It was exactly one year ago on Thursday that President Obama plunged into a thicket of racial politics by declaring that a white police officer in Cambridge, Mass., had “acted stupidly” in arresting a black Harvard University professor in his own home. Suddenly, the president whose election suggested the promise of a postracial future was thrust into the wounds of the past.RTWT.
Not much has changed.
Mr. Obama sought Thursday to tamp down yet another racial uproar, this one over his administration’s mishandling of the case of Shirley Sherrod, a black Agriculture Department official who was dismissed based on a video clip of remarks — taken out of context — that appeared to suggest she had discriminated against white farmers. One day after Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized profusely to Ms. Sherrod and offered her a new job working on race relations for the agency, Mr. Obama offered his own apology.
During a seven-minute telephone call, White House officials said, the president shared some of his own personal experiences, and urged Ms. Sherrod to “continue her hard work on behalf of those in need.”
Later, in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Mr. Obama weighed in publicly for the first time. “He jumped the gun,” the president said, referring to Mr. Vilsack, “partly because we now live in this media culture where something goes up on YouTube or a blog and everybody scrambles.”
That, however, is unlikely to be the end of it for Mr. Obama, who has struggled since the beginning of his presidency with whether, when and how to deal with volatile matters of race. No matter how hard his White House tries to keep the issue from defining his presidency, it keeps popping back up, fueled in part by high expectations from the left for the first black president, and in part by tactical opposition politics on the right.
The Sherrod flap spotlighted how Mr. Obama is caught between these competing political forces, and renewed criticism from some of his supporters, especially prominent African-Americans, that he has been too defensive in dealing with matters of race — and too quick to react to criticism from the right.
For many liberals, Ms. Sherrod’s hasty dismissal carried strong echoes of the ouster of Van Jones, an environmental adviser to the president who was forced to resign after Fox News focused attention on some of his past work and statements, and his decision to sign a petition in 2004 questioning whether the Bush administration had allowed the terrorist attacks of September 2001 to provide a pretext for war in the Middle East.
“I think what you see in this White House is a hypersensitivity about issues of race, that has them often leaning too far to avoid confronting these issues, and in so doing lays the foundation for the very problem they would like to avoid,” said Wade Henderson, president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an advocacy group here.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
It's been exactly one year since President Obama addressed the nation in a press conference discussing Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates' arrest outside his own home in Cambridge, MA. How are we doing as a nation one year on? Not good, obviously. As one who did not vote for Obama, I nevertheless hoped that for as much as I opposed him, he would indeed provide leadership on race in America, and especially on the question of family disintegration in the black community. He has failed at this miserably, and I resent getting my hopes up for this mountebank agent of racial uplift. He's been a disaster on all counts, and the Democratic Party/Media Industrial Complex has turned race-baiting into a national pastime. I don't emote, but frankly this kind of lost promise is indeed heartbreaking. In any case, at NYT (FWIW), "Persistent Issue of Race Is in the Spotlight, Again" (via Memeorandum):