By Alan Caruba
January 16, 2012 – Dr. Martin Luther King Day.
It is always a difficult endeavor for a White man to write about the African American—Black—population. The suspicion of prejudice always lingers, but it must also be said that many White people, particularly those who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, are seriously disappointed with him and, not surprisingly, so are many Blacks.
A quintessential Black liberal, Harry Belafonte, has been quite open regarding his unhappiness with Obama. Belafonte marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights era. In a recent interview he said that Obama had “a splendid opportunity to do more than most presidents would have ever been able to do and he let that opportunity slip away from him,” adding “I think if there was a kind of moral compass serving Barack Obama in the way we had all hoped, the moral force would have helped him make choices.” And where there is no moral force?
Belafonte is, of course, speaking for himself, but a January 2nd Associated Press article by Jocelyn Noveck, “Hollywood Stars less Vocal in Obama Support”, suggests that those who might be expected to be strong supporters of Obama have also experienced second thoughts. Matt Damon, who campaigned for Obama, told Elle magazine, “I think he misinterpreted his mandate.” Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs told Source magazine “I just want the president to do better.”
Black, White, Hispanic, or Asian, Americans have taken Obama’s measure over the past three years, but for Blacks the expectations were likely even higher than the rest of the population.
Forty-four years since the assassination of Dr. King, Blacks in America continue to experience difficulties that reflect a community plagued with social problems.
The Civil Right Act of 1964, passed in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, tore down the century of barriers that Blacks had endured. White Americans took pride in ridding the nation of this stain on its reputation. The election of a Black President was symbolic of the progress that had been made.
In early January, Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, wrote an editorial, “African-Americans Lose, While Others Gain.” While unemployment plagues American workers, Malveaux noted that the “African American unemployment rate increased from 15.5 to 15.8 percent,” adding that “the estimate of the African American unemployment rate”, in real terms, was “a whopping 28.3 percent.”
Every President gets blamed for unemployment and Obama took office in the wake of a huge financial crisis that began as former President Bush’s second term was coming to an end. Massive bailouts kept the banking system from collapse, but it must also be said that Obama’s solutions, his stimulus programs, have been judged to have been failures.
Moreover, Obama has added more debt in three years than all previous presidents combined, from Washington to Clinton. As a result, he became the first President to preside over the downgrade of America’s sovereign debt rating.
It is just my opinion, but I believe that among Obama’s legacy will be the likelihood that it will be a generation or more before another Black politician is elected to lead the nation.
It must be said that African Americans have made progress. They will make progress.
Data posted on BlackDemographics.com set the 2010 Black population at 42 million, 13.6% of the U.S. population of 308.7 million.
The statistics regarding America’s African-American population, however, paint a daunting picture. Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act at least half of the male Black population nationwide has been in prison.
African American women have 30% of all abortions and, according to the 2010 Census, Black females make up less than 14% of the total population.
From 1974 to 2004, the median income fell 12% for Black men while rising 75% for Black women. Other sources state that African Americans accounted for half of all new HIV diagnoses and, in 2009, just under half of new AIDS diagnoses.
Most certainly these statistics and others do not reflect anything that a Black President could impact in three years, but they suggest that the African American community is in serious trouble and that being a Black President is simply not enough. Still, one is mindful of the political risks his predecessors took to right a wrong.
The Democratic Party's answer has always been to throw money at such problems. It hasn’t worked. Politically, the great irony of Black support for the Democratic Party is that it was the party that fought against the Civil Rights Act and other measures to end the infamous Jim Crow measures in Southern States.
It’s not too soon to question whether Obama will receive the level of support given him by African Americans and by liberals in 2008. I doubt it. He has squandered the greatest opportunity ever given any man.
© Alan Caruba, 2012