Sherrod still supports Obama and plans to vote for him. But, as she later wrote, she now worries that a president once thought by many to transcend race was actually “terrified” by it.
As for West, the encounter left him speechless, “cool on the outside but burning inside,” he said.
Clayborne Carson, the Stanford University historian tapped by King’s widow to archive and study King’s papers, said Obama seems to relate most closely to King’s earlier approaches, when he focused on more universal themes and tried not to alienate whites. King took greater risks later in his life, Carson said, launching the Poor People’s Campaign and opposing the Vietnam War.
“What we’re seeing is [Obama] likes the early King, which was about coalition-building and the idealistic things he talks about in the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” Carson said. “But the later King, where he begins to realize that you have to confront the realities of American society and you can’t just wish them away, that’s where they differ.”