The Stories of Carl Stokes and Barack Obama

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With the advent of Black History Month upon us, it's worth checking out Roldo Bartimole's Cool Cleveland story about the parallels between former Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes and President Barack Obama.

"Both Obama and Stokes had to face attacks not based solely on politics but on the color of their skins," Bartimole writes. In each of their realms - Cleveland city government and the White House - both men were the first of their race to achieve their particular elected office.

Both men also faced exceptionally divided constituencies. Obama had a divided nation with opposition political forces safely ensconced in red states and not fearful of losing office. They could take radical opposition with impunity. Cleveland had an almost evenly divided city with a predominately white West Side and most blacks living on the East Side. This gave white Council members racially secure districts. Thus they could play racial politics with impunity.

Bartimole's story, which connects various threads of both men's life narratives, reminds the reader that racism continues to surface at all levels of society and at all points in American history.

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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