Although still very cautious, cognizant of starting a firestorm that can become instantly uncontrollable, a growing number of African American leaders and spokespersons are asking the Obama administration, “OK, you’re a second-termer now–not running for reelection . . . . Where is the love you’re supposed to show us?”
Noting that the Black community, in all of its variations, gave the president over 93 percent of the Black vote in the 2012 elections, some simply want the president to speak out more forcefully now about the continuing state of unequal race relations in America; to use the bully pulpit to challenge policymakers to do something about the large and growing poverty rate among Black Americans; to do something about lessening the disproportionate federal-state incarceration rate for African Americans; to stop the N.Y. police from using “Stop and Frisk” on virtually every Black American male they see on the streets, hoodie-clad or not.
Some want much more. They would like to see the president identify more with the Black community and champion its causes. They want the president to become the “Black Messiah” for whom they’ve been waiting so long. Presidents Johnson, Carter, and Clinton spoke out for the Black community, so why won’t Mr. Obama? Where’s the Obama Anti-Poverty Program-the Great Society-or some equivalent?
As blogger Gloria Browne-Marshall recently put it, “After waiting patiently, African Americans today ask, (Mr. President) if not now, when?”
In a soft refrain quietly gathering momentum, in more and more circles of politically conscious folk, comes the question, reminiscent of Dr. King, “How long must we continue to wait for signs of progress? How long? We hope not much longer.”
And this is not the standard commentary from the usual West-Tavis suspects. These are questions born of the frustrations carried by the bulk of the president’s supporters who have not lost hope or faith, but who are feeling a bit unrequited these days.
“Sure,” as Valerie Jarrett says repeatedly, “Simply talking about race is not as important as actually working towards equality”. . . “and this president tries to handle challenges in ways that are inclusive and to keep the broadest possible mandate for moving forward. This president works to unify, not polarize.”
Clearly, this is a rational response that fits in with previous presidents. In words President Obama surely agrees with, Theodore Roosevelt, for example famously said, “democracy functions best when the government provides the greatest good to the greatest number.”
But, say some of those of less patience now, the situation of the Black community is grim and getting worse by the day. More substantial action is needed from the president right now. Black unemployment remains stubbornly high countrywide, nearly doubling that of White Americans. The income gap between Whites and Blacks has skyrocketed from an already dismal divide. Black homeowners were disproportionally slammed during the housing crisis and are still subject to foreclosure and eviction actions twice as much as all other groups. At least one in 15 African American men languish in state or federal prison. African Americans represent more than 27 percent of those daily living below the poverty line, and the net worth of Black Americans has also tanked by more than 27 percent. And those are just the introductory horrors.
Certainly, President Obama can justifiably claim the following in addressing those issues during his first term:
1–The settlement of the decade-long discrimination lawsuit against the federal department of agriculture by Black farmers for $1.25 billion.
2–President Obama’s Executive Order to provide $850 million in guaranteed monies, over 10 years, to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
3–The Affordable Care Act’s preventive medical screenings for diseases disproportionately affecting African Americans.
4–The Veteran’s Administration authorization of $140 billion, both to create jobs for veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars and, to treat post-traumatic stress disorder among men and women.
5–The bank settlement for $25 billion for discriminatory lending practices and relief of distressed mortgage holders.
6–The change in sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine, which has been 100 times higher for crack and has been a major factor in the huge increase in African American imprisonment.
7–The president’s and Justice Department’s strong defense of citizen voting rights, especially those based on the pre-clearance section of the Voting Rights Act.
8–The president’s advocacy of increased investments in public education with the “Race to the Top” policy, and his executive order creating the Educational Initiative to Help Black Youth Graduate, and more.
But still, some of us ask, “Where is the real love?” From one lonely hand in the back comes this response, change Congress, people. Vote in 20 more Democrats and give the president an accepted and agreed-upon Black agenda, and then let’s see what he can do for us.
Our love, after all, is a complicated thing.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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