Michael Eric Dyson: Obama Doesn't Have Bill Clinton's Privilege to be Black in Public or Play the Sax

December 4, 2015

Former The Ed Show fill-in host Michael Eric Dyson went on an unusual racial riff about President Obama on Friday, suggesting he didn't have the "privilege" of Bill Clinton to be able to act "black in public" or play the saxophone, referring to Clinton's famous appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1992.

Dyson, who describes himself as a "seasoned observer of racial coding" in his piece for The New Republic arguing that a President Hillary Clinton will offer more for black Americans than Obama has, discussed the article on Morning Joe, where the various hosts and panelists questioned him about his provocative claim.

"I'm just suggesting that Barack Obama has not paid sufficient attention to the critical interests of the very constituency that made certain he would remain there not once, but twice," Dyson said.

Former Obama czar Steve Rattner asked Dyson if he felt Bill Clinton was better than Obama for black Americans during his presidency. Dyson's rambling response noted Clinton appointed more black Cabinet members than Obama but had signed policies he felt had been destructive to African Americans.

"He also paid attention to some of the more cultural, if you will, indicators of black malaise and suffering, so in that sense, he was more sensitive," Dyson said. "Again, he had the privilege. Barack Obama doesn't have the privilege to the degree that Bill Clinton has to be black in public. Barack Obama can't go on Arsenio Hall ... he can't go on a late-night show and then play the saxophone because it will reinforce the stereotype--"

"So basically you think the problem with Obama being good to black people is that he's black himself," Rattner said. "That's the gist of this."

"No, no, no, no, the gist of it is is that his self-consciousness about being a black man made him hypersensitive to that issue, and as a result of that, he, A, chided black America excessively and B, he didn't craft public policy in an explicit fashion," Dyson said. "He didn't target African-American communities like he targeted gay and lesbian people, environmentalists and others, with public policy."