On one level, Obama’s decision to watch and wait on high-profile incidents in which race seems to play a role makes perfect sense. As president — and particularly as the country’s first African American president — his words carry huge weight. He and his team know that and want to do everything they can to help calm situations while allowing those in charge on the local level to do their jobs. At the same time, Obama is caught between a genuine — and much-expressed — desire to use his unique experiences to move the country beyond its divisive racial past and the realities on the ground, which suggest we aren’t in that post-racial America just yet.
In many ways, Obama’s difficulty in navigating matters of race as president mirrors his struggles in other areas. He has repeatedly and eloquently spoken about race — and his experiences in making his way in the world as the son of a white mother and a Kenyan father — over the past decade. But those words have done little to heal the racial wounds in the country. Perhaps it’s too much to expect any one individual, even the president, to help finally close such a deep and long-standing gash on the country’s conscience. But such is the historic nature of Obama’s presidency that many people, both white and black, expect him to do just that.
Today at least, Obama’s vision of a post-racial America looks even further away than it did that night a decade ago in Boston.