Grading Obama: Mark Anthony Neal

Illustration for article titled Grading Obama: Mark Anthony Neal

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.

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For the fifth in the series, The Root interviewed Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African and African-American studies at Duke 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?

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Mark Anthony Neal: I always viewed candidate Obama as a moderate, in the vein of the [Democratic Leadership Council] of Gore, Clinton, etc. In that regard, I have not been surprised by his presidency.

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

MAN: I think the president has done what he thought he could do without having to deal with political backlash as the black president. Historically when policies have addressed black suffering, [they have] also enhanced the quality of life for other Americans.

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

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MAN: Granted, it was easy to take the comments out of context. I don't think he would have risked being taken out of context with some other constituencies.

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

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MAN: I don't believe President Obama's election was evidence of postracial society, in that it was not a marker of the reduction of anti-black racism; it's actually had the opposite effect.

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

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MAN: Poverty, home foreclosures and sentencing inequities.

Tomorrow: The Brookings Institution's Hugh B. Price 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.

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