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Black America is not happy with Obama’s State of the Union
Activists call foul on Obama’s “all lives matter” sentiment.
We’re talking about Black America.
In 2012, Obama promised Americans that he would “listen to your voices.” Tuesday, at a rate over 1 million tweets per hour, dissenters made their voices heard in an effort to counter the President’s sentiments.
Foreseeing that the president would upset Black America by leaving out a serious discussion of the issues that have led to a burgeoning movement against police brutality in the U.S., many followed the speech by commenting on the “State of the Black Union” through the hashtag #SOBU, which reached about 12,000 tweets during the speech.
In a key moment, Obama tread on a safe middle ground in addressing the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York City, making light mention of both the dangers faced by black men in America and by police officers:
“ We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift.”
Following #SOBU offered an alternative view from the perspective of America’s most disenfranchised citizens:
If all lives mattered, why are backs turned to the tragedy of 2000 individuals in Nigeria, while spot lights are on Je suis Charlie?
— I’M (@AnuoIuwapoAzeez) January 15, 2015
One of the most anticipated moments came when Obama upset those hoping he would make mention, a nod, or at least some kind of recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement. Instead of taking a direct route, however, the President pulled an “all lives matter”—a sentiment that may sound reasonable to those who escape daily discrimination, but which many see as an an easy sidestep that fails to acknowledge the specific suffering faced by black people and other minority populations in America at the hands of the police.
“Yay! You kinda mentioned Ferguson!”
“But wait, why you have to pull an ‘all lives matter?'”
— [insert name here] (@TheAngryFangirl) January 21, 2015
If the frustration seems like an overreaction, take into consideration this eloquent AJ+ explainer on the frustrations many people shared about the sentiment that “all lives matter” when it’s wedged in the context of police brutality and race relations:
A poll by Al Jazeera America and Monmouth University shows that fewer than 15 percent of America feel that race relations have improved during Obama’s presidency. So it may be little surprise that many were left feeling disappointed with his remarks.
Photo via White House/Flickr (U.S. Government Work)
Shawn Carrié is an Istanbul-based Middle East correspondent with a focus on human rights and conflict. Since 2014, he has covered the war in Syria, Turkish politics, and more for the Intercept, Yahoo News, Vice, CJR, and Newsweek.