If many of President Obama's biggest supporters -- African Americans, young people and progressives of all races -- had their way, Obama would go to Ferguson, Mo., and make a big, memorable speech on racism and policing. He would sound like the candidate who gave a "race speech" in 2008, the president who called out a Cambridge police officer for "acting stupidly" in arresting black Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates in 2009, and he would offer another pithy soundbite like he did about Trayvon Martin in 2012.

This almost definitely will never happen. And it probably shouldn't.

Like no other topic, race -- and more explicitly, racism -- has bedeviled Obama, prompting his critics to accuse him of playing the race card and leaving many of his supporters (particularly African Americans) looking for more substance and symbolism.

The expectations, accusations and burdens come primarily because of Obama's race. Who better to lead a "national conversation" on race (whatever that is) or offer absolution than the nation's first black president?

"I think also that the president is in a really tough place," Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) said on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, "trying to be and having been elected to serve as president of the whole country, and having higher expectations on issues related to race. And I've experienced that at home."

Ferguson is Obama's biggest race moment, at least so far, but his response has amounted to this: urging calm, calling meetings at the White House, reports, a task force on community policing, and funding for body cameras.

There has been no big speech, no promise to visit Ferguson -- a trip that was debated in the White House and then nixed -- and no real indication that the White House wants to play any role in the real controversy at hand.

This is textbook Obama, practical and professorial when it comes to race.  And it should come as no surprise, given that Obama said in 2009 that he was "not somebody who believes that constantly talking about race somehow solves racial tensions.”

In searching for some happy medium, Obama and his aides have actually fashioned a way of talking about racism and race that is practically race-less.

“The underlying issues here are broader than just race,” Obama's press secretary, Josh Earnest, said recently. “This goes to sort of the foundational relationship, again, between law enforcement agencies and the communities that they're sworn to serve and to protect."

Rather than go big and rhetorical, Obama has gone incremental, settling on an issue -- community policing and body cameras -- that have long been the focus of civil rights leaders and where there is even some common ground between the two parties. That doesn't mean his plan will pass muster with Congress, but it has potential.

He has framed it around the aspirations of young people of color -- the same kind he met with  Monday and the same kind who are protesting all over the country -- placing them in the larger context of the "American family."

"And as I said last week, when any part of the American family does not feel like it is being treated fairly, that’s a problem for all of us. It’s not just a problem for some," he said after the White House meeting with civil rights leaders. "It’s not just a problem for a particular community or a particular demographic. It means that we are not as strong  a country as we can be. And when applied to the criminal justice system, it means we’re not as effective in fighting crime as we could be"

By focusing on community policing, Obama has landed on an issue where there is common ground, even as there are sharp divisions over the outcome in Ferguson.

An August Pew poll shows that police officers get relatively low marks, from blacks and whites, when it comes to fair treatment.

A more recent CNN poll shows some overlap in how blacks and whites feel about police bias:

Obama's approach is perfectly suited for a racially divided country that often sees the mere mention of racism -- particularly by black people -- as an unwarranted indictment and a failure to recognize racial progress.

It is workman-like, not flashy, much better than a one-off speech, and potentially much more helpful in actually changing how race is lived and talked about in a country that is still riven by race but afraid to confront it.