02-19-2017  3:56 am      •     

When Barack Obama accepted his party's presidential nomination in Denver on Aug. 28, 2008 – the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream Speech" – excitement filled the air.

Amid that jubilance, however, it struck me as odd that Obama failed to mention Dr. King by name.

".. And it is that promise that, 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream," Obama said at the time.

Seconds later, he would add:  "'We cannot walk alone,' the preacher cried. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

When Obama was inaugurated for the second time on Jan. 21, 2013, the day we officially celebrated as the King federal holiday, I knew – or thought I knew – that President Obama would not make that same omission again.

I listened carefully as he said:  "We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."

Why couldn't President Obama utter Dr. King's name on the day he used the slain civil rights leader's Bible to be sworn in?  On King's birthday, why couldn't he be called more than just a preacher?

Even though Beyoncé lip-synced the National Anthem on Inauguration Day, she hasn't been accused of faking it when she sings another song – "Say My Name."

If you ain't running a game

Say my name, say my name

The problem is larger than the failure to say Dr. King's name. The problem, according to Michael Eric Dyson, is that, "This President runs from race like a Black man runs from a cop."


When candidate Obama was forced to address the issue of race in the wake of controversial remarks by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor, he said in Philadelphia: "But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now."

However, that's exactly what he has been doing.

Frederick C. Harris, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University,  noted, "… as president, Mr. Obama has had little to say on concerns specific to blacks. His State of the Union address in 2011 was the first by any president since 1948 to not mention poverty or the poor. The political scientist Daniel Q. Gillion found that Mr. Obama, in his first two years in office, talked about race less than any Democratic president had since 1961. From racial profiling to mass incarceration to affirmative action, his comments have been sparse and halting."

Sure, he had a beer summit at the White House with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and the White police officer who arrested him in his own home. Obama said the officer had "acted stupidly," but later softened his criticism. The president also said, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon [Martin]."

Of course, the issue is not whether Obama has a son who looks like Trayvon Martin. What is he going to do about people who are treated like Trayvon?

To discuss race less than Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, all White southerners who grew up under segregation, should be embarrassing to President Obama. It should be even more of an embarrassment that Obama hasn't taken leadership on the issue as Bill Clinton did when he launched his "One America Initiative" on race. Putting aside the merits of the initiative, it demonstrated Clinton was willing to confront the issue of race.

As my friend Courtland Milloy wrote in the Washington Post, it's time to stop making excuses for Obama.

He said, "Obama should not be allowed to get away with thinking that when it comes to making his mark on the issue of race, all he had to do was become the first black president."

Unfortunately, some of the most vocal Black leaders have either been co-opted by the White House or fear a backlash from adoring Black voters.

The usually outspoken Rep. Maxine Waters [D-Calif.] told a crowd in Detroit, "If we go after the president too hard, you're going after us."

And former Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, II of Missouri admitted, "With 14 percent [black] unemployment if we had a white president we'd be marching around the White House."

If we don't get some true leadership on this issue, perhaps it will be time to march around the White House, Congress and the headquarters of some of our civil rights organizations.

 

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service

 

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
    Read More
  • FDR executive order sent 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens into camps
    Read More
  • Pruitt's nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups and hundreds of former EPA employees
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all