Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Obama Needs to Address Issues People of Color Face

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Obama Needs to Address Issues People of Color Face

Article excerpt

In his final term as president, Barack Obama has spent more time and energy voicing the concerns of minorities.

It's what people of color have wanted him to do since 2008, when he became the first African-American elected to the Oval Office. Events of 2014 made his speaking out essential.

The slaying of black 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 by a white Ferguson, Mo., police officer and the protests and unrest that followed were things Mr. Obama couldn't ignore. The president called for calm after violence erupted once a state grand jury decided against charges in Mr. Brown's death.

Calls for calm followed a New York grand jury deciding not to file charges in the July 17 choking death of 43-year-old Eric Garner. It was videotaped on a cellphone with Mr. Garner being wrestled to the ground by police. Mr. Garner repeatedly said, "I can't breathe."

Everyone in white America may not understand Mr. Obama's actions, and some may hate him for giving voice to so many African- Americans' long-standing concerns that black lives in this country should matter. During Black History Month, the president's speaking out on these issues is greatly appreciated.

People magazine recently even quoted Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, saying events of last year caused them to talk publicly about discussions they have with their daughters, Sasha and Malia. "This has been an ongoing conversation that we've had since they were young," Mr. Obama said.

He said that their daughters' generation, like Generations X and Y, see issues of race differently from African-American baby boomers and their parents. "They take for granted that being treated differently because of their race makes no sense," he said. Yet, the "vestiges of slavery and Jim Crow" are very real concerns. Although things are better than they have been for past generations of people of color, "those biases are still there."

It's important for parents to have that talk with their black and biracial children so the kids will know how to handle racism, discrimination and bigotry when confronted with it. …

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