President Obama will give his first TV interview since the Ferguson grand jury decided to not indict Officer Darren Wilson. The interview will air tonight on Black Entertainment Television (BET) networks across the country. President Obama has been criticized from multiple sides of the political spectrum for his leadership, or perceived lack thereof, on national stories surrounding racial issues, from Trayvon Martin’s killing to the most recent grand jury findings in Eric Garner’s death. Those on the left have criticized the President for taking too long to address what has happened in the past few weeks as well as for not stepping up and taking a hard enough stance on these issues. Criticism from the right has focused on how his comments may have inflamed racial tensions.
The President cannot appease all sides, particularly as he wears many hats. Some say that he should stand above the fray as the leader of the free world, and in support they cite his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention at which he stated, “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.” In contrast, as the first mixed race American to hold the office of President of the United States, many believe that he has a moral obligation to protect a disadvantaged minority group of whom no other President has been a member. As the President actively shapes his legacy during the last two years of his tenure, the words he says and the actions he takes next are likely to form context for the future of the nation.
Should the President take a stance? What is his role in the conversation surrounding race relations in the United States? How will what he does next affect his legacy?
Nia Malika Henderson, reporter, Washington Post
Joe Hicks, vice president, Community Advocates, Inc., a civil rights and human rights organization in Los Angeles
Jody Armour, Roy P. Crocker Professor of Law, USC Gould School of Law