Jean Barker

Insulting Obama

2016-02-19 11:05

Jean Barker

From a South African’s perspective, that President Obama was black seemed irrelevant when he was elected in 2008. I know black presidents can suck, just as much as white ones do. But he’s been different to what I expected. Since I arrived in the US in 2010, I’ve felt the changes. He finally caught the USA up with South Africa when it came to gay marriage. He at least tried to combat gun violence. And he made sure everybody people had some sort of (albeit crappy, not cheap) health care to count on.   

Another difference? He’s been attacked in ways that other presidents never were. The essential problem for me, is that a lot of resistance to President Obama’s actions has nothing at all to do with his ideas, and everything to do with resistance to change.


Watermelons: This may seem like nothing, but shortly after The Obamas took up residence in the white house, people started sharing photos of watermelons on the white house lawn.

This isn’t “a thing” in South Africa, like the stereotype of black people eating chicken isn’t “a thing” in South Africa, because all South Africans are obsessed with chicken, hence Nando’s, and even crappy old KFC (when you’re really hung over). But in the USA this seemingly harmful association is connected to a lot of very harmful ones, making it harmful, as this cartoon in response to a white house security breach is. The worst and nastiest attacks on him come mostly from racists who often won’t admit they are racist, but clearly are. This “subtle” stuff is where it begins.

People keep trying to kill him: Every time Obama comes to LA, there’s Facebook uproar among conservatives all over LA. Yes, I have a few Republican friends. How DARE he make traffic, they lament! They seem to think it wasn’t nearly this bad when other presidents visited. Or, that LA didn’t’ have traffic the day before. The reality is that, partly thanks to The Internet, Obama has racked up more assassination threats than any other president. In case you think this is just about some idiots posting on twitter, the idiots posting on twitter who went to jail for threatening Obama had weapons stockpiles. So, though LA is relatively liberal, but surrounded by places like Orange County, where the KKK is still pretty active, roads get closed.

Referring to him by his first name only (or by his middle name, Hussein): This is the kind of obvious but supposedly (but not) “benign” racism that I notice a lot in the USA. Using the N-Word isn’t fashionable, even among most total morons, but people who are intrinsically racist, but deny it, still give themselves away. How? Well, they in the same sentence will refer to various Bushes as “Bush” or “Bush Jr.” or President Clinton as “Clinton”, while they call President Obama “Barack”. A variant of this: Those who call him “Hussein”, or “Osama” after a few drinks.

Trying to stop him doing his job: Congress and the Senate have tried to characterize any (completely legal, completely constitutional) act on Obama’s part as him being a “dictator”. They’re essentially insubordinate, in a way they haven’t ever been before, including with white democrats. They’ve been dragging their feet on many other appointments for years of Obama’s administration. Their contention that he has no right to appoint a successor to Supreme Court Justice Scalia, because Obama only has eleven months left in office is laughable. Eleven months? These are the same people who claim a fetus is human at six weeks.

The whole place of birth scandal: Obama’s mother was American. Hence he’s American. It doesn’t matter if he was born in Afghanistan in an area occupied by ISIS. If you’re too dumb to understand this legal principal, then you’re obviously a Fox News watcher, or worse. The fact that this got so much airtime makes America a lame joke all over the world, where we can’t figure out why people think having an African father is a bad thing in the first place.

Net ‘n Yahoo (sorry, that’s “Netanyahu”) addressing Congress:  Bypassing the president of a country that supports you, militarily and otherwise, and insulting an administration that was attempting to broker peace and counter Islamaphobia and Anti-Semitism by forging a treaty with with the flawed state of Iran, was an attempt to weaken Kerry’s hand at the negotiating table with Iran, at a crucial time. It was an unforgivably partisan event, and also, obvious electioneering to attract the voters of his conservative coalition government. With any due respect to “Bibi”, the people of Israel deserve a better leader than this shmuck, and Jews deserve a more just figurehead – not this gross “eye for an eye” guy.
Then there’s really crazy stuff:  The people who put “Obama Bin Laden” bumper stickers on their cars, then claim he faked Osama’s assassination. Who claim he’s ISIS’s “Trojan horse” because he calls it ISIL. Or, the people who buy and sell T-Shirts that say things like “Somewhere in Kenya, a village is missing it’s idiot”. The joke’s on them, of course, unless they’re trying to say that knowing how to use an apostrophe, because you finished high school, is somehow pretentious.

I wish it were comforting that the people insulting Obama are stupid. But it’s not, because it’s surprising how many influential, and relatively wealthy people get extra stupid, when a black guy tries to run the country.

Jean earned an MFA in Directing and Screenwriting and works in the LA film industry. She tweets as @jeanbarker and blogs pictures of signs and more, here. She will be back.

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