Monday, June 7, 2010

The AngryBlackMan-In-Chief

As you are hopefully aware, over a month ago, oil company BP had one of the biggest screw ups in recent American history that is still polluting the Gulf Coast with millions of gallons of oil as we speak.  Like clockwork, the political hacks on both sides of the aisle have been busy at work criticizing the Obama Administration's response from not enough to too much.  One thing seems to be certain: as long as the problem continues to exist, the Obama Administration remains vulnerable to a host of criticisms from news pundits and politicians alike.  Among these criticisms, there seems to be some sort of agreement from both sides that Obama himself is not showing enough emotion with respect to outrage surrounding the tragedy.  In other words, the country is once again looking for Obama to become the "Angry Black Man" that some were looking for during the 2008 campaign.  As we have seen time and time again since 2008, Obama is the personification of cool, calm and collected, even in the face of controversies that would make the best of us scream from the top of our lungs and throw a shoe or two at somebody.  Due to this persona, Obama often receives the same 2 comments: (i) he is complimented on his ability to remain calm during crisis, and (ii) he is criticized as seeming too "detached" from the common man.  To be sure, we've consistently seen the calm-during-crisis guy, but does this sophisticated persona come at the expense of blocking any emotional connection with the American people?  In other words, does America need to see emotion from its leaders?

Based on the news punditry of late, one could speculate that many people would answer that question in the affirmative; in order for a leader to be effective in America he or she needs to show us a bit of human emotion.  However, this presidency is a special case that America has never seen before.  Many Americans, a full 2 years after the fact, are still coming to terms with the fact that they rise and sleep under a Black President.  There is a residual uneasiness that still lingers among many of America's citizens, and it is this uneasiness that may factor into the reason as to why we have not seen the "angry black man" side of Obama to date.  There are certainly those on the far Right who would love nothing more than to be able to seize on an angry Obama youtube clip and play it over and over for their audiences and saying "see!  I told you so!"  Given these racial tensions that still exist in our country, how does one reconcile the need to see emotion with the fear of the "angry black man?"

We must also consider that Obama's lack of emotion may have nothing to do with the "angry black man" theory.  It may just simply be his genuine personality.  He may just be that guy that never gets hype or excited or emotional.  And if such is the case, then asking him to go on TV and show emotion for the sake of showing emotion may come off as clearly disingenuous.  While the people may want to see emotion, they certainly don't want to be placated.  So again, how does one reconcile the need to see emotion with the obvious need for authenticity?

The answer may involve a paradigm shift in our politics that can only come from the American people.  Stated differently, whenever a crisis happens in our lives, whether it be at work or at home, we are conditioned to expect that with crisis comes, among other things, anger and blame.  At work, if somebody screws up, we expect the boss to yell and shout and we also probably expect somebody to get fired because that's the type of behavior we associate with leadership in the work place.  At home, if you or one of your siblings did something you weren't supposed to do, we expected mom or dad to yell and scream and we also probably expected a punishment of some kind, because that's the kind of behavior we associate with leadership in the home.  But what if our expectations about leadership have been wrong all along?  What if the staple of leadership does not turn on whether somebody has the ability to cuss somebody out during a tense situation, but instead turns on whether somebody has the ability to obtain their objective during a tense situation without all of the fireworks and bull horns that we've come to expect? 

But this is America, Jack, and I concede that in order for forgoing leadership style to be accepted by the masses, it would require a complete transformation of our way of thinking.  Such being the case, I must further concede that such a transformation may not likely happen during our lifetime, therefore, in order to be an effective leader in America today, one has to play by the rules of today and those rules apparently require the following: in order for the American people to feel that they are witnessing "leadership," there must be a display of emotion, even if such display does absolutely nothing to solve the problem. Any deviation from this rule will result in being labeled as "professorial" or "detached." 

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