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African American Scholars Debate Barack Obama


Two-day Symposium


A number of academics speaking over the weekend at Tufts during a two-day symposium “Barack Obama and American Democracy,” which gathered leading scholars to assess the implications of President Barack Obama’s presidency, expressed their belief that Obama has not sufficiently addressed race issues.

While Friday’s panels mainly discussed foreign policy, the conversation on Saturday turned to domestic issues.

University of Louisville Professor of Political Science Ricky Jones criticized the President for his unwillingness to speak out about race, which, he said, was characteristic of a general shift.

“Black leadership is becoming increasingly conservative and less willing to speak about specific racial issues than they have in the past,” Jones said.

Jones, who spoke at one of Saturday’s panels titled “Hope and Change?: Assessing Obama’s Domestic Policies,” focused on the implications of Obama’s presidency for racial minorities or those of low socioeconomic status.

Professor Boyce Watkins from Syracuse University expanded on what Jones said, noting that Obama avoids discussing political solutions to racial problems even when speaking to audiences with a black majority.

“He gives the same ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps’ that my pastor says to me,” Watkins said. “I need you to say what you’re going to do as president.”


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