Just over a year ago, Glenn Beck called President Obama a racist on national television. The cause of this was the reaction of President Obama to an incident between the police and a college professor that was his friend. President Obama jumped into a local situation, admittedly without all the facts, and created a controversy that centered on race.
I stated on July 29, 2009 that,
“So Glenn Beck is wrong. His lack of understanding, or concern, probably is due to not having to live as people of color have to in this nation. That does not make Beck a racist, nor insensitive to improving the race relations in the nation. It just makes him White, and a media personality. Neither is bad. But he can improve himself.
Separate of that, there is nothing wrong with posing the question, “Is our President racist?” It’s the same as asking if our President is overly religious, or an adulterer, or drunk, or anything else. It is a Right that all Americans have. And if in asking the question a better understanding of America and all Americans is achieved then the question was worth asking.”
But Glenn Beck has retreated from his words. He has taken steps to redress his position, especially in light of his 8/28 event. But not an apology.
“I don’t want to retract… I want to amend that I think it is much more of a theological question,” Beck said. “He is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology — which is oppressor and victim. Racist was, first of all, shouldn’t have been said. It was poorly said.” After referencing his “big fat mouth,” Beck acknowledged “that’s just not the way people should behave. And it’s not accurate.”
Given time to further learn about President Obama, to hear of the regret of Beck, to reflect on what happened a year ago, has the question about President Obama been answered? More importantly, has the bigger question of race relations in America been answered?
There is the most true and telling thing to take away from what Glenn Beck has said and what pundits will be speaking around. Race relations of people of color and Whites in America have not improved. America is no more post-racial today than the sun rises in the west.
The potential was there. There was an opportunity for a bit of reality to ease into the national conciousness about how people of color differ in their lives and in their interactions with authorities like the police. We could have made a step towards something bigger.
But in the end, President Obama had an uncomfortable beer with the men at the center of the controversy, and Glenn Beck got hate mail. A year later, Beck still gets hate mail, and most have forgotten the event having moved on to now the 9/11 mosque. President Obama still gets called a racist, and some even question his religious claims (which is the business of no one but President Obama and God). America has gained nothing.
Like most I don’t know or care about liberation theology. But I have a vested interest in race relations for people of color in this nation. And I am saddened by the missed opportunity to actually improve things in the nation.
The story going forward will be that Beck has insulted the President. That Beck misunderstands the motivations of the President, and/or that he continues to think of the President as a racist. None of that matters though.
The news should be that we as Americans have come to a point where we can discuss race and issues openly, leading to an understanding that helps move the nation forward. But that remains a dream. Therefore America loses, not just Beck with his ratings or President Obama with his political clout.
It doesn’t matter what things are said about a President (like the war-monger comments on Bush, the ineptness of Ford, the philandering of Clinton, ect.) if in the end a national discussion can be had where the nation improves in some way. That hasn’t happened in the past, and it seems clear that with regard to race relations it won’t happen now either.
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