The Spectator

Obama’s challenge

Obama's challenge
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Newsweek has a great cover story about Barack Obama that touches on one of the least-talked about, but most interesting issues surrounding his candidacy: the worry among some black leaders and voters that electing a black president could actually be bad for blacks. The argument goes that once an African-American has been elected president, society will be tempted to conclude that all the problems of racial justice have been solved and move away from things like affirmative action.

Here’s Obama’s response to this question:

“the impulse I think may be to write a story that says Barack Obama represents a quote-unquote post-racial politics. That term I reject because it implies that somehow my campaign represents an easy shortcut to racial reconciliation. It's similar to the notion that if we're all color blind then somehow problems are solved....

Solving our racial problems in this country will require concrete steps, significant investment. We're going to have a lot of work to do to overcome the long legacy of Jim Crow and slavery. It can't be purchased on the cheap.

I am fundamentally optimistic about our capacity to do that. And I do assert that there's a core decency in the American people and in white Americans that makes me hopeful about our ability to deal with these issues. But these issues aren't just solved by electing a black president."

Obama must appear to white voters as optimistic not angry, while showing black voters that he is not some Dr. Pangloss when it comes to race in America. Hopefully, the next black candidate won't have to bear this burden.