March 18th, 2009
11:26 AM ET

A year after race speech, silence

Nia-Malika Henderson and Carrie Budoff Brown

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/24/obama.pressure/art.obama.jpg]

It was a year ago today that Barack Obama, then a candidate for president fearing a divisive racial backlash over his pastor, took to the stage in Philadelphia and said it was time to have a new conversation about race.

“We have a choice in this country,” Obama said that day. “We can tackle race only as spectacle — as we did in the O.J. trial — or in the wake of tragedy — as we did in the aftermath of Katrina — or as fodder for the nightly news. ... That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, ‘Not this time.’"

But in the year since that speech — through campaign and convention, election and Inauguration — Barack Obama hasn’t taken part in the discussion of race in America in any sustained way, the way he did that day in Philadelphia to get out of a campaign jam.


Filed under: Race in America • Raw Politics
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. penny

    Hello to Richard,
    "Many times in conversations, you have to understand the conversation. It is about race not about genocide in Africa. I am talking about the origin of the first man from AFRICA. That means we all have the ancestry of ADAM no matter what race you are, that is the big picture. Another thing why do we have to refer to race as AFRICAN Americans because we all originated in AFRICA> Genocide began afterwards and is a humanitarian issue. Is that what race conversations are? Even though we are all the same!"

    March 19, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  2. Wellduh

    Barak Obama should not intervene in racial issues at this time. Becasue there is nothing he can add. Right now many blacks are especially older blacks are in the "I may be paranoid but if I suspect then it is RACISM because white people need to be more respectful and sensitive than black people within our own community."

    Frankly the only way to "normalize" race relations where the majority of complaints are suspicion and doubt about possible racism...is time. especially when major news organizations have to research to figure out what the aleged slur means. The majority of people not knowing what a slur is and means means society is not seeing such in the common course of daily life.

    A few more years and the old whites and balcks who know all these racial slurs and are so suspicious of each other will be gone.

    March 19, 2009 at 2:33 am |
  3. Barbara in Boston

    We wouldn't even be having any discussions about race if we had a white President. Do you really think our President is unaware of all these blog whispers? He knows that by his very presence he has helped us all

    I voted for Barack Obama because 1) I liked his policies and 2) he demonstrated his intelligence and solid judgment over and over again on the campaign trail.

    There are many ways he is helping our society have a more open mind on racial differences just by his presence in the White House. I loved seeing Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder performing in the White House. He and his family are so classy and elegant they aer miles above the Bushes as spokespeople for our country.

    I am a white woman and I am thrilled that we are finally even aware of the great racial divide that is still handicapping our country.

    March 18, 2009 at 8:58 pm |
  4. Rose from Muscoy, Calif

    Lets not get everybody upset, God made all people from bones and the same blood RED! President Obama is our first African/American to become a leader in this so-call free world. Why did it take so long to happen? Oh, we are all God's children. it doesn't matter where we came from our what faith we believe in my book.

    March 18, 2009 at 8:47 pm |
  5. Terry, TX

    I will agree he won because he was a good looking black man...not because he was experienced....and not because he's doing good job now.
    He should govern as a President ....neutral in color...people are sick of the race card...this was obviously a lousy reason to vote someone in.

    March 18, 2009 at 8:29 pm |
  6. Richard

    Penny, It might help if you went back to high school to study science and history so you can get your facts straight. I assume you believe America is responsible for the genecide and terrible conditions that Africans have to live in every day and most of the people that are trying to help are from European decent.

    March 18, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  7. Richard

    It is inconceivable to think of all the scandle surrounnding the President starting with his own Father, the Reveran Wright, Gov. Blagoyavich and his nomination for the Senate, the many appointments that felt they needed to resign amid controversey, the resignation of the Republican Secretary of Commerce because the President gave the responsibility of the Census to his Chief of Staff something that has never been done in the history of America, which is how all dictators have taken control from the people and now the fact that a Wall Street insider, Ghietner didn't know anything about the AIG bonuses until a week ago and the press has done nothing to investigate these situations. The twin reporters in "Good Morning vietnam" did a better job of reporting than the press of today. If there was a Deep Thorat in the Obama Administration, the press wouldn't report it.

    March 18, 2009 at 7:49 pm |
  8. lampe

    We are never going to put an end to Racism, as long as there is finger-pointing and " The Blame Game" being played. And this is in response to people saying " Obama was thrown into the middle of this mess." For one thing he knew what he was getting into when he ran, and for another, anyone who would have become POTUS ( Clinton, McCain or whoever) would have been thrown right into the same mess. So please stop complaining for OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 18, 2009 at 7:47 pm |
  9. JC-Los Angeles

    January 20th, 2009 was a new dawn in America for those willing to embrace the changing face of our nation and the beginning of the end for those clinging to separatist and devisive mindsets.

    Our nation's diverse and most colorful tapestry is comprised of all colors rather than the stark black and white that some continually reference.

    Whether black, white, hispanic, asian, native american, middle eastern or any combination of the above, our nation affords all people ample opportunities to succeed, flourish and achieve.

    There are no more excuses.

    March 18, 2009 at 6:55 pm |
  10. Joe Jones

    Focus people, Focus. It is not who is black and who is white. It is who is stealing the money and why.

    March 18, 2009 at 6:48 pm |
  11. Ann

    He does "talk" about race, just by being president is a statement.
    It will be through his policies, the decisions he makes regarding minorities in U.S that will be his way of talking about Race. I mean something as small as honoring Stevie Wonder, in my opinion is his way of making a point.
    To those that say it's "divisive", obviously it is. But let me tell you something, you're probably "white", and have no idea what's it is like to be a minority in the U.S. Just think of it like this, men will never know what's it like to be a woman in a man's world.

    I know this because I live in a racist country – Australia. Look at our flag, it says that "real" Aussies, are "british descent".

    March 18, 2009 at 6:44 pm |
  12. Annie Kate

    There are only 24 hours in the day – right now the economy and all the other issues we have facing the nation probably are taking 100% of that time with Obama. Why does he have to be the one to initiate the conversation anyway? We are adults and should be empowered in our own right to start the discussion among ourselves. We are all human and we have a great deal of diversity and I'm sure that together we can learn to rejoice in that diversity instead of making it a battleground.

    March 18, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  13. OchioRios

    The President has more pressing things to do at the moment than to be discussing race. The country is experiencing an economic crisis of great proportion and deep concern. Let the President focus on rebuilding the economy, so we can all go back to the living the lives we were accustomed to before this depression!

    March 18, 2009 at 5:34 pm |
  14. KIm

    It's noisy for all nationalities and equality with the Obama administration ! Color of skin or nationality to determine who that person is. Foolish thought of heart for equality.

    March 18, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
  15. Neo

    Some conversations are best if they are silent. I think it speaks volumes that he is president and really what is there to talk about?

    Michael "C" is correct, the president is Bi-racial. Not African American.

    Mike in NYC I agree. I'm a brown american, btw.

    There's no discussion, b/c there is no issue.

    March 18, 2009 at 4:58 pm |
  16. Mike in NYC

    Clyburn: "It seems we ought to be able to talk about it without being accused of being racist.”

    If by "we" he also means Whites, then I'm ready to go. A no-holds-barred discussion. Not the usual monologue, where aggrieved non-whites and their enablers set the bounds of acceptable discourse, but a true dialogue.

    Really, if a black - and BO has referred to himself as such many times - is President, then there truly is nothing that an AA can do if he/she has the ability and motivation.

    Then again, such logic is lost on those who can't give up the blame game.

    March 18, 2009 at 3:52 pm |
  17. penny

    'Why is race an issue? THE first man came from Africa as the SCIENTISTS have determined. Never the less, according to the Christian Faith it says ADAM was the first man. Then came Woman they say was called EVE. God had a master plan of population. Adam and EVe. THEREFORE, Every generation after ward is part of the AFRICAN descent from Adam( THE FIRST MAN). Now the question is would that not make everyone AFRICAN., I.E. African American. "

    March 18, 2009 at 3:40 pm |
  18. AnnellaBella

    Seems like he has more pressing issues to tackle...like the economy in crises.

    March 18, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  19. Sydney

    President Obama is a little busy at the moment or haven't you noticed? He came into a situation that was manufactured by the Bush administration and if you do not allow the president to repair our crumbling nation you will not have to worry about race debates. Because we will be owned by another country like China who already has a large foot hold in America. A weak nation is not a threat to other countries who would love to attack us right now. If we keep fighting amongst ourselves who will we protect? A country divided can not stand. The president will address the race issue as soon as he is able. Don't allow yourself to become part of the problem. But, help be part of the solution. Pray for President Obama he is in a hornets nest and a den of thieves attempting to remove them all!

    March 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  20. Melissa

    Thats because we are tired of hearing about race. Race shouldn't even be an issue, period. Obama is President, when are you people going to realize that you're slowly getting what you want and stop harping on your differences, while celebrating similarities?

    Enough divisiveness. Lets work together as the HUMAN race.

    March 18, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  21. Peter Coffin

    Him winning was enough.

    March 18, 2009 at 2:53 pm |
  22. RIch Pretty Girl

    He responded briliiantly on that one day when he was called to do so regarding his race. But race was being brought to the table by others and not himself. I appreciate that Barack doesn't talk about his race all the time, which would only divide us more as black and white. What more does he need to say...... HE IS BLACK AND HE IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.....
    – From Rich Pretty Girl

    March 18, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  23. Linda Strasberg

    Beneath the surface we are all similar humans...the only thing that makes us different is our points of view and that is due to upbringing and preconditioned beliefs and ideas

    March 18, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  24. Paul Ernest Show

    It takes lots of courage to even bring up this issue and you two have shown that courage. We are reluctant, as a people to talk about race and its impact. The president will not move the mark one inch, just talking about race. It is an issue every decent American ought to get involved. Racism exists, let me say upfront, and it is a negative, divisive force. We must look at ourselves in the mirror and examine our emotions with honesty. How does each and everyone of us contribute or descourage it in our society? We must agree on a profound blueprint to eliminate this ugly specter in our society, and live the life instead of just talking about it.

    March 18, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  25. Michael "C"

    Racism, like Greed---mestatic, undifferentiated and resistant-–has existed in the past--exist in the presence--and will exist in the future--until we can find a "cure." Oh, by the way, the President's father was black--his mother was white--is that not bi-racial?

    March 18, 2009 at 2:49 pm |