May 20, 2011

In the black commentariat, opinion is divided over whether African-Americans should demand a more overt commitment to racial justice from a black president or refrain from doing so because it would weaken his appeal to others. The Rev. Al Sharpton insists that calling on Obama to be a "black exponent of black views" is "just stupid," since it will embolden conservative attacks on projects black people need. Princeton professor Cornel West insists that Obama has "a certain fear of free black men" and "feels most comfortable with upper-middle-class white and Jewish men."

By concentrating so heavily on race, both sides detract from his responsibilities. Obama should do more for black people—not because he is black but because black people are the citizens suffering most. Black people have every right to make demands on Obama—not because he's black but because they gave him a greater percentage of their votes than any other group, and he owes his presidency to them. Like any president, he should be constantly pressured to put the issue of racial injustice front and center.

By: Gary Younge


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