Is Obama’s Silence on Race Golden?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Gary Kamiya, at Salon, thinks so and I agree. Obama has said virtually nothing about race in his first 100 days and I, for one, am glad he both chose not to and wasn’t forced to by events. The simple existence of that magical family in the White House, with all our sappiness about Michelle’s clothes and the new puppy, has given us all a chance to exhale. It’s given us all a chance to be hopeful that we really are on the path, however potholed, to color blindness.

New poll data show that:

“two-thirds of Americans now say race relations are generally good, and the percentage of blacks who say so has doubled since last July… .”

Big, big improvement. Follow up interviews make it plain that Obama is the reason Americans have gone all kumbayah. But Kamiya gets it right when he muses that:

…it also seems to me that a big part of the reason that Americans are feeling better about race is because of how Obama has handled the subject — or rather, not handled it. Obama has assiduously avoided the subject of race. His silence has allowed his actions and character to take center stage, rather than the color of his skin. We are a country used to talking endlessly about race but not doing anything about it. Obama is doing exactly the opposite. He is not talking about race, but that very fact, combined with his high popularity, has advanced racial harmony more than any utterance could do. His silence sends exactly the right message, the message preached by Jesus, Martin Luther King and every other apostle of human equality: The accidents of race, ethnicity gender and class do not define us.

It’s maddening that minorities are still forced to go on reassuring whites that, once in power, we don’t immediately don dashikis and commence to getting even. It’s also necessary. No doubt Obama will smack headfirst into race before much longer. Here’s hoping his instincts remain as finely honed when he does.

(And when he is ready ‘to go there,’ I vote for this symbolic act.)

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate