Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why Barack Obama Is Suddenly Noticing Black People

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

Politicians chase votes the way a frat boy chases women.  Also like the frat boy, politicians can have selective memory when it comes to creating a respectable and reciprocal relationship.  They beg for your votes, promise you the world and then promptly disappear until it’s time for re-election.

That’s a bit of what we’re seeing right now from the Obama Administration.  The Obama camp has rarely used the words “black man” or “black woman” in public for the last year, yet they are suddenly hanging in the hood more than the barber and the local drug dealer.  They are holding forums to rally black voters for the mid-term elections and telling black folks to vote as if Obama were on the ballot.

All the while, the issue of massive black unemployment hasn’t even been a blip on the administration’s radar screen.  Black foreclosures and the wealth gap have been seen as a nuisance to politics as usual.  Mass incarceration of African American men hasn’t become anyone’s agenda item.  Why in the world should black folks feel inspired to go out and vote?

I am not one to say that voting isn’t important, but something has GOT to give.  At what point do we grow beyond the argument which simply says that the Democrats are not as bad the Republicans?  If we choose to support Barack Obama or any politician for that matter, is there a point where we can actually give justification for that support?  When should the politician show up with clear evidence that he has specifically worked to address needs that directly impact our community?  Perhaps that day will come soon.

Black America must issue a challenge to the Obama Administration:  Will you still be inviting black bloggers to the White House after the election is over the way you did this month?  Will you still be holding events in the inner city to bring together black voters the way you are right now with the rapper Common?  Will we hear about plans to directly address the wealth and employment gaps in America, or are we going to hear the same lame excuses we heard this year?  Can we find a way to help black men to re-enter society after their prison terms are over, or are we going to remain committed to incarcerating as many black men as possible? Are you going to offer us as much as you’re asking, or are we simply going to be expected to be the people who save you from the Republicans who want your head? Oh yeah, it’s been over 200 years; when will one of the thousands of qualified black female lawyers and judges finally be considered for the Supreme Court?

One of the problems that black people have is that we’ve not grown out of the habit of falling in love with our politicians.  The problem with loving a politician unconditionally is that politicians are not wired to love you back.   When it was time to put a black woman on the Supreme Court, the Obama camp chose the president’s less-than-qualified Harvard crony Elena Kagan instead.  When it was time for black unemployment to be addressed, the Obama Administration chose to stay away from the issue altogether.  While black men rot away in America’s prisons and black families are being destroyed by mass incarceration, Attorney General Eric Holder only made time to deal with the Arizona immigration issue.  A serious problem facing many African Americans today is that there is simply nothing about voting that makes them excited, other than the fact that their president has a black face.  We allow images of the Obama family on the cover of Ebony Magazine to control our political decisions, and it might be time for us to grow out of this. Everybody loves the Obamas, but we need the president to have the courage to love us back.  As Beyonce says in her famous song, “Say my name,” meaning that the president must grasp the moral fortitude to express shameless love and support for black America in a way that gives us the same dignity as the rest of the American people.   He doesn’t have to throw a black fist in the air, but he can’t just reach out for us in the dark, when he needs us and when no one else is looking.

All in all, I wish Obama and the Democrats the best.  I challenge leading political figures to prove very clearly to the black community that they are making a difference in our lives and specifically working to confront our issues.  If they are not able to provide clear and convincing evidence that they are doing this, then it might be difficult to justify giving them our votes.  It’s really as simple as that.


Avery said...

Great article, and also true. Black people believe that Obama is for us he gives lip service but he is not. First we musat get our house in order and Obama is ot apart of that, black men must come together and make our comunities safe for our children to play and go to school we are own worst enemy, blaming is not the answer we need actions on our part. Race hustlers like Rev Al., and Jesse J. do us no favors they only make us look unorganized and weak begging for things we can do ourselvs. As you can tell I grew up when black people like each other and would go out of there way to help each other, now we raise people who cannot take care of themselvs and must take from others and think that makes them big. If we do not push good schools in communities provide an safe environment for our children to learn we will be on the bottom looking up at the illegal Mexicans. Obama does not want to talk about the unemployment in black america because he had to have high unemployment on blacks to pass healthcare you must be a victim first if you had a job you would not want to throw out a healthcare that is best in the world just to change three parts. Until we stop being victims and remember how we took care of each other we will not go come up as a people.

Byron E. Price said...

Great piece Boyce and right on point brother. Byron E. Price