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Natalie Holder-Winfield Headshot

Today's Lesson: Undermining a Black Man's Authority in 2009

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After President Obama's historic election win, the premature declaration of the day was that America was a post racial society. Both, the well meaning and impatient, were eager to put America's shameful history of discrimination and harassment against racial groups--particularly blacks -- behind them. How could America still see racial differences if it elected a black president? How could Corporate America still engage in and suffer from racial inequalities? After nine months of having a black president, we can see the head of a new movement crowning.

For the last 24 hours, the brouhaha over President Obama's back-to-school speech to schoolchildren has grown from silly to serious. At last check, school districts in Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Virginia, Illinois (President Obama's home state), and Minnesota will not air his speech to the schoolchildren. Unlike the Reagan speech I heard as a child, where he spoke of cutting taxes -- the same taxes that supported valued programs in my community--President Obama's speech has been sanitized for any trace of politics. Stay in school. Study hard. Why is this speech all of a sudden a problem?

The Birthers, the Deathers, and now the Schoolers all have one thing in common. They have found ways to undermine the president, creating an alternate universe where Obama is not the commander in chief. These anti-Obama groups know that they will not be taken seriously if they discredit President Obama merely because of his race. Instead, they mask their antagonism toward America's first Black President as partisan differences. They have not accepted that President Obama is our president.

Some have argued that President Obama's speech is propaganda and they don't want their children to be exposed to his socialist agenda. Originally, his speech was going to be followed by an assignment to have the school students write an essay about how they could help President Obama. (I completely disagree with the White House backing down and changing the assignment.)

Yet, we have always disagreed with presidents and their politics without completely discrediting their presidency. When have we ever questioned the citizenship of a president? When have we ever carried guns to town hall meetings -- especially meetings where the president would be in attendance? When have we ever preferred that our children opt for truancy than to hear a speech from the President? Not even Bill Clinton, who also pushed for overhauling the health care system and was impeached by the House, was delegitimized as our president. The one thing that makes Barack Obama different from every other U.S. president is that he is black.

Refusing to air the president's speech and pulling a child from school are brazen acts that, in essence, put the President Obama in his place. (Can you imagine how these people would respond to having a black manager?) These parents are teaching their children a powerfully dangerous lesson. A black man may have won the election, but they don't have to listen to him or respect him.