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Posted at 11:41 AM ET, 02/25/2011

Al Sharpton, John Powell talk about Obama

By Perry Bacon Jr.

Two years into President Obama's tenure, the debate continues among African-American activists and scholars about exactly how the nation's first black president should address racial issues.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, an ally of the White House, argues Obama's overall approach, but particularly his focus on issues such as eduation, fatherhood and obesity, does more for African-Americans than any other president has, even if Obama rarely invokes race specifically.

John Powell, head of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, says the president's approach has both rhetorical and substantive shortcomings. He argues many majority-black areas were hit harder by the recession than other communities, and fixing these kinds of problems requires a frank, specific conversation that directly addresses race and policies more directly targeted to blacks.

Here are some excerpts of recent my interviews with both men:


"He is addressing the realities that we face today. When he talks about obesity, he talks about fatherhood, he is talking about a real-life narrative. He knows what it's like, he was a community organizer. A lot of the self-appointed black leaders, they talk about black people, they never talk to black people. He [Obama knows] the difference between what's real and what's not real."

On education, 'he's had the courage to deal with the unions, he's the only Democratic president who has been willing to do that. How we deal with education reform and inequity is a critical issue for black people."

"He is authentic. We come from different places, I'm an activist outside the system, he's worked inside the system, in politics. But he's authentic in how he approaches everyone."


"If you take the whole thing with Skip [Henry Louis] Gates, he said what the police did was stupid, which was true, but then the only person who apologized from that was President Obama."

"His strategy is so muted, not just in taking on issues of race, but he cedes these issues to the right."

"He's made clear he doesn't want to be president of the black community, but he's gone further than that. The president is not just a super-legislator, he sets the context for conversation. On race, he clearly mutes the conversation and confuses people.'

"We have tremendous racial anxiety in this country. America has made progress, but it's still there. Racial anxiety is on the rise and not talking about it doesn't make it go away."

By Perry Bacon Jr.  | February 25, 2011; 11:41 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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For MANY, MANY HYSTERICAL laughs -- go to this new political parody website -- 40 pages of LAUGHS!!!!

(See the Barney Frank & Pelosi pages --- TOTALLY a RIOT!!! - They ALL are!!!!!)

Posted by: Obamaineligibletoserve | February 25, 2011 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Here are some grades:

Sharpton: A+ as a socialist

Powell: A- as a collectivist

Neither understands individualism. I can see Sharpton not getting that concept, but Powell is a surprise.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | February 25, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Obama purposely restrains his own potential on all the major issues. He somehow can't reconcile the fire and determination of candidate Obama with President Obama. That's a shame. Obama may not view himself as a racial divider in this country, but he is more than any other factor. He should acknowledge the suffering endured by the poor in this country, and he should address as racism and hatred the politics produced and directed by Republican big wigs. Unfortunately, Obama is an elitist and he is friends with elitists, many of whom are black. Blacks in this country will support him no matter what, and he knows that. He may be far from his potential but he is still heads and tails above his competition. He needs to spend more time on his communication skills which are so often under-used. Maybe he just doesn't think about it.

Posted by: cougartonyusa | February 25, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

If President Obama does not wish to be regarded as the President of the "Black community"--if indeed he seeks to be post-racial or "non-racial" in his outreach to all Americans, and in his perspectives on public policy--WHY, pray tell, has President Obama (and his Secretary of Education) embraced the likes of Al Sharpton--a race demagogue of the first order?

Everything about Sharpton is "race" this and "race" that.

Sharpton, like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, must appeal to some side of Obama that is indeed "racial," if not radical in terms of his outlook on American race relations.

Indeed, why has Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan empowered the race activist Sharpton by involving him so prominently in their educational uplift endeavors--he who speaks "axe" when he means to say "ask"?

Obama, perhaps, is a "RACE MAN." He is, seemingly, enthralled by, indeed enchanted with angry skin-deep ministers, activists, and race professors who believe there is such a thing as "race": Jeremiah Wright, Al Sharpton, Henry Louis Gates, Julian Bond, and the current knee-jerk racialists at the NAACP who see "white people" behind every imagined sleight at America's "first black President" (e.g. the "racism" of the Tea Party Movement). These activists--race demagogues constantly cry "racism" falsely whenever they see whites (and some blacks) with anti-Obama signs and whenever they interpret satiric cartoons and the like which poke fun at Obama's policies and rhetoric as "threats" on "America's first black President."

The "Obamanable" Snowman ran a successful and stealthlike campaign for the Presidency. One day he was saying that there is no black America or white America, just the United States of America, and the next day he was lecturing us about "racial differences" in perceptions and the treatment of blacks by law enforcement officials.

Will the real Barack Obama please stand up?! Until he does, we must look to his friends and allies--those he bring to the White House--to advise with him on the race question--and look at the demagogues he empowers in doing so--they whom he frequently quotes in his speeches before mainly black audiences--as really strong clues that he, Obama, is not at all "post-racial" or non-racial.

Michael Meyers
New York Civil Rights Coaliiton
New York City

Posted by: nycrc | February 25, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Slimy Grease like Sharpton are still around to rouse the rabble because New's Pundits will sell their souls on a slow day for something with which to crowd their pages or fill up an hour on TV . There isn't an honest soul in America , be he Caucasian or Negro that won't admit that Sharpton is a Charlton of the First Rank and is only opening that big mouth of his so he doesn't have to work for a living. He's about as much a Minister as Ahmadinejab is an American . But all you birds keep bringing him on, and dopes like Imus apologize to him for his faked outrage at the girl basketball players , and he rolls right along like Liberace and laughs all the way to the bank. When asked a long time ago where his church was since he pays no taxes , he said, " My Church is the Street ". They weren't asking where you were brought up , or where you belonged Al, but then again you never answer a question honestly . That's why you make such a good politician. From the day you extorted money from Ali, Cosby and the rest in the Tawana Brawley fiasco , to today, you'll keep on keeping on as long as there are stupid people who keep quoting your nonsense.

Posted by: puck-101 | February 25, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I believe that should be "john powell."

Posted by: converse | February 25, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

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