Obama's Boldness on Islam vs. His Silence on Race
The president has been criticized for his passivity on race. But he seems to have no problem speaking up on issues that affect Muslims. Will African Americans continue to give him a pass?
Some of his actions -- including his 2009 move to cut the D.C. voucher program for disadvantaged black youth, and his decision to advocate for the 2016 Olympic Games in Chicago rather than speak directly to the violence occurring among black males there -- are evidence of his continued unwillingness to be identified too closely with African Americans.
However, the president will continue to capture 98 percent of the African-American vote (a much greater percentage than Muslim-Americans gave him in 2008) in 2010 and 2012, even if his unwillingness to speak out openly for black people continues. Standing up for the rights of Muslims in America is understandable, but it should be particularly hurtful to black folks in America who see his unwillingness to speak on matters of race in the same manner: with conviction, passion, openness and consistency.
The presidency of the United States is the ultimate bully pulpit, one that President Obama has used on several occasions to hammer home his viewpoints on Muslim-American relations within our borders and throughout the world. During a cold January afternoon in 2009, many African Americans thought that "hope and change" would also mean use of that pulpit to finally address some of the most daunting disparities between blacks and other Americans. This has not happened, perhaps because the president views his alliances with other minority groups as more politically useful. Regardless, black America must tell the president that his continued silence on matters of race is something that could make a difference at the polls in November.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the author of the upcoming new edition of the book Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative): The Obama Era, Part I (2008-2010). Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.