporters wanted to know why and at the end of the press conference african-american report april ryan forced a question about the state of black america in light of the racial issues obama reported black america is better off now than when i came into the office. end quote. you say that is not pulled under examanization. >> guest: they just wanted to make it objective and emperically based. when you look at the numbers.
black unemployment at one point under barack obama was up to 14%. that is heinous. that is heinous. and even then chairman of the progressive black caucus said if that were a white person when he would be marching around the white house for unemployment to be that high. when you look at every social index, whether it was black kids being expelled from schools at earlier ages and in greater numbers, when you look at the housing crisis that black people are facing, along with the victories of same-sex marriage and his trade policies, there was a housing victory that wasn't touted as much but it was a big victory because the supreme court doesn't say it has to be racial intense to judge
housing practices that are unfair it is the impact. even if you don't intend for it to be messed up but it is you have hold the people countable. that was a major victory. when you look at every social index and how black people are doing and fairing. if you are a white america you ought to be thankful for obama. unemployment is down to 4% and job growth is growing on for unprecedented amount of month and the man has single-handedly as a prolitical figure encourage the nation to do great things. he bailed out there automobile industry, bailed out the banks, he gave us health care. and he tried to strengthen the economy. all of those were years he had support of his own party.
the man has always had one hand tied behind his back in a bear fight. you and i have been in the white house and meetings. i expressed my disagreement. i told him i believe a direct approach was targeted and he said i disagree and i believe the universal approach helps them out. we argued about it. and he was like michael why are you running with obama? it could hurt his chances. >> and the press secretary had to intervene.
the president said i don't mine what michael is doing, he said legit criticism i can take. i don't like people act like i don't love black people. that is what gets under his skin. >> host: i want you to be honest and that is all i have known you to be. are you critical or balanced? >> guest: that is a great question. i appreciate what the man is trying to do. let's be honest. there has been no president of the united states of america that has faced what this man has had to face. the near criminal level of obstruction this congress ought to be held accountable to and
refusing to work with him and refusing on the day he was elected -- not elected not inaugurated in 2009. a group of republicans got together and committed themselves to obstructing his presidency and turning him into a one-term president. if you end goal and objective is not to govern and help the president and work with him where you can, but obstruct everything he does to render him a one-term president, you are not only und undermining the ids that make this nation great you are going against everything we stand for. obama worked hard for a long time to get together. i understand the rise of tea
party, the racist sentiment from people, i understand how 64% of the republicans think he is a muslim. and as jerry sienfeld said there is nothing wrong with that but he is a christian. >> host: i have been in church with him. that is who he is. he was preacher. >> guest: he is the nation's first preacher there and in other places. my point is i have seen the extraordinary obstruction and the resistance and the horrible things done to him and i acknowledge those. but that doesn't mean at the same time that president obama has not made misuses as i see them. i must share with the american reading public what i believe my
interpretation of those failures are so we can work toward appreciating the greatness of the presidency and the flaws. >> host: eric dyson, author of "the black presidency: barack obama and the politics of race in america." this is amazing. when you think of barack obama, the first black president of the united states, number 44. he brought a beautiful black family and watching them grow up. >> guest: watching them grow up and the beautiful wife and barack obama hifl himself. a beautiful family. the extended family shows the beauty of their togetherness and gave america a sense of what is achievable when we permit the beauty and power of the black family in whatever form it takes to manifest itself.
>> host: page 214, you talk about first lady michele obama and it is very interesting. i think it is profound. perhaps no other figure has symbolized the complicated status of black women in america and the micro aggression and show of fast err to which they are subjected more prominently than first lady obama. many observers initially casted her as the angry black women and many framed her as shrew and reinforcing black stereotypes. >> guest: i think michele obama is one of the most remarkable figures in public like we have seen in a while. her husband is a charismatic
figure. she as his partner pledged and betrove pledged to america to do the best. she was criticized as an angry black woman when she made the statement for the first time she was proud of this nation. why would people assault a woman whose family on the south side of chicago experienced their own racial issues and growing pains as an american family and she as a student at princeton thought about and engaged the notion of the responsibility of the black elites and what they owe to the broader community. this woman who wrestled int intelligently she is an undergrad of princeton and gr
graduate of harvard said this nation hasn't treated black people with love. why would we demonize her? the nation through support of her husband is showing a historic shift. the way barack obama potential success significant the symbol of black america. it was often said michele obama spoke for the masses of black people. for the mass of black america in ways she spoke. let me give another example that is not there but mentioned in the foot notes where a former secr secr secret servant agent wrote a book and said the agents love
her for two reasons. she was warm, she would hug them and speak to her like human beings. and then because she would get after obama for running late and saying these men have schedules, too. you know michele obama could put it down saying come on these men and women have schedules to which is nice and compassionate. they didn't like her for two other reasons. first of all, she was hard on the republicans. and then in the front seat of the limo, the white secret servant agent sat in the back of the presidential limo that obama said every now and again take the side of the black people on the crises. on the one end people said that is southness and blackness and
the portable blackness she brought authenticity but it might suggest if you wife has to tell you that why don't you know the need for? situationally understanding when black people's back is against the wall as american citizens and you as the president should take this out especially when being gunned down in the street, especially vulnerable to racist rebuff you must use your status to amplify their claims. what is essential is you as the representative of the state must speak on behalf of all citizens including african-american people. >> let me ask you this. that sounds like someone who is in the quarter and sometimes a
wife reiterates things and with that, do you think that this barack obama was the same barack obama in the first presidency? would this have happened in the first administration versus now? did the secret service agent hear that now versus then because as you said eloquently there were political issues that prohibited him from to things -- doing things -- because he wanted re-election. no president who occupied the office has done their own narrative.
they have to have support and demands and cries of justice ringing in the streets and echoing in the halls of justice across the land for change to be enacted. he feels a bit of fear in the second term but has the episodes where he could use the n-word as he did on a podcast. that church sermon. >> it was a sermon. he didn't take a text but -- >> guest: he laid it out and appealed to the black traditions nan interesting fashion. i am saying all of that to say there are differences. he has evolved and evoled with
the holding people accountable. i am not one of these and i am not a hater of barack obama. i do not believe in that. that is a waste of time. if it is ill intended and quite frankly it disrespects the incredible work that went into the achievement of the first black presidency. however it is equally problematic to pretend there is no flaw, no fly in the ointment. we have to be gentle and critical of barack obama because he is the president. as my great friend said we have to learn to criticize without hating. and we have to learn to love without backing down. hopefully in this book i
criticized without hate and loved without judgment. >> this is an amazing conversation. you talked about the early trip to africa. he went to sub-saharan africa and later on went to another area. you talk about so many issues -- >> guest: thank you for saying that. a lot of people read parts of the book. you read the whole thing. i wanted to deliberately address all of the issues. his first trip to africa, why she -- he didn't go to kenya and when he got to africa he said i don't buy into the argument. i think africa is responsible for africa.
tough love some might say. but all that is there. the notion of race and identity. all of the things he did. it is all there to present as fear and complete a picture of this complicated radiant, beautiful but also flawed black man because he is flewed because all of us are and all of us fail to live up to ideals and ambition. when you say this about this president, black people are hypersensitive and i understand why. we chose to forget.
my point is that we live in a nation that tendency to refuse the day of history when it comes to black people. when it is everything else they love history and the nation. how many books on lincoln and the founding brothers and sisters? when it comes to black people, stop. i want people to transcend what they believe. let's get to a point where we
appreciate the broad span of the racial identity and don't have to support one or the other. >> host: you brought up something interesting bringing president obama into this. i talked to wes moore from baltimore and i said we are not a post-racial society and he said we are not a post-racist society. we have a marker, january 20th, an noon, at 12:01 we will be a post-obama society. will this country survive? >> guest:ee are going to miss him. nobody what anyone is saying.
i miss him already. it is his decorum and the sense of balance and brain. when we look at the other side of the aisle and this bitter dispute for presidency among the republicans. when you look at what donald trump is spewing and what ted cruz is trying and marco rubio is manipulating and the lethal candidates for the presidency we will be come nustalac. a white governor puts her finger in his face on the tarmac in arizona. a white congressman, in his
first few months in office, called him a liar from charleston, south carolina. a daily caller reporter on the white house lawn refused to let obama speak without interrupting him. >> not even a press conference but a statement. >> guest: it is not nearly rudeness. stephen colbert was saying you have saying rudeness? it is not just rudeness. put together with the fact they don't believe he is an american citizen, he is not seen as a legitimate authority to occupy the white house add them together, those beliefs amounts to a disturbing and appalling racist call that has been cast across the horizon of this black presidency. it is to his credit he maintained his dignity and
strength in the face of immunity. >> host: this has been a dynamic discussion and the book is powerful on its own but you added another element to the book. >> guest: eric holder is saying if i were the president, i would behave like barack obama and if barack obama was the attorney general he would behave like me. eric holder has been given credit for occupying a high level political office with one eye kept on the broader landscape of american society. and another eye cast upon how that has impacted the most
vulnerable people in the country including the african-american people. so many people applauded him and eric holder was not taking that bait so to speak and said no. i would be there kind of person he is now. he said you have to hug your racial capital. he said if you spend it too much, then the people don't take you seriously. if you are too cheap or sparse you are not effective. he thought that barack obama struck the right kind of balance. i tried to push him on that because i disagreed. i said i don't think he did too well. he might have thrown the children in there as well. he refused to use it in ways i think he might have done so earlier. but the bottom line is that eric holder defends his guy and says that he is creating an atmosphere and setting a pattern
and establishing a template that will significant positive results on american culture. and eric holder, as i talk about him, was a rather remarkable figure. he was able to speak to the interest of african-american people as a black man who was attorney general and at the same time took care of his broader duties to the larger american public. last june, end of june 2015, the week of the 22nd, was an amazing week in this nation. >> host: we had the monday where presidential obama, you spoke of it, the garage and speaking to an alternative bloger in the garage and said the n-word.
>> host: when we was then candidate for president, barack obama, he had that significant philadelphia speech and many said i love him. an a lot of african-american americans took offense and said -- he is a new guy. then we won iowa and then south carolina happened. and then philadelphia clenched it for a lot of people.
is that intrensic of what we see in the office >> guest: yes. and for him the situation is more precarious. i think he is free to be himself. jeremy wright is the man who gave him the keys to the kingdom. people exploited his language. most people heard him and went to saying we hear this every sunday.
they see it as a necessary argument against american culture and the tragedy is this. people force barack obama and his pastor apart as opposed to seeing them as part of a larger whole in black religion. >> host: when the pastor says i'm going after you. you are the symbol in the country. was that america or did white -- >> his job is to say this.
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