Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under The News

NPR interviewed President Obama about the progress the country has made in his eight years as president. The whole thing is an excellent read, but you have to appreciate how Steve Inskeep and crew did their homework. This question kicks off my favorite exchange:

As part of this project, we also had a look at your 2008 campaign speech in Philadelphia about race in which you talked in one passage about anger in the black community, which you said is sometimes counterproductive but it’s real and there are reasons it. There’s another passage which I hadn’t even noticed before, in which you say there is a similar anger among some in the white community who don’t feel particularly privileged by their race and do feel frustrated that they’re losing jobs, losing pensions, feel like they’re losing ground.

Looking back, were you describing there the same force that is driving much of our election discussion here in 2016?

Before I let the President respond, I’m going to throw a link here to the excellent NPR podcast Code Switch, whose first episode featured the line “when you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” Strongly recommended.

Anyway, Mr. POTUS. Did you realize white people would maybe go crazy back in 2008 when half the electorate thought you were Muslim?

Well, not only the election and discussion driving 2016; this has been an ongoing theme in American history. You can go back and during Jim Crow and segregation and you’ve got black sharecroppers who have nothing and alongside them, poor white farmers who don’t have that much more except for the fact that they’re white. And the degree to which a lot of politics in the South were specifically designed to make sure that that sharecropper and that white farmer didn’t get together to question how the economy was structured and how they both could benefit, that’s — that’s one of the oldest stories in American politics.

So — so it’s not surprising that what I said in 2008 still holds true today. It was true for a long time.

Safe to take that as a “yes.”