#66 Make No Sudden Moves

On March 27, 2012

Hello Everyone,

For over three years, we have heard venom spewed forth by some at our first African-American president. And, with the passage of time, many of us forget how remarkable it was that he was even elected.

The national discussion that has been provoked by the troubling and sad death of high school student Trayvon Martin conjures for me two memories that tie that tragedy to this presidency.

In Dreams from My Father, a young Barack Obama wrote a few sentences that have stuck with me for almost nine years now.

It was the start of my senior year in high school…I told [my mother] not to worry, I wouldn’t do anything stupid. It was usually an effective tactic, another one of the tricks I had learned: people were satisfied so long as you were courteous and smiled and made no sudden moves. They were more than satisfied; they were relieved to find a well-mannered young black man…

After Barack Obama announced his candidacy, several African-Americans, even some total strangers upon seeing my campaign wristband or button, told me how they feared for his safety.

In an interview with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes in February 2007, Michelle Obama was asked if she feared for her husband’s safety. She responded, as you may remember, “I don’t lose sleep over it because the realities are that, you know, as a black man Barack can get shot going to the gas station.”

Then, on Friday, when asked about Trayvon Martin, the President poignantly noted, as you know, “…if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” without ever directly mentioning race.

Like the President, we should withhold our judgment while being alarmed at the initial failure to investigate.

Whatever the ultimate truth is about Trayvon Martin’s death, it is important for all of us to seek to emulate the President’s even-handed temperament – “one of the tricks I had learned” – avoiding stereotypes, escalating rhetoric, and misplaced anger.

Some of you may recall that from the beginning, I have supported Barack Obama because of his “intellect, worldview, and temperament.”

With his election, we have come a long way. But, with this shooting, we are all reminded that we still have a long way to go.

Please, as always, pass it on. And, remember that previous Obamagrams are stored on www.obamagrams.com



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