The presidential debate at Howard yesterday took on special significance after the Supreme Court verdict yesterday that essentially laid the way for the resegregation of public schools. What follows is a brief roundup from the distinguished group of bloggers credentialed for the event.

Pam was impressed with Obama’s statements on homophobia in the black community. Keep in mind that Howard (DC! ) Is a traditionally black university, and the debate itself was meant to focus on issues of concern to the black community.

On a question about the scourge of HIV/AIDS and its disproportionate impact on young black people — black teens represent 17% of the population by make up 69% of teenagers diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, Barack Obama took on the issue of homophobia in the black community.

He brought it out of the closet in front of the mostly black audience there at Howard and for those watching at home.

One of the things we’ve got to overcome is a stigma that still exists in our communities. We don’t talk about this. We don’t talk about it in schools. Sometimes we don’t talk about it in churches. It has been an aspect sometimes of our homophobia that we don’t address this issue as clearly as it needs to be.

This was long overdue — a presidential candidate calling out the silence that is killing people — black women are 25 times as likely to be infected with HIV than white women, as Hillary Clinton noted. If the situations were reversed it would be a national health and education emergency commanding the attention of the MSM and government. But that is not the case — there is a pitiful silence on too many levels — but not last night.

Obama’s short, but powerful statement on black homophobia is one that none of the other candidates mentioned. Is this a surprise? No — addressing the responsibility of the black community to open its eyes regarding its reticence to take on an internal bias that has allowed HIV/AIDS to ravage it touches the third rail of race. The candidates fear perceptions of a paternalistic white finger being waved at the community will result in blowback from black voters.

I’m grateful that there was a black man up on that stage to broach the subject of homophobia in this community, but the fear of the other pols needs to be overcome, all bridges need to be crossed when the statistics are this stark and horrifying.

Oliver Willis thought Hillary came out on top:

– Dems on Katrina: could this question possibly be any easier? Remotely?
– Outsourcing is bad. We need American jobs. Water is wet. Friction, damn it. Dodd, use that giant hair and hammer someone with it.
– If there’s a winner so far it’s HRC. But its kind of like Martyball – you hold the ball when you have the lead and don’t make any sudden moves.

Sherrilyn Ifill catches an exchange between Michael Eric Dyson and Clarence Page:

Dyson, clearly is feelin’ Obama. When asked by columnist Clarence Page to react to the fact that Hillary Clinton seemed to get the biggest applause of the night, Dyson said slowly, “Hillary is extremely poised and practiced.” And then the zinger: “she doesn’t live with Bill Clinton for nothin’. She knows her way around a sound bite.” I asked him whether he felt that Obama was coming up on a Cosby moment when he started talking about “valuing achievement.” He was candid. Say yes, he was concerned about where Obama was going, but felt that Obama is willing “to work on social construction (I don’t really know what that means).” We’ll ask him to explain more when he guestblogs.

Terrence at Republic of T is concerned about results on some of the issues discussed regarding Africa:

On Darfur, definitely agree with everything said re: Africa. And if we get a Democrat in office can we finally do away with the “abstinence-only” debacle we’ve been exporting to Africa, which in its own way a kind of slow genocide? And once we “stop the rapes” can we also restore funding to the women’s clinics that offer care to women who end up with fistulas as a result of multiple rapes? The funding that the Bush administration cut?

As impressed as I am by Obama addressing the issue of homophobia, it should be remembered that Obama is, like almost all the other candidates on both sides of the aisle, against Gay Marriage. I don’t know how convincing one can be at adressing homophobia if you don’t believe gay people should have the same rights as the rest of us. That said, he deserves props for being the only one with the courage to bring it up at all.

But I also have to highlight this moment from Chris Cilizza:

Speaking of nice moments, Obama showed his ease in the debate a few minutes ago. After Sen. Joe Biden (Del.) said that both he and Obama had been tested for AIDS, Obama jumped in to note that he had been tested with his wife, Michelle — jokingly adding that he didn’t want anyone to think anything “funny” was going on. The crowd laughed as PBS showed Michelle on screen. The moment showed how Obama has grown in the first three debates; he appears relaxed and comfortable tonight.

Holla.

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