Washington (CNN) – President Obama is is trying to put the racially insensitive remarks by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid behind him but some African-American leaders argue he is missing a major chance to begin an honest discussion about race in the United States.
"I think that he [Obama] could use this moment as a teachable moment, to educate the nation about some deep underlying tensions, both within African-American communities and beyond," said Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at Georgetown University.
The Reid controversy is centered on remarks published in the book "Game Change," by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, which cites Reid as saying in 2008 that Obama could succeed as a black candidate partly because of his "light-skinned" appearance and because he speaks "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
Reid apologized to Obama after excerpts from the book were released and Obama said he considered the matter closed.
Obama defended Reid on Monday in an interview at the White House with CNN political contributor Roland Martin. "For him to have used some inartful language in trying to praise me, and for people to try to make hay out of that, makes absolutely no sense," Obama said in an interview taped Monday for TV One.
Many believe that Obama is uniquely suited to take on the issue: He's biracial, a strong communicator and has the bully pulpit of the presidency.
Follow Ed Hornick on Twitter: @hornickcnn