Barack Obama's wardrobe has improved, and he has had 20 more years to develop his thinking, but his voice and gestures remain the same. (video)
Barack Obama has rarely spoken so candidly about race as when he was a first-time author promoting his "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," at the Cambridge, Mass., Public Library on Sept. 20, 1995 (video).
Obama was a Harvard Law School student who had worked as a community organizer in Chicago. He was optimistic about America but believed that "Americans don't like to sacrifice . . . Our whole politics is geared toward not wanting to sacrifice and wanting to do everything on the cheap." However, he said, "solving racial problems at this stage has very much to do with economics and class and dealing with entire generations of segments of society that need help. And that's going to cost some money. . . ."
He also quoted his wife, Michelle, agreeing that "black folks are the most forgiving people, because they've had the most practice."
Obama, who is biracial, said he understood the impulse to check "multicultural" on census forms but disagreed with the strategy. "So now we have 'coloreds' in America," he said, referring to the South African mixed-race racial category that existed under apartheid. When he couldn't catch a cab in New York, Obama said, he couldn't hold up a sign and say, "I'm multicultural."
The future president called his job as a civil rights lawyer hard work because "Reagan and Bush appointed judges that are not sympathetic to civil rights laws, and one of the things I always try to emphasize is there is so much debate about affirmative action and very little talk about enforcement of anti-discrimination laws."
He gave the example of a case he was handling, in which the manager, who later became CEO of a Fortune 500 company, referred to an employee using the N-word. "The conservatives have been very effective in using the monicker 'politically correct' to sort of beat back the progress we've made in terms of decency and civility," Obama said.
The talk was recorded by 22-CityView, the cable system in Cambridge, and recently surfaced on social media.
- Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press: Peevish or loaded for bear— Obama getting tough on critics
Karin Eagle, a columnist for the Lakota Country Times on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, told readers this week that she has seen "a huge response" from both near and far" to the planned May 2 visit by Unity: Journalists for Diversity.
"What are we going to do with it? We are going to learn such things as promoting our own businesses and programs and organizations through social media and mainstream media; we are going to learn how to initiate investigative reporting so we can start to uncover some of the corruption on the various levels we have identified it; we are going to learn how to access vital information that despite anyone's attempts to keep from us, we are entitled to.
"The kids are going to benefit from the artistic stylings of not one but two amazing cartoonists who are known for using their art to speak volumes about current issues.
"There will be so much more to be won from learning how to talk about our own stories and to share them with [whomever] we choose to. We can never tell all of the stories because every single person has their own unique perspective of many different situations, and every single person can and usually does have perspectives that vary wildly based on what they have seen or heard.
"We have an infinite number of stories to tell and now we are going to have the support and encouragement from some of the greatest minds in Indian Country, people willing to lay it all out and support our storytelling; what . . . will we do with this gift? . . ."
In a nearly 4,000-word rumination on the biracial South African comedian chosen to succeed Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's the "Daily Show," critic Wesley Morris concluded Friday for Grantland that Trevor Noah deserves a chance.
"Understanding the explosion of outrage around the announcement of Trevor Noah as the new 'Daily Show' host requires looking at everything from the state of political satire to the Brian Williams mess to the racial politics of South African popular culture," read the headline on Morris' essay.
"In other words: It gets really complicated, really quickly."
Within 24 hours of the announcement of Noah's appointment, he was quickly criticized for old tweets that were called misogynist, tasteless, anti-African American and anti-Semitic. Noah replied, "To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn't land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian."
Morris, a black journalist who won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for criticism while at the Boston Globe, wrote, "American racial comedy requires some firsthand experience that also eludes him." His 2013 stand-up special, "African American,""is almost 70 minutes of condescension and backhanded compliments."
Still, Morris writes, Noah deserves a chance.
Referring to comedian and actor Patton Oswalt, Morris concludes, "The Oswalts of the world are arguing that this is a terrible time to be a Trevor Noah stepping in for a Jon Stewart. Just do lip-syncing contests! Otherwise they'll flay you!
"But this could also be the right time for a Noah. Things are upside down. They have been for years. At any moment Brian Williams could have hosted The Daily Show and Jon Stewart could have anchored NBC’s Nightly News, and it would have seemed only loosely surreal. Whoever Noah is — whoever, on The Daily Show, he turns out to be — it's likely he'll be what late-night comedy desperately needs: unsafe."
Tim Baysinger, Broadcasting & Cable: Larry Wilmore on Trevor Noah Criticism: People Don't Know Him Yet(April 10)
Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: Shared dreams.
Heidi W. Durrow, HuffPost BlackVoices: Trevor Noah Taking the Tragic Out of Mulatto One Joke at a Time(April 2)
- Editorial, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Late turnover: Gambling on Trevor Noah at 'The Daily Show' (April 4)
Douglas Foster, the Atlantic: Trevor Noah's World: What makes The Daily Show's new host unique — according to South African comics (April 5)
Richard Horgan, FishbowlNY: Some Wise Words from Jim Norton(April 2)
Norimitsu Onishi and Dave Itzkoff, New York Times: Trevor Noah Sees Childhood Under Apartheid as License to Speak His Mind(April 2)
Erik Wemple, Washington Post: Jon Stewart sticks up for successor Trevor Noah(April 7)
- Jason Zinoman, New York Times: 'Daily Show' Successor Trevor Noah Finds Himself Catching Criticism, Not Dealing It Out(April 9)