Frederick C. Harris, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, noted, “… as president, Mr. Obama has had little to say on concerns specific to Blacks. His State of the Union address in 2011 was the first by any president since 1948 to not mention poverty or the poor. The political scientist Daniel Q. Gillion found that Mr. Obama, in his first two years in office, talked about race less than any Democratic president had since 1961. From racial profiling to mass incarceration to affirmative action, his comments have been sparse and halting.”
Sure, he had a beer summit at the White House with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the White police officer who arrested him in his own home. Obama said the officer had “acted stupidly,” but later softened his criticism. The president also said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon [Martin].”
Of course, the issue is not whether Obama has a son who looks like Trayvon Martin. What is he going to do about people who are treated like Trayvon?
To discuss race less than Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, all White southerners who grew up under segregation, should be embarrassing to President Obama. It should be even more of an embarrassment that Obama hasn’t taken leadership on the issue as Bill Clinton did when he launched his “One America Initiative” on race. Putting aside the merits of the initiative, it demonstrated Clinton was willing to confront the issue of race.
As my friend Courtland Milloy wrote in the Washington Post, it’s time to stop making excuses for Obama.
He said, “Obama should not be allowed to get away with thinking that when it comes to making his mark on the issue of race, all he had to do was become the first Black president.”
Unfortunately, some of the most vocal Black leaders have either been co-opted by the White House or fear a backlash from adoring Black voters.
The usually outspoken Rep. Maxine Waters [D-Calif.] told a crowd in Detroit, “If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us.”
And former Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri admitted, “With 14 percent [Black] unemployment if we had a White president we’d be marching around the White House.”
If we don’t get some true leadership on this issue, perhaps it will be time to march around the White House, Congress and the headquarters of some of our civil rights organizations.
(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, http://www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at http://www.twitter.com/currygeorge.)