For the past four years, the nation’s first African American president has been virtually silent about race.
Whether that will change in President Obama’s second term is something known only to Obama, and perhaps members of his inner circle. Others are left to speculate, and two prominent members of the black community have reached different conclusions.
There’s likely to be a new and more assertive message from the White House, says Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP and a former Bay Area civil rights activist. Obama, Jealous observes, no longer faces re-election and is mindful of his future legacy and of persistent economic hardships among African Americans.
Don’t expect any dramatic shifts, counters Christopher Edley, the law school dean at UC Berkeley and a former White House staff member during two Democratic administrations. The president, he says, is a practical politician, not a movement leader, and knows he would come under fierce attack for highlighting any racial issues.
Obama, to be sure, has invigorated the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, supported race-based affirmative action in court, and opposed Republican-sponsored voter ID laws on the grounds that they would suppress minority voting. His administration has sided with Latinos challenging the Arizona law that allows police to demand documents from those they suspect of being illegal immigrants. (San Francisco Chronicle)