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Analysis: Obama avoids black issues

By Robert "Rob" Redding Jr.


March 25, 2009, 1:45 a.m.  President Obama last night sidestepped a question about race during his second news conference.

The nation's first black president said that he is more concerned about the economy.

"QUESTION FROM ABC NEWS: Yours is a rather historic presidency. And I'm just wondering whether, in any of the policy debates that you've had within the White House, the issue of race has come up or whether it has in the way you feel you've been perceived by other leaders or by the American people? Or has the last 64 days before a relatively color- blind time?

OBAMA: I -- I think that the last 64 days has been dominated by me trying to figure out how we're going to fix the economy, and that affects black, brown and white.

And, you know, obviously, at the inauguration, I think that there was justifiable pride on the part of the country that we had taken a step to move us beyond some of the searing legacies of racial discrimination in this country, but that lasted about a day.

And -- and, you know, right now, the American people are judging me exactly the way I should be judged. And that is: Are we taking the steps to improve liquidity in the financial markets, create jobs, get businesses to re-open, keep America safe? And that's what I've been spending my time thinking about. OK. John Ward, Washington Times? Where's John?"

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Obama called on Ebony magazine and Univision during the news conference. He was assailed for overlooking the black press at his first news conference.

He also this month distanced himself from his newly appointed Attorney General Eric Holder, who said that America is "a nation of cowards" on matters of race.

“I think it’s fair to say that if I had been advising my attorney general, we would have used different language," the Democrat said. "I’m not somebody who believes that constantly talking about race somehow solves racial tensions. I think what solves racial tensions is fixing the economy, putting people to work, making sure that people have health care, ensuring that every kid is learning out there. I think if we do that, then we’ll probably have more fruitful conversations."

What's more, his answers on the issue of race have also mirrored remarks he made to the "State of the Black Union" last month.

"These are [economic] policies that will make a big difference in the African American community," he told the group via video. "You know that tough times for America often mean tougher times for African Americans. This recession has been no exception. The unemployment rate among black Americans is a full five points higher than the rate among Americans as a whole." 

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