Nowhere was Obama’s reluctance to break from the status quo more evident in his remarks on race, which were relegated to a reference to his belief in a united America from his convention speech 10 years prior, an acknowledgement of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma and a vague, race-blind mention of fathers fearing their sons will be harassed on their way home, which was immediately neutralized by a reference to a parallel fear of policemen’s wives waiting nervously for their husbands to come home from work. A fair number of pundits have opined that Obama has gotten a case of senioritis or, as one outlet put it, that Obama is officially “out of fucks”  to give, but if that is indeed the case, it would suggest that the President does not have strong feelings on the role of race in America, something I find incredibly hard to believe. I had held out a small sliver of hope that the portion of President Obama’s State of the Union address concerning race would address the myriad inequities that face the black community in America and would give no quarter to a police state that propagates hatred, discrimination and the wanton murder of men and women for the unforgivable crime of their blackness. That sliver was not justified.

In his address to the nation, President Obama derided his critics who said that his presidency has not delivered on its message of racial and political unity, calling them out as cynics who are incapable of seeing the greatness of America. Obama told us that he still believes what he said in Boston a decade ago, that there isn’t “a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America, but a United States of America.”  It’s a great line and makes for a nice soundbite on the morning talk shows, but it is categorically false. If we have learned anything from 2014—from the unrest in Ferguson and the deaths of Mike Brown, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford and countless others at the hands of law enforcement—it is that blacks and whites do not live in the same America.

We who call out our leaders for glossing over racial and economic inequalities and peddling nonexistent bipartisanship are not cynics; we are realists, with our feet firmly on pavement and our hands and placards up to protest an unjust and stratified world. No, the cynics are those in positions of power who have the means to speak up for miscarriages of justice routinely carried out on black men and women and who do not out of fear of censure from police unions and politicians. The cynic is the leader whose leadership was only made possible by the blood shed by civil rights activists of the past who refuses to support the civil rights activists of the present by saying those three simple words—by saying that black lives matter.  As Dr. King once said, “we will never solve the problem of racism until there is a recognition of the fact that racism still stands at the center of so much of our nation and we must see racism for what it is.”  We may yet hope that President Obama decides to take up the mantle of the modern civil rights movement, but, at the very least, we should be able to expect that he will acknowledge that it still exists.