By Raynard Jackson
Four years ago, President Obama made history by becoming the first Black president in the history of the U.S. I would like to think that even those who did not support his candidacy were proud of what the American people demonstrated—that anything is possible within our system of government. Play by the rules, work hard, present a compelling agenda and the American people will respond.
Obama was by far a much better candidate than John McCain and presented a more inspiring vision for America. McCain had much more substance, but an inability to speak directly to the American people.
Four years later, “Hope and Change” has turned in to “I Hope He Changes.” This is a common sentiment running through the Black community. They were disappointed in the total silence of the Obama administration’s on issues such s the high unemployment rate within the Black community, the lack of engagement within the continent of Africa, and the seeming lack of attention paid to domestic issues.
I will remind you that Blacks gave Obama 96 percent of their vote in 2008 and thus far has little to show for it. Gays and lesbians (two percent of the electorate has seen tangible results from Obama—repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; the push to recognize homosexual marriage, etc.). Illegal immigrants have seen tangible results from Obama (the push for amnesty, the Dream Act, etc.). But Blacks have seen and heard speeches—“get out of bed, put your marching shoes on and stop complaining.”
So, the question I have been pondering is this: Which is more important to the Black community—someone who makes them feel good (Obama) or someone who secures tangible legislation to address their concerns?
Psychologically speaking, no one can make you feel good if you don’t already feel good about yourself. No one can make you feel loved if you don’t already love yourself. You never hear homosexuals or illegals speaking in terms of Obama making them feel good. They want something specific or they are willing to withhold their support.
I think there is strong consensus within the Black community that the unemployment rate is at epidemic proportions and would not be tolerated within other communities. But we have shown no willingness to do anything about it other than complain.
Remember former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus once said that “if Obama was White, we would be marching on the White House.” So, why should any person take the Black community seriously when there is no fear of retribution? Was it not LBJ who said, “Better to be feared than to be loved?”
But, I am curious as to how we can have one standard for a Black president and another one for a White one? Should we not be marching on the White House regardless of color, if Black unemployment is double digits? Should we not be marching on the White House when more than 500 Blacks have been killed in Chicago (and many of them young children) and a sitting president barely mentions it publicly? Should we not be marching on the White House when our president is rebuilding countries all over the world, while ours is falling apart?
I, like most Americans, was thrilled to see a Black person elected president. But, I can’t get a job based on a feeling, I can’t get a student loan because I feel good, I can’t prevent crime from happening because I feel good. At some point, you must take away the emotional (feeling good) and replace that with something tangible (legislation).
Our presidents represent the whole of the U.S., but sometimes different groups need special attention based on their unique needs. This is one area where Obama has been grossly derelict. But, again, what are Blacks prepared to do to get him to act? Thus far, the answer has been absolutely nothing.
So, in a kind of weird way, Obama has made it much easier for future White presidents to ignore Blacks, regardless of party. For example, we know the next president will be White, so what happens when he doesn’t do something Blacks think he should and his response is, “You didn’t ask Obama for this, so why should I do it for you?” This is strictly a hypothetical question, but I can guarantee that future presidents and their staffs will at least think these thoughts. How does the Black community deal with this question?
This is the problems Blacks have created for themselves by giving Obama a pass on many issues simply because he is Black. We must become more politically sophisticated and less emotional. Despite the historic nature of his presidency, his lack of a real relationship with the Black community remains a mystery.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @raynard1223.