At a town hall meeting on the economy in St. Petersburg, FL today Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was confronted by some hecklers who were upset with what they viewed as Obama’s lack of a stance on issues like the Jena 6, and Sean Bell.
Later one of the hecklers asked Obama why he hasn’t spoken out more for the black community, “In the face of the numerous attacks that are made against the African community or the black community by the same US government that you aspire to lead – and we are talking about attacks like the sub prime mortgage that you spoke of – it wasn’t just a general ambiguous kind of phenomena, a phenomena that targeted the African community and Latino community, attacks like the killing of SeanBell by the New York police department and ?? right here in St. Petersburg by the St. Petersburg police, and Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina, and the list goes on. In the face of all these attacks that are clearly being made on the African community, why is it that you have not had the ability to not one time speak to the interests and even speak on the behalf of the oppressed and exploited African community or Black community in this country?”
Obama answered, “I think you are misinformed about when you say not one time. Every issue you’ve spoken about, I actually did speak out about….I’m going to go through the various specific examples. I’ve been talking about predatory lending for the last two years in the United States senate and worked to pass legislation to prevent it when I was in the state legislature. And I have repeatedly said that many of the predatory loans that were made in the mortgage system did target African American and Latino communities. I’ve said that repeatedly. Number two, Jena Six – I was the first candidate to get out there and say this is wrong, that there’s an injustice that’s been done and we need to change it. That’s number two. When Sean Bell got shot, I put out a statement immediately saying this is a problem.”
After the man interrupted him, Obama continued, “I’m just trying to answer your question. On each of the issues that you mention, I have spoken, I’ve spoken out forcefully. I was a civil rights lawyer… I passed the first racial profiling legislation in Illinois… I passed some of the toughest death penalty reform issue in Illinois… that doesn’t mean I’m always going to … [say] what you guys want me to say… which gives you the option of voting for somebody else… or …run for office yourself.”
The problem that many activists of all races have with Obama is that he puts out statements instead of getting involved with the protests, but he is a politician running for president, not an activist. The root of this issue is that some feel that Obama is ignoring the black community, but I think that if Obama wants to be president he can’t allow him himself to be perceived by voters as a radical, especially not a black radical.
I don’t think that this would be in line with who Obama is anyway. He is not the second coming of Martin Luther King Jr.. He is a politician who is running for president who happens to be half African American. I am sure that this is disappointing to some, but it is the truth.
All quotes came from Marc Ambinder