Barack Obama's historic run for the White House is dividing scholars of race in America, writes Jonathan Tilove, who covers race for Newhouse News Service. Some see a black president as an antidote to racism, but others view a potential Obama presidency as an empty symbol with few practical implications. "He's not going to change my syllabus," one academic says bluntly.
One scholar says Obama's influence may be more productive than John McCain's in the short run, but he will eventually prove more detrimental for moving "the boundary of acceptable discourse on race and class well to the right." Another academic argues that Obama "does not represent the triumph of an advancing anti-racist movement" but is "abandoning old agendas, largely by not mentioning them."