News

U.S.

Obama: Don’t Silence People Just because They’re ‘White’ or ‘Male’

Former President Barack Obama waves after he delivered the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture in Johannesburg, South Africa July 17, 2018. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

President Barack Obama cautioned listeners against embracing identity politics during a speech in South Africa Tuesday, calling on them to instead follow Nelson Mandela’s example of seeking to understand the perspective of those who are different.

In an address commemorating the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth, Obama rejected the tendency, commonly embraced by those on the political fringes, to claim sole authority to speak about a given political issue based on an immutable characteristic such as race or sexual orientation.

“We’re able also to get inside the reality of people who are different from us so we can understand their point of view. Maybe we can change their minds but maybe they’ll change ours,” Obama said. “And you can’t do this if you just out of hand disregard what your opponents have to say from the start.”

“And you can’t do it if you insist that those who aren’t like you, because they’re white or because they’re male, that somehow there’s no way they can understand what I’m feeling, that somehow they lack the standing to speak on certain matters” he added.

The former commander-in-chief then cited the example of Mandela, who was jailed for almost three decades for organizing against apartheid, South Africa’s system of state-sanctioned segregation.

“Madiba lived this complexity,” Obama said, employing Mandela’s clan name. “In prison he studied Afrikaans so that he could better understand the people who were jailing him. And when he got out of prison, he extended a hand to the people who were jailing him because he understood that they had to be a part of the democratic South Africa that he wanted to build.”

Earlier in the address, which took place just one day after President Trump’s widely criticized joint press conference with Vladimir Putin, Obama railed against the ascendancy of “strongman politics”

“The politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment began to appear. And that kind of politics is now on the move. It’s on the move at a pace that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago,” he told the crowd of roughly 15,000 gathered in Johannesburg. “I am not being alarmist, I’m simply stating the facts. Look around — strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained, the form of it, where those in powers seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.”

Jack Crowe — Jack Crowe is a news writer at National Review Online.

Most Popular

U.S.

The Media Fell for Elizabeth Warren’s Spin

Do you want to know what media bias looks like? Earlier today, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren released DNA test results that confirmed that she misled employers, students, and the public about her Native American heritage for years. Bizarrely, all too many members of the media treated the results as ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The World Keeps Not Ending

We were not supposed to have made it this far. George Orwell saw night descending on us in 1984. Orwell was, on paper, a radical, but in his heart he was an old-fashioned English liberal. He dreamed of socialism but feared socialists. He feared them because he knew them. I was in the sixth grade in 1984, but I ... Read More
PC Culture

‘White Women’ Becomes a Disparaging Term

Using “white men” as a putdown is no longer extreme enough for the Left. Now it is moving on to doing the same for “white women.” How rapidly this transpired. It was less than two years ago that the approximately 98.7 percent of white women working in media who were openly rooting for Hillary Clinton ... Read More
Culture

A Free People Must Be Virtuous

Dear Reader (Even those of you who didn’t seem to notice or care that I failed to file this “news”letter on Friday), So I’m sitting here at Gate C6 at O’Hare waiting for my flight home. I am weary, pressed for time, in desperate need of a shower, and filled with a great sense of dread for the work ... Read More