Posted on February 24, 2010

A Black Agenda for President Obama to Address? Yes!

Michael K. Fauntroy, Huffington Post, February 24, 2010

A spat has developed among some prominent black leaders about the extent to which President Barack Obama should be pushed to give special attention to African American issues. {snip}

They, in supporting their position, have erected a ridiculous straw man to under-gird their position: President Obama is not the President of black America and should not be held to that standard. {snip}

I believe this argument is a straw man because I have yet to hear one reasonable, credible person argue that Obama should be the President of Black America or solely any other segment of the nation. But that doesn’t mean that issues of particular importance to different constituencies should not be given extra attention. Special problems require special attention. {snip}

The black community certainly has some responsibility for its current situation. The reality is, however, that with some black communities suffering from unemployment rates above 30 percent (In October 2009, the jobless rate for black males age 16-to-24 was 34.5 percent in my home city of Washington, D.C., a place that has made out reasonably well in the current recession and Milwaukee, Wisconsin has recently had a Black male unemployment rate hovering around 50 percent) and dangerously high dropout and criminal justice supervision rates, a unique, special, and acute problem has been established that requires attention above and beyond what our leaders–elected and appointed, and without regard to race are willing to acknowledge.

Black unemployment won’t get significantly reversed by treating it the same as white unemployment. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 10.7 percent of white men over the age of 20 were unemployed; 17.3 percent of black males were unemployed at the same time. White women over the age of 20 have an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent, while 13.3 percent of black women are jobless (this is a devastating number given the disproportionate number of single-woman headed households in the black community). Whites between the ages of 16-19 had an unemployment rate of 24.1 percent; the black unemployment rate for same aged blacks was 43.5 percent.

Groups of Americans, whether organized along ideological, religious, cultural, business, or other kinds of lines can, and do, ask the president for special attention to their issues. African Americans, however, are expected to sit in a corner and wait for the President to get around to their concerns whenever it’s convenient. {snip}

America should not fear a “black agenda” any more than it would fear an “environmental agenda” or an “education agenda”. As I see it, the “black agenda” is simply about making sure that some of the most acute issues facing black communities across the country are respected and acted upon. Black leaders who run from a “black agenda” to protect the “black President” need to be reassessed by those who put them in their positions.