President Barack Obama gave his annual State of the Union speech last night and it was a great demonstration of his oratory skills that made many get swept up by his charm during his 2008 campaign. The speech started off very strong and hard driving home Obama’s accomplishments with healthcare reform and lowering the unemployment rate (more on this in a bit). He advocated for allowing workers to get paid sick and maternity leave and that the infrastructure of America be updated. He challenged a Republican Congress to dare send him any bill that intended to increase sanctions on Iran, overturn his immigration reform (unless they sent him a good bill), or build the Keystone XL pipeline simply saying “I will veto it”. In short President Obama was there to prove that he was still the swagged out President we voted for, stating it clearly that “I have no more campaigns to run…I know because I won both of them” *drops mic*.
Between the Obama shade, Boehner’s face of constipation coupled with that tan, Biden’s face of support as if watching his rapper friend spit lyrics the State of the Union speech was great if you were not concerned about racial inequality that runs throughout America. The speech was great but it was safe as I knew it would be unfortunately. I have realized that for most democratic issues President Obama is very liberal (woman’s rights, gay marriage, healthcare, etc), but when it comes to issues dealing with race he is very moderate and gradualist and that is what irks me. He did mention Ferguson once but it was a fleeting moment only to drive home a larger point. Considering the gravity that Ferguson and the events around the country with the murders of unarmed black men and women it was a shame that they were reduced to a moment that many would not remember. He asked congress to understand why black parents have the “the talk” with their black sons but he didn’t ask congress to pass legislation to prevent any parent from having to have this talk in the first place, (legislation that would end the unfair criminalization of black bodies would be a start and I wonder what that would look like).
President Obama’s speech was great but it did nothing for the issue I truly care about of racial justice. Ferguson does not happen in a vacuum. It was created by the racial inequalities that were legislated into the system that still hold a grip on the country. Also though the national unemployment rate is down to 5.6% the unemployment rate for blacks in America still stands at 10.4%. Now some racist somewhere will say it is because black people aren’t working or are content with living off government assistance and to them I say that is not the truth. The truth is we still face a lack of job opportunities. In the past people who didn’t go to college were able to get jobs in local factories where they earned a blue collar wage but when those companies closed and moved to China, many blacks were left without job options to pursue and instead had to start their careers all over again no matter their age. Also, police brutality is a real thing that has a long racist history in the US and it should be noted that when Mayor Bill de Blasio mentioned “the talk” he has with Dante the NYPD was ready to send the city down the river by not working (although the opposite happened and the city remained standing proves broken windows does not work).The focus on the middle class was good but his speech concentrated on them and the rich but what about the poor that are equally a part of this system? Sure his recommendations that people get paid sick leave is good but there are still people that are working poor whose parents were working poor whose grandparents were working poor. College seems like a great way to break that cycle but for many poor people who struggle to eat or have sick family to take care of it is not a viable option. Critiques or promises to fix the prison industrial complex which was built on the backs of black men following the War on Drugs were also absent, which says a lot since the incarceration rates in the US is the highest in the world. Now it would be something if these issues with black bodies was confined to the US but the absence of Nigeria from the conversation is extremely telling. He mentioned the events in Paris but he did not utter a word about how terrorists slaughtered 2000 people in Nigeria. It shows a larger trend that white bodies and when violence happens in Western countries from an outsider group it is seen as horrific yet when the same or worse violence happens in African countries it is easily dismissed as “well that’s Africa for you” because many still hold to the racist belief of Africa as the “dark continent”.
This was a rambling post of sorts but it is important to point out. Last nights speech was typical President Obama when it came to State of the Unions. It was a brilliant trap he set for Republicans for when they don’t pass his common sense requests such as paid maternity leave, their decision will surely haunt them come 2016. The speech was also an amazing mix of braggadocio that riled up Obama supporters. But as for me as a non-middle class black man living in America it did not help me feel better about my position in America but instead employed the same race-neutral rhetoric of Obama. This speech would have been great for me had I been a white male liberal who didn’t care much about race issues but since I’m not nor would like to be (I do love being black) my struggle for my equality in America continues.
Please subscribe and follow the RSS feed for new content when it is available