“On critical matters of racial justice, he has posited no agenda, unveiled no vision, set forth no overarching mission to be accomplished” says Obama supporter Randall Kennedy, Harvard Professor.
On January 20, 2009, when Barack Obama assumed the presidency, the overwhelming majority of African-Americans cheered and prayed for him. His inauguration was a signal moment in black history, reminiscent of the celebrations that accompanied the Emancipation Proclamation, Joe Louis’ victory over Max Schmeling and the March on Washington. Irma Brown-Williams traveled to the inauguration from Tuskegee, Alabama, wearing a coat on which she had pinned photos of her mother, father and siblings, all of whom were deceased. Asked to explain, she said, “I’m here for them. … They could not be here, so I brought them with me.” Against the backdrop of such exhilaration and triumphalism, an emotional downturn was inescapable. It has come to pass. For many, the passion has cooled. For some, the thrill is gone.
Obama swept into office with a reputation as an intellectual politician with vision. Part of the reason had to do with his memoir, Dreams from My Father, his campaign book, The Audacity of Hope, and a March 18, 2008, address, “A More Perfect Union,” in which he explained his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the Chicago preacher who had denounced the status quo in memorably inflammatory fashion: “God Damn America!”
The speech was immediately celebrated, with some likening it to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. These gushings were a vivid symptom of Obamamania. For in fact “A More Perfect Union” is not a speech for the ages; it was simply a tactical intervention aimed at quelling whites’ discomfort about Obama’s long association with a radical, left-wing minister. In neither its rhetoric nor its analysis nor its prescriptions did the speech offer anything beyond a carefully calibrated effort to defuse a public relations crisis. “In the end,” Obama declared, “what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less than … that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper. … Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.” Fine banalities that could have been voiced just as easily by Mitch McConnell.
Still, many listeners discerned in the speech a desire and ability to grapple in an innovative fashion with the unfinished business of racial justice. Obama said, after all, that the subject of race was too important to ignore and implicitly promised to confront it if he won the presidency.
He has not. He has avoided the subject assiduously. And when he has addressed it, he has typically done so only obliquely. “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago” and similar signature musings over the Obama years do not explain much, do not promise much and do not tell us where we should go from here. For many African-Americans, he has been a hero—but also a disappointment. On critical matters of racial justice, he has posited no agenda, unveiled no vision, set forth no overarching mission to be accomplished.
AUN-TV notes that this article leaves out a key factor that reinforces Mr. Kennedy’s implication that Obama has failed Black America, what has happened to the black unemployment rate and the upward mobility of blacks, under Obama? This answer may be an even more harmful in the daily lives of American blacks than the issues Kennedy raises.
Ralph R. Reiland has written an excellent article comparing Obama’s performance for blacks to Reagan’s:
The income of black heads-of-households dropped by 10.9 percent from June 2009 to June 2013. This decline in black income is more than double the overall 4.4 percent drop nationally in real, adjusted for inflation, median household income during the same four years of alleged “recovery.”
Similarly, real incomes of those under age 25 fell by 9.6 percent over the same period — again, more than double the average drop in household income.
Income in households headed by single women, with or without children, declined by approximately 7 percent over the same four years, a significantly higher drop than the national average.
The income of Hispanic heads-of-households fell by 4.5 percent, slightly more than the national decline, while the income of workers with a high school diploma or less dropped by 6.9 percent.
In dollar terms, the median income per year (including cash government benefits such as earned income tax credits, disability payments and unemployment insurance) in female-headed households and black households has dropped, respectively, by $2,300 and over $4,000 since Obama’s stimulus-led “recovery” began in June 2009.
These income changes are based on the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and summarized in an Aug. 21 report by Sentier Research, “Household Income on the Fourth Anniversary of the Economic Recovery: June 2009 to June 2013.”
In his Wall Street Journal column on Sept. 3, “Obama’s Economy Hits His Voters Hardest,” Stephen Moore, a member of the Journal’s editorial board, reported that those who were the most likely to vote for Obama in 2012 were members of the aforementioned five demographic groups that were hit with the largest income declines and highest jobless rates.
During July 2013, with the economy’s official unemployment rate at 7.4 percent, Moore reported that “the highest jobless rates by far are for key components of the Obama voter bloc: blacks (12.6 percent), Hispanics (9.4 percent), those with less than a high-school diploma (11 percent) and teens (23.7 percent).”
In contrast to these overall income declines in the past four years, especially among groups with the lowest incomes, a Congressional Budget Office report, “Historical Effective Federal Tax Rates: 1979 to 2005,” showed across-the-board gains in income, with incomes growing at roughly the same pace for all groups, following the implementation of President Reagan’s pro-growth, pro-business economic policies in the 1980s.