I imagine that, for the purposes of this piece in the NYT, “some” means a handful of reliable critics and cranks the writer sought out minutes after dreaming up this story idea from the ether:
Some black scholars say Mr. Obama has failed to lead on the race issue. The Kirwan Institute, which studies race and ethnicity, is convening a conference on Thursday to offer policy prescriptions. After analyzing the State of the Union address, the institute’s scholars warned that “continued failure to engage race would be devastating.”
Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University sociologist and longtime supporter of Mr. Obama, is exasperated. “All these teachable moments,” he said, “but the professor refuses to come to the class.”
Obama was excused from class when he got elected president. In fact, he graduated.
Just be glad Rev. Al, of all people, didn’t fall for the okey-doke.
But seriously, there’s a number of problems here:
- The most glaring of these problems is the assumption that Obama was elected president of Black America, rather than the United States, and that he must take a particular interest in the fortunes of the nation’s black citizens. I wouldn’t even begin to know how he could do this, and furthermore, he’d likely be better served by helping the working poor and thousands of unemployed Americans. Obama wasn’t elected solely by black people, and further, he wasn’t elected solely to advance our political interests.
- Once and again, we have a story that feeds into the mainstream media’s “othering” of black people. Our issues – assuming we can agree on this monolithic “our” – are not unique. We need good jobs, good schools, good credit, safe neighborhoods, etc etc etc. That sounds, pretty much, like the needs and wants of every other U.S. citizen. I imagine Obama could pursue some broad and progressive initiatives to make those things happen rather than tailoring specific programs to black people.
- Elinor Tatum. Really?
- In addition to figuring out our teetering economy, health care, two wars and protecting the nation’s borders, people also want him to “engage race.” What does that even mean? Should he give a sternly worded-lecture (Stop that, white folks!)? C’mon.
- Speaking of white folks, what do they think? Brown people, too? Don’t they have a take on this?
- The headline is either lazy or, in its pithy way, racist. “For Obama, Nuance on Race Invites Questions.” Is this headline implying that black people couldn’t possibly handle nuance on racial issues? I doubt it. But you never know.
I probably missed a few things here, but you get the gist.
Anyway, in shorter form, Ta-Nehisi sums it all up with his headline: “Black People Have Opinions About Obama.”
We really shouldn’t have to explain this kind of stuff anymore.