I've argued before that black people shouldn't expect President Obama to be a "black leader" in the sense that we commonly use the term -- as someone who represents the interests of the black community. As president, his responsibility is larger than that, and so his focus should be too.
Here's the thing, though; that door swings both ways. Just as Obama shouldn't be expected to prioritize every issue that affects the black community, he shouldn't be expected to coddle American insecurities when it comes to race. Despite the fact that the question of whether Obama believed opposition to his policies was based on race had already been asked, the president was asked some version of this question on every single show. The question was always predicated, not on the racially charged language and images put forth by some political opponents, but by Jimmy Carter's comments -- the modern racial dynamic is that nothing is racist until someone says so, and that person is in fact racist for noticing. I've already said that I don't think most of the opposition to Obama is based on race or racism -- but that there is an element of this in the right's arguments against his policies is undeniable.
It was like a significant other who won't stop with the nagging questions about their own insecurities -- the question answered itself by the frequency with which it was asked. Moreover, as I've pointed out before, the political incentives are aligned for a denial no matter what the president actually thinks -- and the people asking the questions have to know that, which is why they're asking them. Everyone wants to be reassured that racism is over, and that the only people who would argue that race affects public policy debates is themselves a racist or a fool.
That's not the president's job.
-- A. Serwer
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