During a press conference in Poland, President Obama was asked to address what he imagined his legacy would be on racial justice. He said he will leave that to the historians, but spoke about what he has tried to do, speaking with a voice that is true.
“More than anything, what I hope is that my voice has tried to get all of us, as Americans, to understand the difficult legacy of race; to encourage people to listen to each other; to recognize that the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and discrimination didn’t suddenly vanish with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, or the Voting Rights Act, or the election of Barack Obama; that things have gotten better, substantially better, but that we’ve still got a lot more work to do… We plant seeds, and somebody else maybe sits under the shade of the tree that we planted.”
POTUS: The legacy of slavey and Jim Crow and discrimination didn’t vanish with the election of Barack Obama https://t.co/oGYj6vbhlI
— Eugene Scott (@Eugene_Scott) July 9, 2016
It is, of course, one of the bitterest circumstances of President Obama’s presidency that systemic and relentlessly expressed racism has created enormous difficulties for him in being able to speak as frankly and passionately about racial injustice as he certainly would have liked.
But he has planted seeds. In the shade of whose emergent trees others will sit one day.