By Hazel Trice Edney (TriceEdneyWire.com)
Rev. Joseph Lowery, an iconic Godfather in the civil rights community, says Black leaders must consider “the political realities” of what President Obama can and cannot do and the racism that he is facing before they arbitrarily take to criticizing him.
“I think we have to give him the benefit of the doubt at this point on many issues. If we have a substantial difference, we just let him have it. We should let him know how we feel, but it doesn’t mean we can withdraw our support and we can’t pretend that he doesn’t have an extra burden because of his color,” Lowery said. “But when there is a substantial difference when we think he did wrong on an issue, I think we have an obligation to deal with it.”
Lowery spoke to Trice Edney News Wire on this issue in the wake of a highly publicized and rancorous debate between National Action Network leader Rev. Al Sharpton and Princeton University professor Cornell West, author of a string of books on Black culture, including “Race Matters.”
The two went head to head during an MSNBC “Black Agenda” special, Sharpton contending that Black leaders are too dependent on the president and West arguing against the notion that criticizing the first Black president means a person is in support of the vicious attacks of the right wing, such as Fox News and others.
Lowery, a close associate of Obama’s, gave the benediction at his inauguration and was recipient of one of this year’s Presidential Medals of Freedom. Yet, he has contended from the beginning of Obama’s presidency that civil rights leaders, “must speak truth to power no matter what color power is.”
But, that criticism must be tempered by fairness and balance, he said.
“They must be able to be critical where they think it’s justified. However, having said that, I do think we have to be very certain that we’re being fair and that we’re not expecting or demanding more from a Black president just because he’s Black.”
Race experts have said many right wingers, including some members of the Tea Party, are critical of Obama just because he is Black and they use issues as a shield for racism.
“A lot of these people just couldn’t deal with the fact that this Black guy was president. But, they didn’t want to attack him over his color. So the health program has given them a handle to beat up on him with although they don’t think the health care program is that outrageous,” said Lowery, pointing out the Tea Partiers and Republicans. “We’ve got to understand that he’s got a tough job.”
Lowery predicts Obama will do more for Blacks in his second term:
“I think he might be bolder in his second term because he’s not going to get a third,” Lowery chuckled. “I’d hope he’d be bolder, move forward, maybe braver, be badder, give some dangerous leadership, and take some chances that he might not have taken in his first term.
Asked if that means establishing a special jobs program that could lower the Black unemployment rate or that he might take walks through inner-city neighborhoods, Lowery responded, “All of the above.”