Tavis Smiley Slams Obama’s Trayvon Remarks: ‘You Can’t Lead From Behind’ On Race

Not all of Black America was wowed by the president's remarks last week.

By Jamilah King Jul 22, 2013

President Obama made news last Friday when he unexpectedly addressed Trayvon Martin’s murder and the role of race in America. "Trayvon Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago," the president said in a rare moment in which the nation’s first black commander-in-chief directly addressed race. The Washington Post even went as far as to dub it a "remarkably personal speech."

But some of black America isn’t impressed. Over the weekend, PBS host Tavis Smiley went on "Meet the Press" and said that Obama was "pushed to that podium."

I appreciate and applaud the fact that the president did finally show up. But this town has been spinning a story that’s not altogether true. He did not walk to the podium for an impromptu address to the nation; he was pushed to that podium. A week of protest outside the White House, pressure building on him inside the White House pushed him to that podium. So I’m glad he finally arrived.

But when he left the podium, he still had not answered the most important question, that Keynesian question, where do we go from here? That question this morning remains unanswered, at least from the perspective of the president. And the bottom line is this is not Libya, this is America. On this issue, you cannot lead from behind.

Smiley also took to Twitter after the president’s remarks, calling his race "mild" and his words "weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid."