Grading Obama: Marc Lamont Hill

Illustration for article titled Grading Obama: Marc Lamont Hill

Has President Barack Obama's first term embodied the idealism of the 2008 campaign? The answer is debatable, according to interviews with nine prominent black academics in the run-up to next year's presidential election.

For the last in the series, The Root Interviewed Marc Lamont Hill, associate professor of English education at Teachers College, Columbia 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?


Marc Lamont Hill: My expectations were well-managed from the beginning. I always saw the president as a political centrist. I … expected some economic turnaround. When I see wars being fought, I'm not surprised.

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

MLH: He's thinking about the context for [the] next big economic boom. I'm not sure he has a clear vision for job creation in the now. He's been strong in the abstract.

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


MLH: I agree with the critiques of Tavis Smiley, Cornel West and Maxine Waters. When there's insufficient or no talk about black and brown people, we need to do something about it. It's disrespectful not to challenge President Obama.

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


MLH: We are engaged with the issues of [Occupy Wall Street]. We may have made strides toward a postracist America, but even those, I think, are a small step. All the measures of social misery continue to affect blacks more than whites.

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


MLH: Disrupting private interest versus public good: mass incarceration, broken schools and joblessness.

To read the entire series of interviews with academics, click here.

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

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