Posted on January 15, 2010

Michael Eric Dyson: Obama ‘Runs from Race Like a Black Man Runs from a Cop’

Boyce Watkins, Black Voices, January 13, 2010

Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson criticized President Barack Obama for avoiding racial issues last night on MSNBC:

“I think that we should push the president. This president runs from race like a black man runs from a cop. What we have to do is ask Mr. Obama to stand up and use his bully pulpit to help us. He is loathe to speak about race.”


Let’s be clear on the following facts:

1) Yes, Obama is afraid to talk about race, for good reason. Dyson is right, but to be clear, President Obama doesn’t run from race like a black man runs from the police. He runs from race like a black politician running from angry white voters. The only exception to Obama’s race-neutral strategy was the “debacle heard around the world,” otherwise known as the Henry Louis Gates Case. In that situation, Obama’s desire to protect his Harvard homeboy exposed some very disturbing elitism on the part of the president (he never would have spoken up for a poor black man shot in the street, but would yell and scream for a Harvard professor who was inconvenienced). It also wasted a valuable opportunity to intelligently and respectfully address race. By saying that the police “acted stupidly,” even though he didn’t know all the facts and that he was “admittedly biased” about this otherwise insignificant occurrence, Obama not only insulted every fair-minded American watching the press conference, he blew his right to talk about race for at least another year. In other words, white people put Barack Obama on punishment. The president doesn’t address race because HE CAN’T address race and still keep his job. His license of racial trust has been revoked and he must now become a president who just happens to be black. America will have it no other way.

2) {snip}I don’t expect, nor do I even want Barack Obama contributing to the National Conversation on race, because when politicians are too heavily involved in anything, they end up mangling the critical issues. This debate belongs to the American people.

3) {snip} Barack has his own sense of blackness, but that must be balanced with the fact that the whiteness in his blood needs to be acknowledged and respected as well. Additionally, the brother has to keep his job, and he’s not going to be able to do that by wearing a dashiki to work–nor would he be willing to sacrifice his political power for African-American causes. At the same time, Barack Obama must realize that many African Americans are not going to patiently allow him to dismantle and undermine meaningful struggles for civil rights to open the door for him to play politics with those who hate us. So, Mr. President, if you are going to throw black men under the bus with condescending church speeches upholding racial stereotypes, then don’t be surprised if we throw you under the bus as well.

The National Conversation on Race has begun. The President and other politicians are not invited until they are willing and able to do what’s best for the American people. {snip} The conversation on race starts and ends with the citizens, and we aren’t running away from anything.