I'm going to risk blowing out of proportion a trivial, or even a non-event, but I can't help commenting on some of the reaction to the dust-up between Speaker Boehner and President Obama over the date for the President's planned address to a joint session of Congress next week. Some Republicans applauded the Speaker for showing the President the primacy of Congress in the Constitution. They think it was perfectly appropriate for the speaker to prove to President Obama that he can't push Congress around, or try to upstage a Republican candidates' debate. But a lot of Democrats remain angry at the Republicans for insulting the president in such an unprecedented manner, but also angry at the administration for seeming to cave in to this type of behavior without making more of an issue of it.
But there is something else going on whenever this particular president is treated differently from any of his predecessors, and that can't be ignored. Even if I were to give John Boehner the benefit of the doubt and assume that he doesn't have a racist bone in his body, and whatever slight he extended to the president had nothing to do with who he is, I would still say that the Speaker needs to be more conscious of appearances. Because there is something truly disgusting about the spectacle of the white power structure trying to make a black man, especially when that black man happens to be the President of the United States of America, dance to their tune. And if supporters of Speaker Boehner and the House Republican majority get any satisfaction from treating the president in that manner, they should think twice. Because it makes a lot of people angry. The same way it made a lot of people very angry when Donald Trump had the gall to gloat about his role in making this president the first in history to have to show his papers to prove he is an American citizen.
What is also interesting is that this anger takes different forms. I don't want to over-generalize, but it seems that a lot of white supporters of the president are more likely to take some of their anger out on President Obama himself. They are disappointed that he just smiles and shrugs off every effort by his opponents to humiliate him. Black supporters may be more likely to direct their anger toward those who enjoy making the president dance. Some of them would like to see the president get angry, but they understand his reaction. They have seen it before. They might see an echo in Barack Obama's big smile of Louis Armstrong's big smile, or perhaps Jack Johnson's big smile. A big smile, and a shrug of the shoulders, are ways that African-Americans throughout our history have fought off injustice. And those may be some of the most effective ways, because anger and outrage just play into the hands of your opponents. Better to ignore the insults and let your dignity and intelligence and talent shine through.