It’s a Start…

The New York Times recently reported Attorney General Eric Holder’s move to reinvigorate the the civil rights division of the Justice Department. In this move I think we are beginning to see the originality of Obama’s presidency and his approach to engaging the difficult legacy of race in America. On its own we see Obama attending to the reality of systemic racial inequality and the ways race has shaped full participation in American life. But in relationship to Obama’s attempt to mediate in the Crowley/Gates incident this summer we see a president taking on this issue on both the level of the systemic and the personal. While many conservatives lamented Obama’s insertion into the process, his action was ironically reminiscent of conservative approaches to the race problem: it is about individual moments. In effect, he said, “yes, this is an individual issue, so let’s publicize how this process with individual’s could take place.” But on the other hand he has not left this process to chance. He has not left those impoverished by the legacy of race to the possibility of individual encounters. In Holder’s attention in the Justice Department we see Obama’s approach as not bound to a particular politics, but instead he seems to have been informed by a wide variety of approaches. In some ways it seems as though he is driven not by ideology but by the needs of the nation’s citizens.

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