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Protecting Barack: Is Obama a Target for Harm?

Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters in Springfield, Illinois following his February 2007 announcement that he would seek the Democratic nomination for President. Getty Images hide caption

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Lee, here ...

Our top conversation today was a difficult one to have.

Since Senator Barack Obama even looked like he might run for president, there's been this chatter about whether he'd be harmed. For instance, I have an aunt (we'll just call her Aunt G.), who thinks well of Obama — she finds him competent to lead, she appreciates his politics, what appears to be a solid family life (she adores Michelle Obama) and the historical significance of his campaign. ... But, she also lived through the 1960s and through, in just a ten year period, the assassination of four massively influential leaders — John F. Kennedy ('63), Malcolm X ('65), the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. ('68) and Robert Kennedy ('68). All of the men mobilized people to thought and action, and offered messages of inspiration in different sociological contexts. The weight of Obama, at some point or another, has been mentioned in relation to all four of those men.

Aunt G. refused to vote for Barack Obama, the candidate she clearly favors. She seems to believe she's doing him, his wife Michelle and young daughters a favor.

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I shared that story with a few others, and found that Aunt G.'s reasoning is not at all unique. The truth is, there are many strong feelings out there about a black man's prospects of 1) winning the Democratic nomination, 2) winning the presidency and 3) doing all of the above and walking away with his life.

Today, we talked to U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi and the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. We also checked in with Mark Potok whose job it is to monitor the activity of hate groups and extremists (just when I thought my days were stressful) as Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project. Thompson and Potok offered insight that you might find enlightening. ... But, like I said, it was also a difficult conversation to have, so I can't guarantee that the listening experience will leave you smiling. I can, however, hope that you will walk away knowing a little bit more about the gritty realities of the world we live in. Racism is far from expunged from American culture.

Curious to hear from you ...

Are these sentiments of "concern" only held within African American communities? ... Do other groups think this way about Obama?

And what about Senator Hillary Clinton, who'd also be a "first" if her campaign is successful through November? ... Or others who dare to break through traditionally marble ceilings?

Please, tell us more on where you come out on this.

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