Professor Robert C. Smith Comments on Obama's Quest to Leave Lasting Mark on Race

Tuesday, September 08, 2015
Photo of Robert Smith sitting in front of a bookshelf

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR/YAHOO NEWS -- Now on the homestretch, President Obama continues to break new ground. He is tackling mass incarceration and racial segregation in the suburbs. In July, he became the first president to visit a federal prison, and commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders, who are disproportionately black and Hispanic.

Obama’s rhetoric has also changed. In a fiery speech to the NAACP in July, he made the case for battling societal racism without calling on “brothers” to “pull up their pants” or making other so-called personal responsibility arguments. In June, he used the N-word in an interview to make a point: that curing racism takes more than not saying the word in public.

“I now categorize Obama as anti-racist, not race-neutral,” says Robert C. Smith, an African American politics expert at San Francisco State University. “I don’t think he would want textbooks to list the first black president in the race-neutral category.”