The tears and cheering flags of two years ago now seem light years away.  Political realities have settles and as President Obama gears up for a re-election campaign, many are reflecting on what having a Black president has meant thus far.

One such voice is Georgetown professor and author, Michael Eric Dyson.  Last week during a talk in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Dyson made some murmur in their seats when he said:

“What difference does it make to have a black president? Maybe not a damn thing. Maybe it’s worse than a white president, ’cause he won’t even talk about race.”

Dyson, who campaigned for Obama says he loves and supports him, but “will not be silenced” despite what others may think of his comments.  And while he may take some heat for it, Dyson makes an interesting point.

No one is asking President Obama to take time out to shoot “Black In America No. (what are we on now, 5,6?)” with Soledad O’Brien.  We understand he has a country to run.  Well, do we?

Despite pushing the most aggressive legislative reform of any Democratic president since the Great Depression and handling an increasingly turbulent foreign policy terrain, it seems Obama can never do enough.  Many have criticized President Obama for a reluctance to speak on racial issues in general and challenges still facing the Black community.

The most notable discussion of race during this administration happened in the wake of Harvard Professor, Henry-Louis Gates arrest at his home in Cambridge in the summer of 2009.  The soon dubbed, “Skipgates” incident lead the Obama administration into a series of clearly uncomfortable events, first with the White House press team doing damage control after the President said the officer involved acted “stupidly” and then with the now infamous Beer Summit where all three men met and reconciled.

While the entire episode was not ideal, a year prior during the midst of a heated campaign battle, then Senator Obama gave a speech responding to the comments of Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  Speaking on the black experience, Obama spoke on the “kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and, yes, the bitterness and biases that make up the black experience in America.” It was an important speech even outside of the parameters of the election- it spoke to a central issue that has divided our country for years.

Dyson isn’t alone in missing that Obama or his boldness and willingness to speak it plain.  The speech on Reverend Wright was one of the most insightful speeches on race given by any public official in the last decade.  And though we understand that President Obama is President of us all, his voice, his presence and sermon-like inflections are all a constant reminder that he is one of us.  But has our identification with Obama encouraged an undue sense of ownership or indebtedness?

It’s clear our President has his views on racial relations and a passion for our community.  But does his lack of discussion on race while in the White House make the national conversation stagnant?  Is Dyson right in saying that President’s Obama’s silence on race is worse than having a white president?

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  • ana

    As an African American,we should support President Obama.Because right now,the way things are going, he is seemingly, the only thing we, as African Americans have going for us ! We cannot sit idle by,and waite for the Government to put us back to work. Because in reality,the Government is not really trying! We were born Builders we were born Architects of Civilization! The Blood of the Black Man and Black Woman has been shown to be Genetically Powerful Enough To Produce The Entire Human Family!And when attempting to find The Origin of Black People,Researchers Go To Africa! ”The Problem in America,is That A Black Family is Living in The White House”!! With that said,” We Must Do For Ourselves.”

  • thelivingpoet

    okay the economy, healthcare was already messed up before barack got in. why are people dogging this man for what his predecessor caused? he can’t just hop in and clean up 8 years previous years worth of f^&k ups.

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  • ramsestemur

    President Obama doesn’t want to end up like Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Who can blame him? However, that’s why I personally don’t respect politicians for the most part. It’s rare that we’ll find a courageous, bold, unwavering politician. Most are controlled by powerful people, organizations and corporations who rule from behind the scenes. These forces (Rothschilds, Rockerfellers, Bernanke’s, Murdoch’s, Goldman Sachs, World Bank, IMF, Federal Reserve (which is not a U.S. government institution), and others dictate the agenda for countries around the globe. Obama is just a puppet as was every president before him since at least 1913; if not before. He will do what his masters command him to do.

    Black people shouldn’t be worrying about Obama doing something for us. We’ve been making demands on presidents ever since Lincoln and look where it has gotten us.

    Our only hope is for progressive Blacks to unite with other progressive Blacks. Any Black person who is striving to better himself, family and community is unifiable; regardless of religious beliefs, ideologies, or philosophies.

    Our first focus should be raising Black boys into Black men. I once heard a wise man say, “We don’t need a Black man in some White House. We need a Black man in every Black house.”

  • We (blacks) need to step back and check ourselves before we jump to the conclusion that President Obama hasn’t talked about or dealt with “race” enough for us. The job of President is to serve the entire nation of people, not just one “people” in particular. Sure, black people came out in droves and voted for Senator Obama, many voted for the first time in their lives and many only voted for him because he was/is black. But even if every black person in the nation would have voted for him, it still took a great number of whites and other Americans to get him elected.

    Does the country have a race problem? Yes. Is the problem more important than addressing the unemployment and economic issues of the nation? Absolutely not. Race is not a priority for Mr. Obama’s first term. He has other priorities right now.

    Just as blacks united to get Senator Obama elected, we need to unite to fix our communities, raise our children, build businesses in our communities, study and comprehend money management, and support and uplift each other. When we start taking these steps…the job of dealing with race will become a heck of a lot easier for President Obama to deal with in his second term.

    There is entirely too much divisiveness in the Black/African American community. And until we’re able to deal with our problems ourselves, I don’t think we should “demand” that someone else deal with them or be held accountable for not addressing how others view and/or relate with us.