For Discussion: African-Americans Have Higher Expectations For President Obama To Address The “Black Struggle” In Second Term

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Categories: Bolitics, News, Race Matters

2013 Presidential Inauguration

This time around the African-American community hopes for the POTUS to work harder on issues involving civil rights and racial and economic equality.

Via NY Times:

On Monday, President Obama placed his hand on Dr. King’s personal Bible to take a second, ceremonial oath of office, he will be symbolically linking himself to the civil rights hero. But Mr. Brown, along with other African-Americans interviewed recently, said their excitement would be laced with a new expectation, that Mr. Obama move to the forefront of his agenda the issues that Dr. King championed: civil rights and racial and economic equality.

In interviews with experts and black leaders, some, like Mr. Brown, say they have been disappointed by the slow pace of change for African-Americans, whose children, for instance, are still more likely to live in poverty than those of any other race. “The hope for Obama’s presidency was that there would be more help for places like Oakland and other urban areas that need support, safety and jobs,” Mr. Brown said. “He made people feel like anything is possible.”

African-Americans remain overwhelmingly supportive of the president, as evidenced by their enthusiastic turnout on Election Day and for the inauguration festivities and Monday’s holiday celebrating Dr. King’s birthday. Thousands of black Americans have descended on Washington from across the nation for the many parties and observances and visits to the King memorial.

They have developed a protective stance toward Mr. Obama, acknowledging the limits of his power and the voraciousness of his critics. Many cite the power of representation, the visual message of a prosperous, cohesive black family being beamed around the country and the world, and the untold aspirations that vision inspires. But African-Americans roundly reject the notion that Mr. Obama’s election has eased racial tensions or delivered the nation to a new post-racial reality.

“I think the great mass of black people have shown tremendous patience, discipline and understanding, recognizing the dilemma that he faces,” said Randall L. Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School and the author of “The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency.”

Still, Professor Kennedy said Mr. Obama had been “somewhat diffident” about issues that would be of special significance to African-Americans, like the disproportionate number of blacks in prison or urban poverty. Blacks understand, he added, that that perceived hesitation “was probably a virtual requirement” for him to be elected in the first place.

“Everyone agrees that you wish more was done the first term,” said Debra Lee, the chief executive of Black Entertainment Television. “But you look at politics and realize that the president can’t wave a wand and get things done by himself.”

The activist and academic Cornel West says he is outraged that Mr. Obama would use Dr. King’s personal Bible at the inauguration without endorsing Dr. King’s “black freedom struggle.” “Martin went to jail talking about carpet bombing in Vietnam and trying to organize poor people, fighting for civil liberties,” Mr. West said. The president, he said, “has a compromising kind of temperament.”

But others in the civil rights movement say the president has a broader role. “I told this president early on that I’ll be the head of the N.A.A.C.P., he can be head of the country,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, the president of the civil rights organization. He and others credit Mr. Obama’s cool temperament.

“Obama very effectively used positive messages to bring the racial and ethnic groups together, not divide them,” said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist and the author of “More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City.”

“In terms of race and ethnic relations,” Dr. Wilson said, “he is the right president during these hard economic times because social tensions are indeed high.”

Discuss…

WENN

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