Why has electing a black president not changed all of this? One answer is that while Obama is a president who is black, he has never sold himself as an expressly black president – that is, he tries to operate outside of the racial narrative rather than play a leadership role within it. He is evidence to the young black child that, yes, anyone can make it in America.
But what he was never going to be was someone who would confront racism head on or seek a substantial redistribution of power and money of the variety that many civil rights leaders feel is necessary to help the poor.
President Obama has tried on occasion to talk about race, but its political consequences have tended to be negative. When Trayvon Martin was shot dead by vigilante George Zimmerman, Obama remarked that he could have been his son – and it did nothing to help convict Zimmerman. On the contrary, many conservatives took exception to the remarks for it seemed like an inappropriate injection of national politics into a case facing the courts.