President Obama: Is He Dissing Black America?

Let me be clear: I researched, campaigned for, donated money to, ran to become a Democratic delegate of (but lost), gave keynote speeches for, wrote editorial articles in favor of, and ultimately voted for Barack Obama.  The night he won the Iowa Caucus, I cried, and the night he won the presidential election, I cried.  When he won I immediately wrote out a list of every dead or alive African American person who contributed to and sacrificed for–some of them with their very lives–the day when America would have a Black president.  In 10 minutes I had over 150 people on my “Thank You” list.  I am still hopeful for and proud of Obama’s presidency.

I am also well aware of the fact that this is one of thee worst times to be president of the United States, with the only possible exceptions being 1788, 1860, 1864, 1928, 1932, 1940, 1960, 1964, and 1968.  Certainly President Obama has his hands full, and because of this (according to my brilliant wife) it might be unfair to judge him before he’s had another 3-6 months on the job.  As citizens we have no idea what he is dealing with, what decisions he has to make, and how bad things could actually be had he not made some of the decisions he’s made up to this point.

And while I agree with that, the fact is there have been some down right objectionable play calls made by his administration, with respect to the Black community.  If I were a referee, the Prez would have at least 3 fouls right now, and 1 of them might be a flagrant.  Because I can already hear the choruses of, “But Wil, Obama is not just the president of Black people”, let me respond that while I am aware of that, Black people are Americans too, and to make decisions that seemingly restrict or imperil their opportunities, rights, and needs as a group is simply not right or acceptable from our elected officials.

To the point, I have issues with decisions made in these areas:

EDUCATION

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In 2007 Bush the II signed off on a bill that led to a direct award of $85 million per year to America’s 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s).  Those HBCU’s received that much needed monetary support in 2007, and again in 2008.  The money did not go directly to students, but went to operating costs like teacher pay, equipment, building services, and probably to a lot of unpaid bills.

I run a non-profit educational company, and I can tell you that without money for “operations”, every dollar would be coming out of my own pocket, which means I’d go broke trying to help other people’s kids.

So, with a Black president who knows how dire the circumstances are for African American students are in every statistical academic category (college graduation, high school graduation, SAT scores, national reading and math scores, etc.), Black colleges would certainly be able to count on that money right, and maybe even see an increase?  Apparently not.  President Obama cut it from his education budget, which he released on May 7th.  Good luck HBCU’s.  You graduate over half of all Black professionals, teachers, dentists, Ph.D.’s, and 1/3 of Black mathematicians (according to the UNCF), but you’re not good for that $85 milly.  Where is my sad face emoticon?

RACISM

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Actually, anti-racism, as in the Second World Conference Against Racism, which was held in Geneva, Switzerland April 20th-24th of this year.  Because of unpleasant language toward Israel, President Obama opted to boycott the conference and not attend.

WHAT?

If you don’t know, the beef between Israel and Palestine is in some respects akin to the relationship White Americans and Native Americans have.  It starts with Palestinian land (there was never a land called “Israel” before 1948), involves the use or theft of that land (depending on which side you’re on) by a Jewish minority, several wars, and the outright domination of the majority Palestinians, who now occupy a fraction of the land.  It’s also similar to the history between the White Dutch who immigrated to South Africa, dominated the [Black] South Africans during apartheid, and now control most of the land.

American politicians and presidents have historically backed Israel over Palestine.  I’ll let you conclude why.

But that’s not even the point.  Racism has been the accomplice of capitalism, white supremacy, and global injustice for the last 4 centuries.  We could argue whether gender or class have been the more critical variables, but when the data bears out that Black women and Black poor people tend to have the least of everything good in life and the most of everything bad (and that White males are still light years ahead of everyone), the common denominator is race.

Sadly, we still think of racism as being called the “N” word, or being physically assaulted by a handful of police officers.  We still don’t understand it as the global system responsible for why there are so few Black American home and business owners, or why Black South Africans are 90% of their country’s population but own only 10% of the land, or why random samples of Black 6-year-olds in 2005 still believed that Whites were smart, pretty, and nice, and that Blacks were dumb, ugly, and mean (See Kira Davis’ video, “A Girl Like Me“).

Race and Racism still impact every world institution: economics, education, health, land, labor, politics, war, religion, and law.  I literally cannot think of an adjective to describe what it means or how it feels to have a Black president who does not attend, and doesn’t send someone to attend a conference on global racism.  Wow.

FOREIGN POLICY

Obama and Africa

While I believe that President Obama’s decision to shoot down the Somalian kidnappers was a politically necessary one, I was also hopeful that it would help give him the political capital necessary to rewrite some of the foreign policy statutes regarding Africa.  After all, if you visit his campaign website (www.barackobama.com), the Africa Foreign Policy page does list “stabilizng Somalia”, “funding debt cancellation for poor countries”, and generally supporting the growth of African business as goals of President Obama.

None of this has happened.  Of course, we have a wealth of contentious domestic issues to conquer, and everything else may rightly be tabled for later.  But as one who sees himself as a global citizen (though I’ve only been out of the U.S. once, and that was just to Canada) and a Pan Africanist, I sincerely hope that our first Black president doesn’t forget about Africa.

There you have it.  I’m not saying the man has been a bad president, or even that he’s done poorly up to this point.  These are simply some of the positions he has taken that have caused me to raise my brow.  Do you agree, disagree, or have no opinion because you feel Facebook should only be used for discussing what you ate for lunch and how much you miss high school?  Where is my smiley face emoticon?

2 thoughts on “President Obama: Is He Dissing Black America?

  1. To be honest, what you’ve documented here saddens me, but I’m not really surprised.

    1) This country seems to be moving toward a complete devaluing of education in general, which really is a shame because education is (arguably) the most powerful institution we have, yet we (the U.S) lag behind other industrialized nations in this regard. Not only that, but if you pay attention to popular culture and current politics, it is easy to deduce that we place no great value on education. Give Kanye West a listen and pay a little attention to the heated anger hurled at teachers in California. I wonder how DuBois, Martin King, John Clark, Cheikh Diop, Carter Woodson, and the like would feel about the state of Black America in regards to education. As dire as our (the U.S. as a whole) situation is, one would think that education would be paramount. But, in 2009, the benefits of education that made Obama so great are severely curtailed for future generations, and I think that is a very sad thing.

    2) The points you brought up with some understandable trepidation regarding Israel are right on. I should say that as a Black man, it really doesn’t make much sense for me to separate Whites into ethnic groups, and as a result, I really don’t have an opinion about Jews outside of the White race one way or another. That said, if a racist comment about Jews stabs Obama’s heart to the degree that he cannot share the same space–or send a representative in his stead–as the person or persons who made the comment, how much MORE should his heart bleed for the abject position of the people with whom she shares blood that DOMINATES his phenotypical features and informs his personal and social identities? This is just stupid on his part! And, as you stated, it shows a lack of historical context and even a cursory understanding of contemporary racial politics. Either he is ignorant on these issues (which I SERIOUSLY doubt) or he has chosen to ignore them. Either way, this is a flagrant foul people.

    3) The issue in Somalia is a wasted opportunity to bring African issues, which are world issues to the forefront. I wonder how long something like that would go on in Israel, which has NO resources. The African continent is the most resource-laden land on Earth, and as a result, the countries in Africa have a long history of being conquered and exploited by foreign powers. If we ignore this fact and rely on savagely racist belief structures that require us to see all things of African derivation as inherently flawed, sure, it is the fault of these African peoples. But, that’s just not reality. It’s a foolish and untenable stance to take. While I never thought Obama (even with his close African roots) would be a champion of African peoples, I did hope that he would at least deal more evenly with my people. I guess not.

    Now, I know that some might think that this discussion is somewhat counterproductive. I agree that we have many pressing issues to address domestically. Still, it is POSITIVE and PROGRESSIVE to have a critical eye on all of our leaders regardless of race, class, or any other demographic classification. I’m very sure that our president is being pulled in a hundred different directions by many groups with separate issues that may often be at odds. What we need to keep in mind is that Blacks have never progressed through moral-suasion. Struggle is the hallmark of the Black experience, and there is no reason to assume that our struggles would become any less difficult because we have a Black (or biracial) president. Peace!

    • You called it. I too felt that not attending the global conference on anti-racism was flagrant.

      Man, the Lakers could have used you Monday night.

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