On Race Issues, Meet the Real Obama

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2009 12:53 PM CDT
President Obama speaks during a fundraiser Thursday, July 23, 2009, in Chicago.   (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
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(Newser) – The Gates controversy might finally change—for the better—the way the media portray President Obama on race issues, writes Brent Staples in the New York Times. "Up to now, he has been consistently and wrongly portrayed as a stern black exceptionalist who takes Negroes to task for not meeting his standard," writes Staples. Obama himself "is not happy with this characterization."

Case in point: When he addressed the NAACP last week, the coverage played up his remarks on "personal responsibility" and largely ignored his homage to civil-rights history. Obama was miffed and made a point afterward to use "we" in an interview about the struggles of black America. Those who have seen the president as a "postracial abstraction were no doubt surprised" by his Gates comments, Staples wrotes. "This could be because they were hearing him fully for the first time."