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Where is Obama's 'teachable moment' on race?

President Obama has not dwelt on race – his own or the history of racism in America. And for all the talk about 'teachable moments,' he has not encouraged a deep national discussion of the issue.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley in the White House Rose Garden in July 2009. The "beer summit" followed a racially-tinged episode.

Alex Brandon/AP/File

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The Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Henry Louis Gates Jr. Shirley Sherrod. The minister, the professor, the civil servant. All black, each a flash point for race in America. And each a distraction for the first black US president.

Since taking office, President Obama has not dwelt on race – his own or the history of race and racism in America. He has not reacted to the racial jibes by some conservative commentators and some in the “tea party” movement. And for all the talk about “teachable moments,” he has not encouraged (let alone led) a deep national discussion of the issue.

That’s understandable. Race should not enter into the politics of health care reform, economic recovery, energy policy, or how to clean up a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

As Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter said on NPR the other day: “About a month after he became president, he was asked if he thought a lot about the history involved of being the first African-American president. And he said he did for about a day.”

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