Race Neutrality in the Obama Era

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A recent story in the L.A. Times titled “Despite pressure from black activists, black support for Obama’s race-neutral stance is high” suggests that “average black folks” buy into Obama’s stance/strategy that a rising tide will lift African American boats.  Without taking issue with Washington on whether the black folks he interviewed in Charlotte, NC are “average,” I find  it hard to believe that whether black folks buy into a revised version of trickle-down economics is really the issue.  We have long been told (and politicians like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have proven) that a black politician with an overtly black agenda is not acceptable to white America.  Thus, we understand that a race-conscious stance/strategy would be political suicide for Obama.  That said, I do not believe Obama’s stance is entirely race-neutral.  Rather, Obama is focusing on issues that are critical to eliminating racial disparities–issues like universal health care and quality education.  Further, he is doing so with the express intent to benefit all. Perhaps if we recognized that eliminating racial disparities is in the best interest of all of our citizens–and in the best interest of our democracy–our first African American president could be more explicit.  Until then, we may have to settle for a black president who has to couch his strategies in terms of interests the white power structure believes are theirs alone.  And, in doing so, we might actually see some change we can all believe in.

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