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 doesnt mean we can withdraw our support and we cant pretend that he doesnt have an extra burden because of his color, Lower 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 Obamas, gave the benediction at his inauguration and was recipient of one of this years Presidential Medals of Freedom. Yet, he has contended from the beginning of Obamas 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 its justified. However, having said that, I do think we have to be very certain that were being fair and that were not expecting or demanding more from a Black President just because hes 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. Lowery agrees:
A lot of these people just couldnt deal with the fact that this Black guy was president. But, they didnt want to attack him over his color. So the health program has given then a handle to beat up on him with although they dont think the health care program is that outrageous, said Lowery, pointing out the Tea Partiers and Republicans. Weve got to understand that hes 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 hes not going to get a third, Lowery chuckled. Id hope hed 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.