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President Obama and Dr. King's dream

During the 1963 March on Washington, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” One year after the inauguration of Barack Obama — the first African American of the 44 presidents of the United States — we are seeing King’s dream at once realized and deferred.

The recently reported impolitic analysis of Obama’s presidential chances offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2008 -- according to "Game Change" authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, Reid "was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama – a 'light-skinned' African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.' " -- is a timely reminder that skin color is still for many an automatic disqualifier, and that more than four decades later King’s dream has yet to be realized.

While Reid’s remarks damaged his reputation, to acknowledge this scar on the American psyche is not racist. We all know there was truth in his analysis. Confronting the limitations of the color barrier and the racism from which they are born remain this nation’s unfinished business.

Obama noted last July, at a news conference held in the aftermath of the confrontation between a renowned black Harvard professor and a white Cambridge, Mass., police officer, that race “still haunts us.” But it is a triumph that race does not haunt his presidency. This is partly because Obama runs away from race discussions faster than Usain Bolt can finish a 200-meter dash. His ambitious legislative agenda would suffer if he didn’t.

Another reason, though, is because he is being judged on how well he functions in the toughest job on Earth. We’re still getting to know Obama and how he operates, but the uniform (and understandable) knock against him is his temperament. He’s seen by many as so cool, even in the face of attempted terrorist attacks, that you’d be forgiven for wanting to put a mirror under his nose to see whether he’s breathing.

(Consider: "What does it take to get a rise out of Barack Obama? Not that we need bombast and flared nostrils," Post columnist Kathleen Parker wrote in the aftermath of the colossal intelligence failure that almost brought down Northwest Flight 253. "No Drama Obama is reticent about displays of emotion," noted Maureen Dowd. "But it’s not O.K. to be cool about national security when Americans are scared." Even though the Daily Beast's Tina Brown notes that we all must move on from the "Obama is too cool" complaint, she herself calls the president "a bit of a bore who is too fast to compromise and too slow to anger.")

Of course, some on the far right have made their displeasure with Obama known in racial terms. And Fox News’s Glenn Beck called the president a racist on television last July. But I think most Americans would agree that the charge is neither true nor fitting with Obama’s character.

Americans today are angry, and the president’s job approval rating is hovering around 50 percent. But this hostility is not about race. People are upset because they are afraid for their jobs, if they still have them. They are worried about losing their homes. And they are angered by government’s inability to address the nation’s ills or to curb the excesses of Wall Street that robbed them of the American dream, without adding trillions to the deficit.

Lydia Saad of Gallup makes an important observation. Of presidents since Eisenhower, only Ronald Reagan "began his second year in office with a lower approval score (49%)" than Obama’s current numbers. And the drag on Reagan was a crippled economy. Obama has that and two wars and the specter of terrorism. That his poll numbers aren't even lower tells me that King's dream is being realized.

By Jonathan Capehart  | January 18, 2010; 12:15 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Mr.Capehart; whenever race is introduced into a conversation,about anything, it is usually a black person,(if that term is ok to use),or a democrat trying to make an issue where there is none!
Most fair minded people will judge "everyone","On The Content Of Their Character",as in student,empolyee,employer,friend,solemate, or The President of the United States!
There are many issues confronting Black Americans that need be addressed by sound Black leadership.
Please don't rattle leg irons at everyone because of what Harry Reid said.

Posted by: sdavis4 | January 18, 2010 1:18 AM | Report abuse

I disagree with-sdavis4. My experience is that it is usually an ignorant Caucasoid person, such as Mr. Beck, who introduces race into a discussion.
President Obama really can't lead a discussion on race until we have better educated people. I think it was Chris Rock who said, " I am not going to be your Negro tour guide." Too many Caucasians have vocabulary problems and they need to , as Mr. Cosby said, "get out more."


Posted by: judithclaire1939 | January 18, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

"ignorant Caucasoid person" Hmm. That sure sounds like you're judging others based on the color of their skin. Guess you're one of those who hasn't taken the words of Dr. King to heart. Pity.

Posted by: knuckle_dragger | January 18, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I expected more from black people not less including Obama. The idea that only white folks can be racists has been debunked. Black people voted for Obama because of skin color, period. It was depressing to see elderly black people voting for the first time in 2008. The idea that black folks not supporting white candidates because of skin color was depressing. I'm waiting for African Americans to lean into the American part as much as they lean into the African party. It's time, they too owe America.

After all, it was black slave owners in Africa that sold their people to white folks. It is no coincidence that they want to ignore that piece of history so they can play the victim role with their hands out. So not impressed.

Posted by: billbridgesmaccom | January 18, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

You, like most Republicans, think that because people don't go around shouting the "N" word anymore (well, rarely go around shouting the "N" word), racism is not relevant to any discussion about anything. While you may believe that people, by and large, are judging everyone fairly, the statistics really don't bare that out. Do you realize a white former prison inmate with no highschool deploma is more likely to be chosen for a job over an African American with a highschool diploma and no criminal record. Another interesting study: If you change the name on a job application from an afro-centric sounding name to a more traditional sounding name (and change nothing else) The non afro-centric name is significantly more likely to get an interview despite no difference in qualification. Because racism isn't as obvious and conspicious as it used to be, doesn't mean that its effects aren't real. Explicit verbal racist rants are luckily rare these days... but that just means that we have to parse questionable events or outcomes to discern intent in a way that we never had to do when racist didn't deem ephemisms necessary. (The statics come from a NY article a year or two ago)

As for who brings race up more, who cares? Can you really blame African Americans, who are obviously the historically aggrieved party, for wanting to renew the discussion in a meaningful way?

Posted by: jasonp2 | January 18, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

To BillBridges... You're a fool. That's not the only reason Black people voted for Obama. If Michael Steele got the Republican nomination you can rest assured that no black people would run out to support him. Do you honestly think that Black people should have voted McCain? Especially considering how disasterously terrible for the country as whole "conservative" rule has been? In fact, I think anyone who didn't vote for Obama clearly has a grudge against America. There is a reason there isn't a single black republican in national elected office in the entire country. And it isn't because black people are racist, it is because black people no what happens when government shuns them. 100 of thousands of Black people are still alive who remember the sting of fire hoses and the teeth of police dogs and the chants of "segregation now, segregation forever." Before you judge, know what you are talking about. On a completely side note.. Harlem voted for Hillary Clinton.

Posted by: jasonp2 | January 18, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

kinda like the attorney representing the pro prop 8 people in the ongoing case in california...he said "well, Ellen made it to be a judge on American Idol so doesn't that mean gays have made it"..he said this with a "straight" face..i suppose a better argument could be made that since a Black is president, that Blacks have made it..i doubt it thou..i just wish Obama would follow more of MLK's teachings.

Posted by: rmcgolden | January 18, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Obama is NO Dr Martin Luther King. Dr King actually DID SOMETHING for the black community. Obama has done nothing for them or any other American. He is too worried about giving rights to Muslims and terrorists and wanting the whole world to love him. The joke is on him - the world views him as a joke, a weak, spineless fraud of a Presidnet. Massachusetts voters will make that loud and clear tommorrow when his candidate loses the Seante seat. It will be a backlash against Obama, Reid and Pelosi and their outrageous spending and arrogance at the expense of the American people.

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | January 18, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Martin Luther King would be ashamed of Barack Obama.

After all, it is not the color of one's skin that matters, but the content of one's character.

And Obama has no character.

Posted by: Jerzy | January 18, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

People are still very fearful about the economy and double digit job losses and that fear is resonating in my state of Masachusetts in the US senate race.
President Obama and the Congress wasted a year on a healthcare overhaul when they should have been focued - like a laser - on the economy and creating jobs. Some small, incremental changes in healthcare probaly would have been acceptable.
Many voters fear the country cannot afford this massive healthcare reform package. The country is still economically weak. Job losses are still piling up. We are still fighting two wars and planning a still unfunded surge in Afganistan. We are paying $500,000 a day in interest on loans and making China richer for it.

Posted by: pjsilva | January 18, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

The Boston Police were racist by reacting the way they did with the Harvard Professor last summer according to Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama was the first to say without the facts that the police were at fault. When the truth came out he did not apologize for his racist meaness without the facts. Skin color will be a basis for racism for a long, long time. It happens in soccieties. Maybe the baby boomers will be the first generation to accept without discrimination. It took the Irish over a hundred years to be accepted. Just a thought.

Posted by: pechins | January 18, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Wow! Ignorance never fails to shock. If you know nothing about economics, maybe you should leave the commentary to adults. Stick to talking about how "hot" Palin is. Obama saved a million and a half jobs with that "outrageous" spending you talk about. Most of whom were teachers, cops and firemen. He saved the world economy by bailing out the banking industry with TARP (most of which has already been paid back with interest). That wasn't popular, but imagine how popular wrap around lines at soup kitchens might have been. He committed 50,000 or so more troops to Afghanistan, obviously a sign of weakness! Helped inspire the revolt in Iran with his speach in Cairo. I can hear Ahmedinijahd laughing, can't you? You don't think fighting for a year to provide healthcare to 30 million suffering Americans without adding to the deficit would help black people? come on. The problem is issues are complicated. Slogans are easy. To some up Jungle Jim's position: Spending uggh bad! Taxes urrgg bad! Taxcuts good! Help people, bad! talk to people bad! Grow up!

Posted by: jasonp2 | January 18, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

The police were at fault! Skip Gates maybe a classist, but he certainly isn't a racist... He is married to a white woman, did you know that? His children are mixed race. After Gates established who he was, which he did early on, the police should have left... Instead they pushed it. Gates may have been smug, but who cares! He is in his own house. The deference one owes the police is in direct correlation to the risk of the situation they are in, and the offense they are investigating. After Gates established who he was... there was no longer any risk. No deference was owed other than owed to any random citizen. There is a reason he wasn't charged with anything. He committed no defineable crime other than being snippy. We don't live in a police state, police can't arrest you for any reason.

Posted by: jasonp2 | January 18, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Obama didn't say the police were racist. He said they were stupid. Which they were.

Posted by: jasonp2 | January 18, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

obama gives cash for clunkers,
if you can afford a new car.
cash for first time home buyers,
if you can qualify under these
stricter guidelines,
cash for caulkers,
if you have a home.
what about lower middle class?
what about the poor?
This is just cash for caucasians!
more of the same,
help the poor!
and stop waging war!

Posted by: simonsays1 | January 18, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes dreams turn into nightmares, like now. My only hope for the Obama is that he serve out his term and then take his place on the ash heap of history. God forbid anything happen to make him a martyr. We've already honored MLK by renaming the worst street in every city in America after. What wold we have to do if Barry were killed? Rename all our firstborn some muslim name? Have two months of nonexistent black history?

Posted by: carlbatey | January 18, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes dreams turn into nightmares, like now. My only hope for the Obama is that he serve out his term and then take his place on the ash heap of history. God forbid anything happen to make him a martyr. We've already honored MLK by renaming the worst street in every city in America after. What wold we have to do if Barry were killed? Rename all our firstborn some muslim name? Have two months of nonexistent black history?

Posted by: carlbatey | January 18, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Both are excellent public speakers but short on accomplishment. Apt comparison.

Posted by: alstl | January 18, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Simonsays, what do you think the healthcare bill is all about? The rich. Nope! They can afford health care. Who do you think the unprecedented expansion of unemployment benefits is target towards? The middle class? Nope, they have jobs. Cash for clunkers? Pulling out millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere helps us all, whether we walk or drive. The housing market needs to recover for the poor to benefit.

Posted by: jasonp2 | January 18, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Well let us sorta review the bidding here.

Obama is where he is at because a lot of people decided that racial attitudes had to change and the race riots were about to destroy the Nation. Like most politicians Obama plays the race card whenever it is to their advantage. At some point it backfires.

MLK had issues involving women other than his wife which as was the case with JFK not mentioned and even to this day seldom discussed.

The MLK Memorial is now bigger than the Lincoln Memorial and was fought by the MLK Foundation i.e. the King family because they could not get licensing rights to the concessions. The 28 foot statue is going to incense a lot of people. The National Park Service and others who will have to provide security are concerned this site will turn into an area of major disruption.

So before we name everything in the Country after either MLK or Reagan and elevate MLK to a god we need to review where this Country is headed.

Posted by: KBlit | January 18, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I was born after Dr. King was killed, but all I can see is that anytime anyone is lobbying for a free handout from the Government, they call it "economic justice" and say it is to achieve MLK's goals.

I did not realize MLK's life's work to create a dependent people in the welfare state.

Posted by: pgr88 | January 18, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Martin Luter King, junior was a great REPUBLICAN who had great goals for the black people. Too bad the democrats are keeping the blacks dumbed down and on the plantation.

Posted by: charlietuna666 | January 18, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

“In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out,” King wrote in 1967. “There are twice as many white poor as [black] poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and [black] alike.” Capitalist poverty. The necessary byproduct of a profit-mongering monolithic economic system. This was a radical—and unpopular-conception-pointing the way to necessary social-economic change--and why Dr. King had to be eliminated. The hypocrisy of American liberalism, and the fascist nature of American conservatism, begins at the boundries of civil rights as it transcends into economically taboo human rights, pointing to the need for revolutionary economic and social change. As soon as the feared Malcolm X realized the nature of poverty in America, he had to be eliminated too, and by "any means necessary". If the ruling elite of this country has realized only one Biblical principle, it is this, leveled against the working classes--"And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand."(Mark 3:25 KJV)--the words of CHRIST, another temple-cleansing revolutionary who had to die....

Posted by: hyblean | January 18, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I have a dream... a dream that Obama will be a one term president.

Posted by: tuzoner | January 18, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

hmmm ....

We love Capt. Sullenberger for his cool, calm demeanor when landing a jetliner in the Hudson.

But we knock Pres. Obama for his cool, calm demeanor while landing a nation back into some form of sane response to an astonishing set of problems.

Anyone else see the disconnect ??

We are blessed to have this intelligent, soulful, calm captain at the helm of the ship of state. The only drag on his presidency are the legions on both the left and right of nattering nabobs of negativity.

-- stanley krute

Posted by: Stan_Krute | January 18, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

King was neither a Republican nor a Democrat, he never endorsed a party, nor a candidate, for obvious reasons... For those among you who seem incapable of processing the obvious, King had more important things to worry about. King's father was indeed a Republican at a time when republicans were the party of the north (and thereby almost all black people). It was pretty obvious that King supported Kennedy (a democrat) in the 1960 election after Kennedy intervened to get him out of prison. King also trashed Goldwater in 1964 (for voting against the voting rights act) and thus defacto supported Johnson. It isn't about party,King transcended that. It is about the people in the party and what they stood for. Do you honestly think reverend King would have voted for Sarah Palin? come on. As a general rule of thumb, whatever way the majority of white southerners vote.. Black folks go the other way. If White southerners are democrats, blacks are republicans, and vice versa. You will know the nation has truly changed when white southern males and Black females vote convincingly for the same political party.

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Posted by: dfdhdfhtrhjethgjtyjgf | January 18, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Some nitwit (sdavis4 was it?) said when race is introduced into a conversation, it's usually a black person.

That of course ignores the existence of the race pimps Beck annd Limbaugh, but more impportantly it speaks to the cluelessness of some whites.
If we had waited for whites to introduce (bring up) the heinous aspects of racism in thiis country, we would still be waiting today!

Did whites not know that racism was wrong?Iis that why they waited (as Dr.King said (for some 350 years for him, Rosa Parks, and a collection of other blacks to put their lives on the line by speaking against it?

Blacks we waited for Billy Graham, they waited for Oral Roberts, we waited andwaited and waited. Even the mighty white "bible belt" preachers didn't do a single thing about racism until King brought it to the world's attention and forced Graham and Roberts to get off theior Arses!

So I guess the white nitwits who make some ignorant statement like "it's blacks who always "bring up racism" are dumb to the fact that if blacks don't bring it yup, whites sure as heck won't.

davis4, it ain't rocket science figuring out that the slaves will bring up slavery before the slavemasters bring it up! Duhhh!

So to you, I say, Yeah, blacks bring it up perhaps because 350 years is about the time frame that would elapse waiting for whites to bring it up.

Didn't whites know segregation was an atrcotity from the end of slavery, or was it just blacks who figured it out? Evidently not because the vast majority of whites said and did nothing. They let 5000 (known) blacks be lynched (Lynching is the "original" terrorist act that was - to borrow a line from Springsteen - BORN IN the USA!

The Middle Easterners are Johnny-come lately terrorists. The dragging of black people out of their homes to lynchings, castration, torture and other heinous, for the post Civil war century puts America way ahead of MiddleEasterners in the terrorism department.

So pardon us if we bring it up. And I apologize to you sdavis4 for King's audacity in bringing it up.

Posted by: dredscott1 | January 18, 2010 11:42 PM | Report abuse

sdavis4 and the rest of the Confederate sympathizers on this forum, I have some great news for you!

One of Martin Luther King Jr.s quotes was

"America is the biggest purveyor of violence on the planet."

Isn't that wonderful news for all who want to put King right there in the category with Reverend Wright?

How about that!
King said America was the greatest promulgator of violence on the planet!

That can't possibly sit well with you Confederate Neanderthals who will go to your graves with the idiotic perception that America can do no wrong.

So now you cansay that King was not one of Sarah Palin's "real Americans" LOL

And, now you all can start on King the way you got on Wright, because they essentially said the same thing.

Posted by: dredscott1 | January 18, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Bond should resign. Coretta Scott King would not let this happen.
This is a continuation of 'leadership by distraction'.
The Presidents father would tell him that it is a bad sign the see the Marabou storks circling.

Posted by: RayOne | January 22, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

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