Can Obama afford to be angry?

African American commentators today paused when President Obama flashed some anger over the BP oil spill.


President Barack Obama did what some people have been urging him to do in recent weeks — he got mad. And that has some African American commentators wondering if that’s such a good idea.

It happened on the Today show today when the president dropped the “A Bomb.”

“I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar,” the president said. “We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

“Ah, the Angry Black Man. That boogeyman who haunts many African American men, particularly professionals, whether they acknowledge it or not. Who scares us into zen-like tranquility when fury is warranted, whether we are prone to it or not,” Jonathan Capehart writes in the Washington Post.

At National Public Radio, Frank James says he can’t recall an African American who was able to flash anger, and still achieve success at the highest levels of government or business.

“If anything, many African Americans have been raised by generations of parents to moderate even justifiable anger that might mark them as difficult or, yes, angry and get in the way of advancement in school or the workplace,” James writes.

“So aside from the fact that it’s probably just not in Obama’s personality to be publicly angry, I wonder if he could actually get away with it for long if he did have it in him? Would he even be president now? ”

Anger is, perhaps, a luxury for white presidents to use when necessary to rally a nation, such as in this iconic moment in President George Bush’s presidency.

  • Tyler

    What, and the indignant white man slides through life? Khrushchev is remembered for shoe-banging; the Dean Scream pretty much ended his presidential bid.

    Full-throated, demonstrative anger seldomly plays well on the evening news, no matter who it is.

  • bsimon

    I, a white guy, don’t know if those views are correct or not; what I can say is that when I read the Capehart piece, I was thinking, “That would never have occurred to me.” And that, I think, says more about race in our society than whether Capehart, et al are correct.

  • Karl

    The has to be one of the dumbest questions I’ve ever seen posted. And yes, there IS such a thing as a dumb question.

    Maybe it’s about goddamn time Obama and the rest of this country got angry at an oil company and lifestyle that could potentially ruin an entire ocean. In fact, I’d go so far as to say we need more words like John Goodman in Treme:

    “F*** those f***ing F***s!”

  • j

    I was listening to the news this afternoon commenting about President Obama’s interview with Today show news anchor Matt Lauer and couldn’t believe my ears. Especially after I saw the interview on television this morning. I do not recall President Obama raising his voice in anger, he did what he should have done. He told it like it is, he was very frank and matter of fact. Hopefully people will listen to the message and not get caught up on the use of the so called a-bomb. When Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck raise their voice, no one claims that they are behaving badly.

    President Obama remained cool, calm, and personified grace under pressure during the interview.

    And please do not forget about the men who lost their lives that day, their families, all of the people and wildlife in and around the coast whose lives and environment have been changed forever because of a poor decision of BP’s part.

    FYI – I am a white girl and yes I voted for Obama

  • Minn Whaler

    ditto with the white girl thing and voting for Obama.

    As for I constantly proclaim Rush Limbaugh and his ilk are not only behaving badly but twisitng the truth to the point of most statements being total lies.

    Stats? you can make numbers say anything, but when push comes to shove extremists on either end of our political bipolarity make honest discussion, compromise and progress nearly impossible.

    I agree with j… Obama was calm, straight talking and has every right to be angry (not because of race) because we need to stop finger pointing and kick some ass, so this “S$#%” doesn’t ever happen again.

  • Bob Collins

    Since I haven’t lived the life of an African American man, I’m in no position to know whether the points being raised by them are dumb or not dumb. I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and consider what they have to say — as opposed to calling them names — as they know more about being an African American man in America than do I.