Black Lawmakers Grow Impatient With White House

Ben Evans, Comcast, December 10, 2009

Black lawmakers who have held their tongues during most of President Barack Obama’s first year in office are stepping up their demands that the nation’s first black president do more for minority communities hit hardest by the recession.

While still careful about criticizing Obama publicly, they appear to be losing their patience after a year of watching him dedicate trillions of dollars to prop up banks and corporations and fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while double-digit unemployment among blacks crept even higher.

“Obama has tried desperately to stay away from race, and all of us understand what he’s doing,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. “But when you have such a disproportionate number of African-Americans unemployed, it would be irresponsible not to direct attention and resources to the people who are receiving the greatest level of pain.”

Dating back to Obama’s campaign, many black leaders have pressed him to take more of a stand on the challenges facing minorities. Most voiced criticisms privately for fear of jeopardizing his candidacy or undercutting his popularity after his election. They also have tread lightly so as not to be at odds with their own majority-black constituencies, who strongly support Obama.

{snip}

And earlier this week, the all-Democratic caucus responded to Obama’s proposal for a new jobs package by saying it would insist on initiatives targeted to minorities. Pointing to outsized percentages of African-Americans losing their jobs and homes, caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said Obama must live up to his campaign talk that racial disparities cannot be ignored.

{snip}

The unemployment rate among African-Americans is nearly 16 percent, almost double the 9 percent rate for whites. Roughly one in four blacks lives in poverty, compared with about 11 percent of whites.

Obama was a black caucus member in the Senate before winning the White House last year, but he has never had a close relationship with the group. In recent interviews, he has addressed their criticisms by saying he must represent the entire country, not any one population, and the best way to help low-income communities is to improve the overall economy.

“I think it’s a mistake to start thinking in terms of particular ethnic segments of the United States rather than to think that we are all in this together and we are all going to get out of this together,” he said.

Many blacks in Congress take exception to that view, arguing that decades of neglect and discrimination warrant particular attention to minority concerns. {snip}

{snip}

Topics:

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.

Comments are closed.