No More Lectures: What President Obama Can Do for Black America
When I was at Lafayette Park (across from the White House) recently checking the logistics/arrangements for IBW’s June 17th Day of Direct Action to pressure President Obama to end the War on Drugs and invest in inner-city Black communities, I confess to having been filled with pride thinking about the reality of a Black Family occupying the White House! But, I pinched myself to get past the fact that Barack Obama is the first African American President of the USA. I had to quickly remind myself that electoral politics is about who gets what, how much and when. At least that’s what our beloved Dr. Ronald Walters spent much of his life striving to teach us. It doesn’t matter the color, race, ethnicity or even political persuasion of the resident in the White House, Presidents should respond to the crises of people/groups because they are part of the body politic of this nation. If a constituency/group is a key part of the President’s political support base, there is an even more compelling reason to attend to their needs. Unfortunately, as it relates to Blacks, these basic expectations of electoral politics seem not to apply. For decades Presidents have failed to respond to the crises in Black America in proportion to our needs or political support – particularly the Democratic Party.
Thus far, this is certainly the case with President Obama. Despite the “State of Emergency” in America’s “dark ghettos,” he refuses to directly respond to the urgent needs of Blacks who marched on ballot boxes in record numbers to ensure his election and re-election. Instead of policies and programs specifically designed/targeted to ameliorating and ultimately transforming the conditions in distressed urban communities, Black America is treated to symbolism, access and lectures about personal responsibility. Many Blacks seem to be content with President Obama’s approach, choosing to give him a pass because he is a “brother.” On the other hand, there are growing numbers of Blacks from all walks of life who are simply getting tired, frustrated and angry at the President’s reluctance to openly address what can only be considered a moral and political crisis in terms of depression levels of joblessness, horrific gun violence, fratricide and mass incarceration in urban inner-city Black communities. For some, Obama is like a Black Nero fiddling while Black communities are imploding!
No doubt deep down inside this President may want to identify with the needs of Black people, but apparently he is afraid of a “White backlash” if he shows his true colors. So, in lieu of programs and policies directed/targeted to relieve distressed Black communities, we get symbolism – the President and First Lady delivering commencement addresses at historically Black colleges and universities or visiting inner-city schools. Certainly there is no harm in symbolism except when it’s a substitute for the kind of substantive policies which would alleviate the pain and suffering of people who not only need a kind word but jobs, economic development and relief from violence and fratricide. The same applies for “access” to the White House.
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