The cottage industry of black intellectuals scolding President Obama for "not doing enough for the black community" will continue as long as they can make money off selling books, and the most recent entry in the genre is Michael Eric Dyson's "The Black Presidency" and this Salon interview with David Daley is indicative of the game.
You’re saying, for example, he hadn’t been pulled over in Ferguson time and again and given tickets that got him jailed and unable to get to work.
That’s right. Some of that, but not a bunch of it. Enough to be sensitive to it, but not enough to be angered by it.
Would he have been able to be angered by it, though? If he was the kind of person who was angered by it, would that have threatened the same kind of multiracial coalition that put him in office?
You’re absolutely right. If Obama had been a different kind of black man, he never would have been a different kind of president, because he couldn’t have been president. In many ways, the things that he felt, saw and believed, permitted him a kind of racial innocence and racial optimism that many white Americans were able to tap into. This is somebody we know, this man is familiar with our mores and folkways, our intuitions, our rhythms, our timbre, our tone, the echo of our voice. This is a man who intuits it. As a result of that, Obama was put into office because he didn’t bring precisely, when we see him, this baggage. Obama did not guilt white America, and as a result of that, they repaid him with the benefit of becoming the president of the United States of America. And that’s an understandable exchange, but in that exchange there have been some costly negotiations, one of which is the assault upon black identity and being. Another of which is that Obama did not champion those people as citizens of the state that he ran. It’s not simply that because you’re black and they’re black you’ve got to hook them up. No, it’s because they are citizens of the state that you preside over.
When Obama said repeatedly, “I am not the president of black America.” True, but you are president of black Americans, and they are citizens as well. So caught in the troubled nexus of political idealism and racial innocence, or at least racial optimism, was the progress of black people. And that was sacrificed on the altar of Obama’s elevation.
And here we are in year eight of this administration and something as elemental as Black Lives Matter is a flashpoint of controversy and debate.
So true. The irony, of course, is that Black Lives Matter emerges under Obama. The first black presidency has elicited all of these horrible, racist sentiments and, equally powerful, a movement of black peoples, of a younger generation in particular, who are not only combating the structural flaws of a state that disallows or discourages the flourishing of black people, but [are] attacking as well the aesthetics and the representation of blackness. The animus toward blackness as an ideal, they’re fighting on both levels. On a cultural level and a political level. This is a peculiar mark of a black presidency, because of its deep and profound symbolism. They therefore are fighting symbol with symbol, as well as substance against substance. It’s a remarkable movement in that way.
And if this sounds familiar, it's the same damn argument that Cornel West and Tavis Smiley keep making: Obama wasn't black enough to scare white people until after he decided to actually try to change things for the better. Once that happened, he was too black for Fox News and not black enough for people like West, Dyson, and the rest.
Nobody sets up black America for failure like black America, I'm telling you.