Grading Obama: Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Illustration for article titled Grading Obama: Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Whether or not President Barack Obama's first term embodies the idealism of the 2008 campaign is debatable, according to interviews with nine prominent black academics in the run-up to next year's presidential election.


For the fourth in the series, The Root interviewed Eddie S. Glaude Jr., chair of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University. Read the other interviews here.

The Root: What were your expectations of President Obama's administration as that of the nation's first black commander-in-chief? Does he embody today whatever you saw in him during the campaign?


Eddie S. Glaude Jr.: My expectations were pretty straightforward. I wanted him to undo much of President Bush's agenda: End the Iraq War, close down Guantánamo Bay, repeal the Bush tax cuts and address fundamentally the inequality that threatens the health of the nation. I also wanted him to help us turn the corner on issues of race in this country.

He does not embody what I saw during the campaign. During the campaign, I perceived candidate Obama as much more progressive; what I have come to realize is that most of us "green-screened" him. We made him whatever we wanted him to be. 

TR: Do you believe that Obama has adequately fought for the nation's black communities?

ESG: I don't think so. But I am not sure what has happened behind closed doors. What I do know is that the rhetoric of "lifting all boats" — a way of talking about race indebted to FDR's capitulation to Southern Democrats — leaves the particular suffering of black communities unaddressed.


TR: What was your reaction to Obama's rousing "stop crying" speech to the Congressional Black Caucus?

ESG: I didn't make much of it. He got caught up in the moment. I also don't think he would use that language with other groups. It is a reflection of his comfort and his expectations.


TR: Do you believe that Obama has made marked strides toward a "postracial" America?

ESG: No, he hasn't. In fact, his presidency has been an occasion for deepening racial divides. In some ways President Obama stands alone. There is no precedent other than the first black mayors.


TR: In what areas of public policy, if any, do you believe Obama has most neglected the concerns of black Americans?

ESG: I would have expected a more robust urban policy. But the specific devastation of the housing crisis in black communities should have been addressed more directly.


Tomorrow: Duke's Mark Anthony Neal grades the president.

Alexander Heffner, a freelance journalist based in New York and Boston, has written for the Washington Post, Boston Globe and USA Today.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter