Salena Zito

Black people who say Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama "is not black enough" likely are talking about his race-neutral campaign and not skin color, veteran civil rights leader Ron Daniels said Tuesday.

"That question arises because of the unresolved question as to whether Obama is, in terms of the content of his platform, willing to address black issues," Daniels said during a forum at Community College of Allegheny County.

"He is excellent on issues that black people consider a priority, like heath, education, the war and the economy."

Daniels of New York is a former executive director of the National Rainbow Coalition, now the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquartered in Chicago. Daniels ran for president as a third-party candidate in 1992.

The public discussion, "Obama and the Relevance of Race in the 21st Century," drew about 50 people to the community college's North Side campus, most of them young and white.

Daniels believes Obama's liberal voting record helps to address issues that concern blacks. By remaining neutral about race, Obama attracts a large number of white voters, he said.

Given the struggles of blacks in America -- from Reconstruction, to gaining voting rights, to affirmative action and other modern issues -- Obama's candidacy would not have been possible without Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential candidacy paving the way, Daniels said.

This election is historic because of race and gender, he said, with Obama and Hillary Clinton deadlocked in their race for the Democratic nomination.

The danger of not emphasizing race is that some people might think race will not matter if Obama is elected, Daniels said.

"I suggest quite the contrary," he said. "Race still matters, and will have to be resolved no matter who the president of the United States may be."

Daniels said the ultimate challenge is to keep civil rights and human rights as part of any administration's agenda.

"Otherwise, we betray the long struggle of people," he said.

Daniels, a Democrat, said after the forum that he plans to vote for Obama.

"I could have comfortably supported any of the candidates that were running this year," he said. "But it is Obama that has my support -- in part because he is black, but also because he is correct."


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.