Skip to Content

Obama Is Right: Protest and Love of Country Can Co-Exist

On Saturday, the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington, DC. The coverage was abundant, but the opening ceremonies really did the spirit of the museum justice. Watch, or re-watch it again, here.

President Obama gave a stirring speech that explained why “protest and love of country” can co-exist, and why facing the truth of a complicated past is the only way forward. It’s a foundational idea that all leaders should embrace. From his speech:

“The best history helps us recognize the mistakes that we’ve made, and the dark corners of the human spirit that we need to guard against. And yes, a clear-eyed view of history can make us uncomfortable. It will shake us out of familiar narratives.

But it is precisely because of that discomfort that we learn, and grow, and harness our collective power to make this nation more perfect. That’s the American story that this museum tells, one of suffering and delight, one of fear, but also of hope, of wandering in the wilderness, and then seeing, out on the horizon, a glimmer of the Promised Land.”

But it can be a tough road. This passage reminded me of a conversation I once saw candidate Obama have with a potential voter who was having trouble reconciling our past with the future. It was October 2007, early enough in the campaign that reporters like me could still get within speaking distance of him. (It would be the last time, however.) The campaign had been criss-crossing South Carolina, to increasingly larger and more enthusiastic crowds. But this exchange is seared in my memory.

We were all milling about after a campaign event, and Obama stopped to speak with a tiny, grandmotherly woman, who had grabbed his arm. She was dressed to the nines, including a purple, go-to-church hat replete with tiny flowers. She was crying. He bent down to hear her tearful confession: As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t vote for him. “They’re going to kill you,” she said. You know where we live. You know how things are. “I just can’t be part of that.” Her face collapsed in anger and grief.

“You know, Michelle and I have talked about this,” Obama began. “We’ve prayed on it. And we know what can happen.” While his campaign handlers swirled about, he talked quietly with her about the country, their families, and what they both believed could make things better. Fear and hope in a South Carolina gym. “I got this,” he said. This was a risk he and Michelle were willing to take, but he needed her to take one too.

“I’m going to be alright,” he said. “I think we’re all going to be alright.”

On Point

Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez dies in a boating accidentFernandez was beloved for many reasons, but his harrowing defection from Cuba, which he attempted three times before he was successful, started him on his journey to becoming an American legend. He thrived in the cultural mix of Miami, a joyous person with a love for baseball and a talent to match. You don’t need to be a Marlins fan to miss him.Washington Post

A new law blocks public access to police videos in North Carolina
Does the public have a right to see video data collected by public servants? The answer is increasingly unclear. On October 1st, a new NC law goes into effect which prevents police dashcam and bodycam videos from becoming a part of the public record subject to Freedom Of Information Act requests. It was signed by the governor just two months ago.
CNN

A list of 18 studies about police and racial bias in the U.S.
Vanity Fair has put together a list of academic studies, media investigations and legal decisions that paint a very important picture: That a citizen’s race may affect their experience with the police. It’s a good resource when someone says that nobody important is studying the issue.
Vanity Fair

Race and progress at Mizzou: A year in review
A year ago, the University of Missouri received unwanted national attention after students complained of racist incidents on campus. One even went on a hunger strike. The football team, the heart and revenue soul of the school, refused to play until the university’s president stepped down. He did. A year later, the school has a laundry list of changes to share, including doubling the number of faculty of color in the next four years.
KBIA

For the last 12 years, an oil and gas worker died every 3 months in Colorado
There’s no hashtag, and nobody sings their praises at football games. But if you’re a rank-and-file worker in the oil business in Colorado, you’re taking a bigger risk than most other professions, including law enforcement. Why a $15 billion-a-year industry (in good years), that routinely buries its faithful, receives no press, no outrage and no justice. The Denver Post has a year-long investigation.
Denver Post

No longer a novelty, black quarterbacks lead
For decades, black boys and men wanted to be the field general, the man who directed gameplay, the quarterback. Racial barriers deferred that dream. In a beautifully-rendered story, journalist Jeff Rivers explores what the acceptance of the black QB means for white players, the sport, the NFL and his son.
The Undefeated

The Woke Leader

 
Time or money?
Two professors from the Anderson School of Management pose a poignant question about priorities and the road not taken.  Which is more important to you? The better paid but more time-consuming job or more time with your infant? “In our pursuit of happiness, we are constantly faced with decisions both big and small that force us to pit time against money,” they say. Spoiler alert: Time well spent with loved ones ends up being more valuable. What they don’t cover is what happens to your spirit if you don’t get a choice.
New York Times

When fiction writing – or marketing – crosses a line
Can a Chinese American man write a convincing fictional scene about a black man being lynched?  Should he? This is the opening salvo in a serious and ongoing conversation about identity, appropriation and who gets to tell what story in an age when not all voices get a shot at being heard. “It’s the wish not so much to be able to write a character of another race, but to do so without criticism,” writes novelist Kaitlyn Greenidge. And therein lies the rub.
New York Times

Let Jim Carrey help explain what a microaggression is
Quartz’s Hannah Yi has put together a really helpful explainer of the microaggression – those insidious, sometimes unconscious expressions of bias that can do lasting damage to the recipient over time. It’s partly a supercut of famous microaggressions in Hollywood films, but mostly it’s a serious look at the spectrum of insults, from the completely racist, to the utterly clueless.
Quartz

Quote

I’m so glad you came into my life. I’m ready for where this journey is gonna take us together. #familyfirst
—Jose Gonzalez