Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Conversations Back Home re Obama and Black Folk

*special hat tip to the FreshXPress for featuring our article on their front page*

One of the best parts about going back home for the holiday season is, of course, catching up with old friends and family who you haven't seen in ages.  And in turn, one of the most interesting parts about catching up with all these people are the conversations that take place; "what have you been up to lately?", "how's the job/job search going?", "how's the wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend and the kids/dog/cat, etc.?"   And then of course once those pleasantries are established, invariably somebody will kick if off with "can you believe [insert current event here]" and that will then of course lead to a conversation about President Obama.

This question produces different results in different communities. Perhaps nowhere does this question produce a more polarizing response than in the Black Community.  Don't get me wrong, there's still an overwhelming sense of support and admiration from the Black Community for Obama at the end of the day.  While the national approval numbers for Obama hover around 50% give or take a few points, the approval numbers for Obama in the Black Community remain around 91%. But that number doesn't tell the whole story, because despite White concerns that Obama has catered too much to minorities and women, there are a number of Blacks among that 91% who feel that Obama has not done enough - or anything according to some - for the Black Community. It's with this later group where I take issue.

During one of my conversations back home, one of my friends asked "what has Obama done for the Black community?"  to which somebody else replied "NOTHING!!! That's what!"  I immediately jumped in with "what evidence do you have to back up that claim that Obama's done nothing for the Black community?"  The few "do nothing" advocates, without even blinking or missing a beat, came back at me with "he didn't put a Black person on the Supreme Court."  "Yeah!"  "Instead he put a Puerto Rican lady and that gay lady but you're telling me we can't get a Black person on the Supreme Court? C'mon man!!!"

To which I responded: "Is that it?  No Black Supreme Court Justice = No support for the entire Black community?  Is that really your argument?"

Little did I realize I had only opened the door with that question, because they had more - a lot more - where that came from.  They had legitimate gripes, such as the Black unemployment rate (which stands at about 19%) all the way down to the most illegitimate, irrelevant gripes, such as Obama didn't come from a family of slaves through the South therefore he can't be Black or understand the Black struggle.  To this last point, I revealed the inconsistency in the argument by showing that (a) the Black Community is very diverse; (b) not all of us were slaves, and (c) not all of us came from the South.  I was able to shake a few of the nay-sayers away from the "he's not Black enough" camp with those facts, but there were a few who would not be budged.  Then I hit them with the follow up "look, man, he's got a Black wife, Black children and a Black mother-in-law who he moved into the White House...if that ain't Black I don't know what is."  The remaining nay-sayers had to concede the "Black enough" argument after considering those facts, but they remained firm in their argument that he still hasn't done enough for the Black Community.

So then we had to go through each issue one by one, starting with unemployment and ending up back at the beginning with the Supreme Court.  And in each case, good arguments were made on both sides that Obama could be doing more for the Black Community and that he already has done a lot for the Black Community.   One of the main reasons that was repeatedly brought up for why Obama should be focused on the Black Community is that 95% of us voted for him, and therefore we make up the majority of his constituency.  However, what that argument fails to address is this fact: although it's true that 95% of Blacks voted for Obama in 2008, that 95% = roughly 15.5 Million Black votes out of the total 16 Million Black voters period.  Meanwhile, there were 92 Million White voters in the 2008 election.  Last time I checked my arithmetic, 92 Million is greater than 16 Million.  Now while it is also true Obama did not win the White Vote (43% of Whites voted for Obama vs 55% of Whites who voted for McCain), that 43% of 92 Million still translates to about 40 Million White voters who supported Obama in 2008 vs. our 15.5 Million Black voters who did the same.  So as any armature political science major could tell you, when your support comes from multiple sources you don't focus on ONLY one of those sources.  This is a political fact that many Blacks - even those of us in the blogosphere who talk politics for a living - still struggle with conceptually.  We feel that since Obama is Black he should be looking out for Blacks.  Period.  End of story.  But the truth of the matter is, if he looked out for those 15.5 Million of us only, and turned his back on the other 40 Million, what are his chances of re-election  in 2012 if he were to do that?

To follow up on this last point, at the end of the debate, the "not enough" crowd did have to admit that if Obama focused only on the Black Community during these past 2 years it would certainly be a wrap come 2012.  Most of us could all agree on that point, but there were still a few who didn't care about that and wanted Obama do do more for us and only us.

So the question I pose to you is this:  does Obama need to do more for the Black Community over these next two years leading up to 2012?  And if so, then what exactly?

In your opinion, has Obama done anything for the Black Community since 2008?  And if so, what exactly has he done?
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