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 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?

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?

Advertisement

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?

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.

Advertisement

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

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?

Advertisement

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.