The Price of a Black President

Fredrick C. Harris, New York Times, October 27, 2012

When African-Americans go to the polls next week, they are likely to support Barack Obama at a level approaching the 95 percent share of the black vote he received in 2008. As well they should, given the symbolic exceptionalism of his presidency and the modern Republican Party’s utter disregard for economic justice, civil rights and the social safety net.

But for those who had seen in President Obama’s election the culmination of four centuries of black hopes and aspirations and the realization of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a “beloved community,” the last four years must be reckoned a disappointment. Whether it ends in 2013 or 2017, the Obama presidency has already marked the decline, rather than the pinnacle, of a political vision centered on challenging racial inequality. The tragedy is that black elites—from intellectuals and civil rights leaders to politicians and clergy members—have acquiesced to this decline, seeing it as the necessary price for the pride and satisfaction of having a black family in the White House.


But the triumph of “post-racial” Democratic politics has not been a triumph for African-Americans in the aggregate. It has failed to arrest the growing chasm of income and wealth inequality; to improve prospects for social and economic mobility; to halt the re-segregation of public schools and narrow the black-white achievement gap; and to prevent the Supreme Court from eroding the last vestiges of affirmative action. The once unimaginable successes of black diplomats like Colin L. PowellCondoleezza Rice and Susan E. Rice and of black chief executives like Ursula M. BurnsKenneth I. Chenault and Roger W. Ferguson Jr. cannot distract us from facts like these: 28 percent of African-Americans, and 37 percent of black children, are poor (compared with 10 percent of whites and 13 percent of white children); 13 percent of blacks are unemployed (compared with 7 percent of whites); more than 900,000 black men are in prison; blacks experienced a sharper drop in income since 2007 than any other racial group; black household wealth, which had been disproportionately concentrated in housing, has hit its lowest level in decades; blacks accounted, in 2009, for 44 percent of new H.I.V. infections.

Mr. Obama cannot, of course, be blamed for any of these facts. It’s no secret that Republican obstruction has limited his options at every turn. But it’s disturbing that so few black elites have aggressively advocated for those whom the legal scholar Derrick A. Bell called the “faces at the bottom of the well.”


But as president, Mr. Obama has had little to say on concerns specific to blacks. {snip}

Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama weighed in after the prominent black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge, Mass. The president said the police had “acted stupidly,” was criticized for rushing to judgment, and was mocked when he invited Dr. Gates and the arresting officer to chat over beers at the White House. It wasn’t until earlier this year that Mr. Obama spoke as forcefully on a civil rights matter—the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in Florida—saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

Instead of urging Mr. Obama to be more outspoken on black issues, black elites parrot campaign talking points. They dutifully praise important but minor accomplishments—the settlement of a longstanding class-action lawsuit by black farmers; increased funds for black colleges; the reduction (but not elimination) of the disparities in sentences for possession of crack and powder cocaine—while setting aside their critical acumen.


It wasn’t always so. Though Bill Clinton was wildly popular among blacks, black intellectuals fiercely debated affirmative action, mass incarceration, welfare reform and racial reconciliation during his presidency. In 2001, the Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree called the surge in the inmate population “shocking and regrettable” and found it “shameful” that Mr. Clinton “didn’t come out and take a more positive and symbolic approach to the issue of reparations for slavery.” But Mr. Ogletree, a mentor of Mr. Obama’s, now finds “puzzling the idea that a president who happens to be black has to focus on black issues.”


Black politicians, too, have held their fire. “With 14 percent unemployment if we had a white president we’d be marching around the White House,” Representative Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The Root last month. “The president knows we are going to act in deference to him in a way we wouldn’t to someone white.”


Some argue that de-emphasizing race—and moving to a “colorblind” politics—is an inevitable and beneficial byproduct of societal change. But this ideal is a myth, even if it’s nice to hear. As Frederick Douglass observed, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” {snip}


Mr. Obama deserves the electoral support—but not the uncritical adulation—of African-Americans. If re-elected he might surprise us by explicitly emphasizing economic and racial justice and advocating “targeted universalism”—job-training and housing programs that are open to all, but are concentrated in low-income, minority communities. He would have to do this in the face of fiscal crisis and poisonous partisanship.


To place policy above rhetoric is not to ask what the first black president is doing for blacks; rather, it is to ask what a Democratic president is doing for the most loyal Democratic constituency—who happen to be African-Americans, and who happen to be in dire need of help. Sadly, when it comes to the Obama presidency and black America, symbols and substance have too often been assumed to be one and the same.

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  • Mercerian Jed

    He doesn’t need to “say” anything specific for blacks, other than “the police acted stupidly” and “Treyvon would have looked like my son,” because he’s got My People Holder in office to do all the heavy lifting on behalf of Blacks Only.

    Obamacare and the general acceleration of centralization of power in his own hands is enough to speed up the decline of White privilege so fast, that we are near the tipping point of no return.

    If SCOTUS find for Fisher, look for him to sign an Executive Order in response that finally spells out plainly what we’ve been saying all along: Criminalized White privilege is under a racial Bill of Attainders.

    • FourFooted_Messiah

      Speaking of Obamacare, can someone please explain that to this Canuck?  I once had an in-game guildmate who was very upset over being FINED for not having health care insurance under Obama’s weird system. I don’t understand that.  If he couldn’t afford American private health-care insurance (which I understand is stupidly expensive in the first place), then why punish him with a FINE?

      I can’t wrap my head around that.

  • Puggg


    Obama didn’t bring us the anti-white utopia we thought he promised.

  • “If re-elected he might surprise us by explicitly emphasizing economic and racial justice and advocating “targeted universalism”

    Targeted universalism huh?  Smells an awful lot like communism if you ask me.  But then again blacks are natural communists.  They know that they cannot form prosperous, economically viable communities when isolated from the White man.  They squawk and screech about “economic and racial” justice, but what they really mean is EQUALITY OF OUTCOME.  They want to live just like the Whites they despise but they are incapable of this without White wealth redistribution, which is why they are naturally and genetically predisposed to communism.  It’s a mindset reflective of limited intelligence and no ability to think rationally or logically. 

    • More than that;its a ferocious tribalism. You got it,they wanna take it. The rage of blacks is always palmed off as the result of the white peoples meanness and of course,raycizzum. But the rage and violenec  of the black has skyrocketed with a black president. If the One is re-elected look for even more savagery.

      • TeutonicKnight67

         There will be savagery regardless of the electoral outcome. Entitlement savagery if Obamessiah wins, sore-loser (i.e. We wuz rawbbed ) savagery if he loses. How we as a people respond to it remains to be seen.

  • libertarian1234

    “Author laments that black leaders are less likely to pressure a black President for handouts.”

    Where does the NYT get these out-of-touch bozos… the above so-called “reporter”….. who come across as blithering idiots who seem to be frozen in a world of fantasy?

    Obama has shifted literally billions of dollars to black organizations, causes and the black community in general, by various methods, one of which was the stimulus package.  Remember Acorn?  Well, they’re back under a new name and they are feeding at the public trough again, thanks to the black messiah.  The others are too numerious to list.

    Another tactic has been to use pressure via threats on private enterprise to hire unqualified blacks or suffer the consequences.  Mark Lloyd, FCC czar, has stated that:

    “…… white people, good though they may be, must step down so more people of color, gays and other people can have power.  And thereby change the problem of whites running the show. ”

    Notice many blacks on the boob tube hard news stations stumbling over their words as they read the teleprompter?  I do.  At many stations they’re almost half of the news reporters, yet they’re but 12.6% of the population.  There has been a surge of hiring after Lloyd and the EEOC threatened to bring lawsuits that the networks couldn’t afford to pay, so they relented and hired an unfair amount of blacks.

    And the most glaring insult of all is that it is very rare to find more than one who is qualified for his/her position at a single location.  Reading the teleprompter correctly is not evidence of journalistic competence.   Note also that there are no Hispanics at these stations usually, yet they outnumber blacks in the millions, so that is further strong evidence that the onslaught of political pressure to hire black incompetents is strictly prompted by the black FCC head.

    Obama’s administration is replete with pro-black,  anti-white kooks, flakes and oddballs, including the whites he has appointed.  He himself committed his entire adult life as a community organizer with the expressed purpose of promoting all things black, and that’s EXACTLY why he wanted to be elected in the first place, and that is EXACTLY what he has been doing for the last four years.

    However, it would be a wasted effort to tell the ignorant Frederick C. Harris that, though.  He lives in a fantasy world like the other radical fools, and he’s representative of the oddballs who endanger all of us greatly.

    • Bon, From the Land of Babble

      The “above out-of-touch bozo” is a professor of political science and the director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies.

      I have about as much respect for him as I do for the NYT, 0bama, holder, napolitano, msnbc…


  • Francis Galton

    Where blacks see a racial bully pulpit, Whites see a sophomoric lack of decorum.  Obama’s gravitas and respect for the Office have been approaching negative infinity since January 20th, 2009.  These past few weeks have seen him sink to a new, third-grade-elementary-school-class-president-vote-for-Pedro low. 

    If it were up to a majority of blacks, there would be massive reparations for slavery, pardons for all black felons, make-work jobs for all blacks, guaranteed minimum income for all blacks, guaranteed access to White women for all black men, ad infinitum.  Don’t think for one second that they would be satisfied with anything resembling an “even playing field,” because the field is already heavily tilted at a 90% grade, in THEIR favor.    

    Reality check, Mr. Harris: blacks have less favorable social conditions than Whites because they do not have it in them to compete in an advanced, industrial, European-derived society.  Period.  As it stands, they are orders-of-magnitude better off than their duskier-than-thou brethren in the Motherland.  Maybe you all should just shut up and be grateful for once. 

  • JackKrak

    “As well they should, given the symbolic exceptionalism of his presidency and the modern Republican Party’s utter disregard for economic justice, civil rights and the social safety net.”

    All liberals have to fall back on this ridiculous explanation/justification of 428% support for Democrats because they’re not allowed to state the simple truth – Democrats are the party of the only two things that count for blacks : racial quotas and government handouts.

  • I think a Constitutional amendment is in order to mandate
    that all future American Presidents be heterosexual White Anglo Saxon
    Protestant males. American citizens should be allowed to be critical of their

  • Dan

    This drivel was put out by the very newspaper that John Engleman speaks so highly of. Who would have thought it.

  • Obummer  is not a god, he can’t change your collective IQ.

  • 1XXX

    Who’s fault is all of this? White people have done all of this to themselves. Blacks, as always, are just being themselves: incapable of anything useful on their own. You’re not surprised that dogs bark, so why be shocked that blacks are unable to behave like Europeans? Separation is the answer for this, either voluntary or the other way. White people are the one’s that will have to be dealt with.

  • anarchyst

    The “jew york times” is the same organization that praised the depraved system of communism while discounting the Ukrainian “holocaust” (Holodomor) in which millions of innocents perished under the “forced collectivization” of the Ukraine.  walter duranty and the like touted communism as being the “wave of the future”.

    • 1XXX

      I suspect that the strongest advocates for communism expect that they will be the one’s living well and giving the orders to all the happily united proles.

  • Couldn’t get past the first paragraph, had to run to the bathroom and barf.

  • 5n4k33y35

    Progressives talk about blacks in prison, but they never talk about black crime. I’m in favor of sentencing everyone who is convicted for non-violent, drug possession or distribution with fines and misdemeanor charges. Only those caught with the biggest quantities of drugs should face felony charges. Non violent criminals should be kept apart from violent criminals.

    But with regards to the large numbers of blacks in prison, I would really like to see a statistical breakdown on what crimes they are in prison for. Those who are convicted of violent crimes are not the wonderful people those progressives say they are.

    I’d like to find out the stats on race, violent crime and time served. Who knows, it may be that the law is more lenient on violent blacks than anyone else.

    • A lot of people officially in prison for a crime actually did a lot more and were arrested for a lot more, but serious charges were pled out in exchange for a guilty plea on a victimless crime and a bid on the legal long end for that victimless crime.

      In the ghetto and barrio, crimes with human victims are hard to prosecute because the victim has to show his or her face in court, and face possible retribution from all the suspect’s gang banging buddies.

      • FourFooted_Messiah

        This isn’t going to be a popular opinion here, but … I think the idea of a “victimless crime” is kind of a BS concept, and I don’t understand the hatred towards “recreational” drugs (and it seems to me those hollywood types are dying more of PRESCRIPTION drugs than the “recreational” ones.)  I see no difference between someone sitting at home peacefully drinking their alcohol and someone sitting at home peacefully doing their cocaine (in whichever form they prefer.  I didn’t understand that line about there being a difference in sentencing between two forms of it.  The only difference between the two is a bit of water, baking soda, and heat.)  It’s not the drug that makes people go out and do crime – they already decided to do that BEFORE they got drunk, high, or stoned.   Treat other recreational drugs like alcohol (which IS nothing more than a recreational drug) and deal with the ones who are dumb enough to do real crime, whether they are high or straight.

        Hell, the American government lets jet pilots use speed, we know that from when they bombed Canadian soldiers by accident.  It helps keep them awake on long, boring patrols.  Anyone read the story I related about a Greek pilot crashing into the sea because he fell asleep?  No one wants THAT.   But it wasn’t the fault of the drug, it was the fault of a trigger-happy pilot who didn’t check first who he was bombing.  Speed (in whatever form, no matter how disgusting) seems to me to be a useful tool for workaholics, if used sparingly.

        As it  is, when I see Canadian cops busting someone for, say, marijuana (the mildest of them all) it’s not the pot they’re after – it’s because the dealer was stupid enough to take stolen goods as trade, or s/he had illegal guns.  Put the stuff in bottle stores where people can be carded and minors aren’t allowed (though you Americans sell beer in your grocery stores where ANYONE can get at it.  I rather prefer our system up here – booze in in a special store, with signs on the door saying NO MINORS ALLOWED).

        Yes, the religious say to treat the body like a temple.  But what is it to you if I want to treat mine like an amusement park, as long as I don’t hurt or steal from anyone else?

        •  You say, “But what is it to you if I want to treat mine like an amusement park, as long as I don’t hurt or steal from anyone else?” but how do you suppose the millions of unemployed, underemployed, unemployable and low wage workers fund their expensive recreational drug habits?  I don’t know about what goes down where you live but in my part of town the zombies shamble around all day long looking for unlocked cars or houses to rob while the rest of us are at work.

        • Ordinarily, I would agree with you. If we lived in a high IQ white raciostate, we probably wouldn’t need as much as one criminal statute involving a victimless crime.

          But we don’t live in a white raciostate. We live in a polyglot Yugoslavia with a lot of blacks and Hispanics. Therefore, we need a panoply of victimless and process crimes to trip black and Hispanic thugs with to guarantee that they at least go to prison for some time, and do life on the installment plan.

          My least ever popular opinion here on AR is when I said that Jan Brewer should have vetoed Constitutional Carry in Arizona to keep the process crime of carrying concealed on the books in order to use that as a bludgeon against blacks and Hispanics. Especially crucial because blacks are starting to make their “presence” known in Phoenix where until recently they were a non-factor, and they’re showing up in Phoenix because Hispanics are chasing them out of California, and with SB 1070, they wrongly think more low skilled jobs are available for blacks.

    • HamletsGhost

      “Progressives talk about blacks in prison, but they never talk about black crime.”Just as they talk about black unemployment, but they never talk about black unemployables.

  • JohnEngelman

    more than 900,000 black men are in prison; blacks experienced a sharper drop in income since 2007 than any other racial group; black household wealth, which had been disproportionately concentrated in housing, has hit its lowest level in decades; blacks accounted, in 2009, for 44 percent of new H.I.V. infections. 

    – Fredrick C. Harris, New York Times, October 27, 2012
    Economic misfortune can come to anyone. No one forces blacks to commit crimes, or to engage in behavior that is likely to spread AIDS.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    The Price of a Black President?

    *Since January 2009, the labor force in the U.S. has increased by 827,000, but those not in the labor force have increased by 8,208,000.  This is how they have gotten the unemployment rate numbers to come down.

    *The number of Americans living in poverty has increased by 6 million over the past four years

    *Median household income has fallen for four years in a row.  Overall it has declined by more than $4000 over the past four years.

    *In the United States today, more than 41 percent of all working age Americans are not working.

    *Since September 1st, we have seen more job cuts announced than during any other two month period since the start of 2010: 

    Dow Chemical:  Closing 20 plants and letting go 2,400 workers

    Colgate-Palmolive: eliminating 2,300 jobs 

    DuPont: eliminating 1,500 jobs

    Ford:  eliminating 6,200 jobs 

    Hewlett-Packard announced they plan to eliminate 29,000 jobs

    Chip maker AMD will reduce their work force by 15%

    Sony:  eliminating 2,000 workers

    Sharp:  eliminating 11,000 jobs

    Engine maker Cummins, Inc. eliminating 1,500 jobs by the end of 2012

    Zynga:  RIF (reduction of force) of 5 percent

    Lattic Semiconductor:  RIF of 13 percent

    Alcatel-Lucent: eliminating 5,000 jobs all over the globe.

    Seimens AG: eliminating up to 10,000 jobs by the end of the year

    UBS:  eliminating 5,000 jobs.

    There’s your price of a black president.


    • Sherman_McCoy

      Fair enough, but this didn’t start under obama.  This is the cost of electing globalists.

    • FourFooted_Messiah

       That  many jobs lost in North America?  Where are those jobs moving to, China?

      I bet we’re expected to cheer this.

  • The Price of a Black President

    That will be your eternal soul, please.

  • “blacks accounted, in 2009, for 44 percent of new H.I.V. infections.”

    Because everyone knows it is those evil heroine corporations and evil white faggots who are responsible for this. Obama should have increased regulation on heroine corporations and put more faggs in prison to equalize the gap.

  • KenelmDigby

    Even when they’ve got it all they still find time to moan and blame it all on whitey.
    You just cannot win.

  • FourFooted_Messiah

     But the problem is this – when a black breeds with a white, the kid is usually always dark and .. nappy-haired.   They have the more dominant genes, whereas light skin, hair and eyes are easly genetically swarmed out of existence.

  • The first paragraph is tough going. ‘95% of blacks voted for Obama… as well they should’.

    We would be considered racists if we said ‘95% if whites voted for Romney…as well they should’.

    After the last election, I said that we were lucky that a black man was elected president while whites are still the majority. Whites have seen the agenda of a black-run administration and how voting for a black man doesn’t end racial tension and bring the races together.

    The Democrats are going to be hard pressed to find another palatable black man like Obama.

    Our next concern is which party elects the first Hispanic president and what the results will be.

    This election isn’t over so anything can happen.  

  • Could be true, but I find it hard to believe that most blacks in positions of some authority are incompetent. It’s quite possible that when you select a group of blacks & a group of whites in the same areas of expertise, blacks will be less efficient.
    But, evidently, there are blacks (or mulattoes) who perform their demanding jobs very good. Say:

  • IstvanIN

     We should hold them accountable for bringing the riff-raff over here,

  • Frank

    It won’t surprise anyone that Harris is black or that his article appeared in the NYT.  They go together.  Obama is not responsible for anything!  What a crock.