Tags: Barack Obama | racial unrest | activists

NYT: Some Activists Believe Obama Not Doing Enough on Race

Image: NYT: Some Activists Believe Obama Not Doing Enough on Race
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By    |   Tuesday, 09 Dec 2014 01:43 PM

Civil rights activists who have been motivated to take action following the controversial killings of unarmed black men by the police feel President Barack Obama should be doing more to speak out against racial injustice, particularly given his status as the first black president.

According to The New York Times, the president has been pressured from different quarters about his response to the verdicts that saw the officers involved in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases walk away without indictments.

A number of young African-American activists visited the White House and told the president they expected him to give a stronger response in the face of the racial unrest.

Obama told the group that change is "hard and incremental," according to one participant.  When they said they felt their voices were not being heard, Obama said, "You are sitting in the Oval Office, talking to the president of the United States," the Times reported.

"It hurt that he didn't seem to want to go out there and acknowledge that he understands our pain," Rasheen Aldridge Jr., a St. Louis community organizer who attended the meeting, told the Times. "It would be a great mark on his presidential legacy if he would come out and touch an issue that everyone is scared to touch."

Those close to the president told the Times that he is aware of the significance of the events for race relations in the country but is constrained in the options he has to respond, given his position.

"We are really on the precipice of either going in the right direction or entrenching a very perilous racial divide in this country, so I think he's trying to harness that and tread very carefully," Janai Nelson, associate director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told the Times.

"There is a phenomenal opportunity for him to create a lasting legacy in an area that has plagued African-Americans in particular for decades."

But aides told the newspaper that Obama has been keen to avoid defining himself or his agenda on the basis of race, a decision he made early in his career, and it has never been his style to demonstrate public emotion.

In an interview that aired Monday, the president responded to charges that he hasn't been sufficiently outspoken to the incidents in Ferguson and Staten Island, the Times noted.

"I'm being pretty explicit about my concern, and being pretty explicit about the fact that this is a systemic problem, that black folks and Latinos and others are not just making this up," Obama said during an interview with Black Entertainment Television.

At the same time, he said, he cannot take sides given the office he holds.

"I'll leave it to people to speculate on what I'm saying to myself or Michelle when we're alone at night," he said.

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, said, however, that Obama is committed to using his final years in office to address the nation's racial conflicts.

"What's different about right now is that the president of the United States is committing that he intends to make progress on this issue," Jarrett said, according to the Times.  "We have an opportunity now, with the American people — not just in Ferguson or in New York, but across the country."

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Civil rights activists who have been motivated to take action following the controversial killings of unarmed black men by the police feel President Barack Obama should be doing more to speak out against racial injustice, particularly given his status as the first black president.
racial unrest, activists
551
2014-43-09
Tuesday, 09 Dec 2014 01:43 PM
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