Not since the killing of Trayvon Martin has the nation heard the president speak as long and directly about blacks and his experience as a black man as he did at Morehouse College's commencement ceremony last weekend.
At Morehouse, he referred to other blacks as "our brothers" and to himself as a "black man" as he sought to inspire students at the all-male, historically black college to strive for success with a spirit of responsibility, family and altruism in helping other blacks and the nation.
Pushing on, he acknowledged the many blacks who have fallen by the wayside, while at the same time saying there should be no excuses for not achieving — as the opportunities for black men are available now as they never were for the generations of blacks before them.
Listening to his speech, his words to and about blacks, I could not help but think about the troubled waters of Benghazi, the IRS and the Associated Press that have risen to surround his White House.
As the comments and accusations pour in about the president and his administration, it becomes difficult to sort out what is scandal or incompetence or the continuation of partisan politics. Republicans, having failed in their mission to make him a one-term president, now want to make him a scandal-ridden president so wrapped in defensive measures that the policies he seeks to carry out — from gun control to health care and immigration — get washed away.
He never mentioned this during his speech at Morehouse, but these are troubled waters. And when one is in trouble and needs help, whether it be a prayer, some home cooking, a soothing voice or just the presence of those with a shared experience, blacks have long been the bridge over troubled waters for fellow blacks. One can always come back home and be welcomed — despite all else.
Despite all else, meaning that some blacks have criticized the president for not doing enough to help fellow blacks.
In April, Morehouse alumnus Rev. Kevin Johnson wrote an op-ed for the Philadelphia Tribune saying the president has failed the black community by not providing more Cabinet positions to blacks. He asked why blacks are loyal to a president who has not been loyal to blacks.
That the president has spoken sparingly on issues relating to race is an understatement.
After remaining silent on the Trayvon Martin shooting, he ultimately said if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon.
Before that, he spoke out on race in relation to Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates' arrest while trying to get into his home, saying the police acted "stupidly" and citing the long history of blacks and Hispanics stopped by the police.
It should be noted that each time he spoke of race on a current issue, he was chided for stirring the racial flames. There are those who would rather he remain silent on matters of race. His comment, however, was necessary. If nothing else, it demonstrated that this could have happened to anybody's black son. It showed he had not forgotten.
Has Obama not done enough for blacks?
As the first black president, I understand his need to balance what he says and does with regard to his fellow blacks. The last thing he needed was to be accused of looking out only for his folks. Has he carried it too far? Perhaps.
But I don't buy completely into the notion that Obama has not done much for blacks. I think his presence and the example of being a family man and a seemingly honorable man says a lot. Health care alone will have positive outcomes for black Americans.
Black Americans, among whom the president is revered, will remain that bridge over troubled waters. Still, the questions regarding Benghazi, the IRS and the Associated Press — these are questions that need to be asked.
Whether he knew or not, it occurred during his watch, which makes him ultimately responsible and accountable.
Frank Harris III is chairman of the journalism department at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. He can be reached at email@example.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun