Tavis Smiley was off by a year.

When Barack Obama decided two
years ago that he would seek the presidency, Smiley famously predicted
on the Tom Joyner Morning Show that the junior senator from Illinois
was about to “discover America.” In other words, he was about to see
the ugly side of American racism.

As bad as things got during the election campaign, nothing could have prepared Obama, or his supporters, for what is occurring now.

Let’s forget the raucous town hall meetings for a minute. Have you heard the latest?

on the radical right are now castigating the president because of a
televised speech he is set to deliver on Tuesday to the nation’s school
children, encouraging them to work hard, set goals, stay in school and
take personal responsibility.

Conservative talk show hosts and right-wing bloggers are completely apoplectic.

accuse the president of trying to force feed the nation’s most
vulnerable minds with liberal pabulum. And all over the nation –
including in the Qcity – angry parents are calling school districts
demanding that their children be exempted from hearing the president

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools spokeswoman LaTarzja Henry said CMS has gotten more calls than she can count.

she said, the district is “making the opportunity available” to all
students who want to watch the president’s speech. Parents who object
can have their children opt out.

According to the Charlotte
, school officials in Cabarrus, Union and York County, S.C.,
also are making the speech optional.

To be completely fair, some
critics insist that what they really oppose is a letter sent to the
nation’s principals by the Department of Education, encouraging schools
to develop a lesson plan around the president’s “historic” speech.

grades pre-K through 6, the department suggested some questions students
might ponder while watching the speech, such as: “What is the President trying
to tell me? What is the President asking me to do?

For grades
7-12, it suggested “guided discussion” with topics such as: “What
resonated with you from President Obama’s speech?” and “What is President
Obama inspiring you to do?”

Whoever got the notion to get the
Education Department involved should be fired. Americans by birthright
are an independent lot, a people acutely sensitive to government
meddling. And with all the shouts of “socialist” being leveled at the
president already, the DOE letter was simply a ham-handed idea, made
all the worse by its clumsy focus on Obama and not his subject matter
— education, goals and responsibility.

Still, it’s hard to explain the level of vitriol being aimed at this particular president so early in his administration.

Republican Party chair, Jim Greer, issued a statement saying “President
Obama has turned to American’s (sic) children to spread his liberal
lies, indoctrinating American’s (sic) youngest children before they
have a chance to decide for themselves.”

Did someone forget to
remind Mr. Greer that presidents Reagan and Bush each gave nationally
televised speeches aimed at students?

Where was the outrage then?

And, sure, the debate over
health care reform grew nasty when Bill Clinton proposed it, too, but
no one showed up at town hall meetings packing guns. No one talked of

I have used this blog in the past to denounce
African Americans who shout “Racism!” where none obviously existed. But
in the case of the Obama presidency, Tavis Smiley wasn’t wrong; he was
simply ill-timed.

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