OBAMA, LOSING THE “RACE”
By Raynard Jackson
As the historic nature of Obama’s election begins to fade, the reality of Black’s expectations have begun to boil over. Obama received 96 % of the Black vote last year, but now they are asking, “where is the return on their investment?” This friction has recently spilled out into the public. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has finally grown some backbone and has publically challenged Obama on issues of particular concern to the Black community. These issues include the high unemployment rate in the Black community (well above the national average), the disproportionate percentage of Blacks caught in the subprime mortgage scandal, and the lack of stimulus money for inner city communities.
Those who are regular readers of my columns know that I have been extremely critical of the CBC in the past. But, I am very happy to see the CBC take a principled stand on something they view as important—why a Black president has not targeted any programs to specifically deal with the Black community.
In the midst of this debate, everyone seems to be missing the real point. What you see happening right before your very eyes is a generational fault-line on how race is viewed. Most members of the CBC are considered part of the “old line civil rights” movement. They are preachers and politicians over 55 years of age. They have had their time in the sun and the mantle has been taken up by a generation that is somewhat removed from the issues of segregation and civil rights—it is not the world they came from.
When you look at Obama’s background, he to, is distant from these “old timers.” Obama has never had a close relationship with the CBC, even as a member of the U.S. Senate. Growing up in Indonesia and Hawaii, Obama has probably seen more religious conflict than he has racial conflict. So, if you understand his point of reference on racial matters, it’s not hard to understand his reluctance to take race on. Has he encountered racism as an adult? I am sure he has. Hawaii is like a foreign country to most Americans. Having grown up in places like Indonesia and Hawaii, I can’t imagine Obama having his soul seared with much overt racism personally directed at him. Therefore, Obama doesn’t seem comfortable dealing with racial issues.
This is quite obvious when you look at his political career. There is nothing in his past that indicates Obama was willing to take the lead on issues of particular concern to the Black community. His past indicates that he will deal with race only when he has to (Jeremiah Wright, Henry Gates and the Boston police controversy).
I understand that Obama is trying not to be viewed as the Black president. He is really trying to walk a fine line between being color blind and being blind to people of color. So, the fundamental question I would pose to the CBC is not whether or not Obama has ignored the Black community and issues of particular concern to them; but, rather, what are they going to do about it?
In essence, Obama has said he agrees with the CBC’s assessment, but with is actions he is saying, “now, go make me do it!”
Politicians do what they “have” to do more than they do what they want to do. So, if the CBC doesn’t like what Obama is doing on their issues, what are they going to do about it? Other than make symbolic gestures (abstaining from procedural votes), what is their plan of attack? Are they willing to vote against healthcare as a block (43 votes)? Are they willing to vote against some of Obama’s spending bills that come before them? This is about winning, not about supporting a Black president. I hope the CBC is willing to play hardball with the president. This is the best thing the CBC could do for the Black community—to prove to the White House that the Black community is not to be taken for granted! And if they are taken for granted, there will be a price to pay.
This is why it is dangerous and counter-productive for the Black community to continue to be so aligned with one party. This is the reason that the Republican Party continues to trample on and disregard the Black community—there is no price to pay for doing it. Many Republicans believe there are votes to be gained by doing this. Therefore, Black Republicans have become totally irrelevant within the political process! Republicans ignore them and Democrats don’t pay them any mind.
Is the CBC willing to tell Blacks not to vote during next years congressional elections to make their point crystal clear to this White House? Sometimes you have to lose to win. If there is no pressure exerted on Obama, he will continue the course he is on.
Last year, Obama won the race, but this year he is losing the “race.”
Raynard Jackson is President & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (www.excellstyle.com).