Obama spoke of decades of white grievance (without referencing race) and its devastating impact on a nation in which millions would rather protect guns as “a God-given right” (which they are not) than protect even its most vulnerable citizens.
In his own presidential bid, Trump exploited and rebranded white grievance into a campaign slogan and a seething right-wing movement. On the day he launched his candidacy in 2015, he excoriated Mexican immigrants, appealed to Second Amendment gun huggers, and told his base that he would restore to their lives the status they believed had been stolen from them.
That sentiment served as the scaffolding for the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection and feeds the so-called great replacement theory, the mendacious idea that white people are being deliberately replaced by immigrants and people of color. It’s been mainstreamed by Tucker Carlson on Fox News and embraced by Republican politicians. It’s also become a violent call to action for white supremacists like the man accused of killing 10 Black people in a Buffalo supermarket on May 14.
Obama’s self-described “gaffe” held up a mirror to white America and revealed what it still struggles to admit. In the scrum of that contentious campaign, his comment was considered an unforced error. Instead, it was prophetic.