Schools black out Obama’s speech

Schools all over, from Illinois to Missouri, banned President Obama’s speech to students. Parents decried it as socialist indoctrination, forbidding their children from seeing the speech entirely. Whether its socialist or not, I think we are ignoring the big, grey elephant in the room here. No, I don’t mean Republicans. I am talking about race. Obama is not the first president to give a speech to students. Both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush gave speeches during their administrations with minimal hubbub. Isn’t it worth considering the possibility that perhaps race contributed to this controversy?

According to Maria Rosales, assistant professor of political science, who teaches racial theory, studies have shown that a decision appears more threatening when made by a black individual. Also, she says that blacks tend to be perceived to be more liberal than they actually are. “For instance, people call Obama a socialist when he’s actually a centrist,” said Rosales.

Rosales’ political psychology is compelling, but an even more important point was raised by Lisa McLeod, assistant professor of philosophy, who teaches philosophy and race. “There are many possible factors for the controversy,” said McLeod. “However, given race’s long history within the United States, it is the most plausible among them.”

For something that has been affecting people and decisions in this country for centuries, it would be crazy to think that race has suddenly vanished now that a black man has become president. The arrest of Harvard professor Robert Gates in Boston outside of his own home is all too good of a reminder that there is still racial tension in this nation.

I am not saying everyone who objected to Obama’s speech is a closet racist. Such generalizations are seldom, if ever, accurate. It is very difficult to know for certain how much of a factor race played because few people would readily admit that they objected to something for racial reasons. Furthermore, for whites particularly, it is sometimes easier to believe that race isn’t a factor or that race does not exist – when, in truth, this nation is far from color-blind.

This is not to say that this issue about Obama’s speech sprang entirely from race. In fact, I dare say it’s impossible to pin this issue on any one thing. Rather, we need to acknowledge that race still plays a large role in our country and that we need to have open discussions about that “r word” that everyone hates to bring up.