As Barack Obama feverishly attempts to craft a lasting legacy with less than two years remaining in his Presidency, the African American appears to be the odd man out. The constituency that ushered Mr. Obama into the White House with over 90% voter approval in each of the last two presidential elections has been left holding the bag. An empty one! All of the Obamamaniacs in the African American community who had so much joy and, yes, hope for a new dawn in prosperity and inclusion must now face the facts. The Obama Presidency has been a dismal failure with respect to the concerns and issues facing Black America. For those who dared dream that a black President named Barack Obama could and would make a difference in the lives of African Americans, we must now wake up to the reality that nothing has changed. In fact, things have gotten progressively worse.
As we watch the remaining months of the Obama Presidency dwindle down, the hope that Mr. Obama would finally do something to help black folk have also dwindled. Now that Mr. Obama has entered the lame duck period of his Presidency, and faces a Republican majority in the House and the Senate, hope no longer springs eternal. In fact, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. Obama has written black folk a check marked “insufficient funds.” All the hype, hope and thunder of Mr. Obama’s landmark election and ensuing Presidency, have signified nothing in gains and opportunity for black people in the way of economic prosperity, employment, education, or criminal justice.
The Obama Presidency has done more to set back the cause of the African American, than any single event since Reconstruction.(See The Obama Backlash) First, Mr. Obama has tiptoed through his first six years as President beholding to white folk, afraid to say or do anything that might be considered showing favoritism to African Americans. Obama has bent over backwards not to offend the wealthy, white liberal establishment types that financed his elections. Mr. Obama so far has been reluctant to even mention the word “black” for fear that he may be perceived as not being a President of all the people. Consequently, with such a timid and recalcitrant attitude toward issues affecting African Americans, we have been placed on the very back burner of importance and priority to the first black President.
The reasons for this failure are many and complex, but paramount among them is a lack of desire. At the height of Mr. Obama’s popularity, he chose to use his unspent political capital and mandate to address the concerns and special interests of Hispanics, gays and lesbians. A President is most powerful immediately after winning an election. Mr. Obama, as he is quick to remind us, won two! Upon election and then re-election, he focused his political and legislative agenda on continuing the failed Bush policies of destabilizing the Middle East, through propaganda, espionage, and the support of various rebel groups’ efforts to overthrow established governments like Iraq, Libya, Egypt and now Syria. This was done in spite of promises made to chart a different course in the area of foreign policy. Each of these countries are now far worse off, having degenerated into various states of civil war and armed conflict, creating more risk and danger for American citizens at home and abroad.
How ironic is it that a man of African descent and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, has ordered more drone attacks, dropped more conventional bombs, and launched more “hellfire missiles,” than the three previous American Presidents: Bush Senior, Clinton, and Bush Junior! Even more ironic is the fact that the targets of these mass killings are all dark skinned people of color, located in the Middle East and Africa. One must wonder, was this campaign of terror, destruction and death in Africa and the Middle East Obama’s idea, or was it an inherited agenda of the imperialist, colonialist empire of which he now is the public face? (See New Face of Western Imperialism) Also glaringly obvious and painfully ironic, is the fact that America’s allies are the all of the usual suspects; the European nations of Great Britain, France and Germany, with Poland, Canada, Australia and others thrown in for good measure. This has always been the mission of Anglo-European conquerors and invaders, to undermine by force or stealth to foster their self-serving imperialist objectives. But Mr. Obama, must their agenda be yours as well?
At the risk of stating the obvious, it appears that Mr. Obama has been nothing but a puppet on a string, being manipulated and controlled by the “WWP”: the Wealthy, White and Powerful. So why is the black agenda not Mr. Obama’s? And why has he turned his back on his most loyal and ardent supporters? After all, Obama does have black skin and African ancestry. Is it because the people who really run this country, the wealthy white power brokers in Congress, lobbyists and special interest groups could care less about black folk? Let’s examine the indisputable facts. In 2015, African Americans are still the most despised, neglected and rejected, just as we have been since the first slave ships landed with its not-so-precious cargo in 1619. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The last six years have been rough on the middle class as a whole, but much worse for African Americans. Take a look at these sobering economic statistics as reported in the November 4, 2014 issue of The New York Times. Under President Obama, the black unemployment rate is still double that of whites. The labor participation rate for African Americans is more than a full percentage point below whites. According to the most recent census data, the overall poverty rate fell to 14.5% in 2013, but among blacks it was unchanged at 27.2% compared to 25.8% when Mr. Obama took office. By comparison, the white poverty rate was 11.5% in 2009 and only 9.6% in 2013. Median black household income also has fallen under Mr. Obama, which further adds the exclamation to the point that the President and his economic policies have done nothing to help the African American; lately or ever. Adding insult to injury, President Obama has chosen to either ignore, or only give lip service to the dire economic straits of the majority of Black folk. As the statistics clearly attest, the masses of black people are suffering, and slipping further into the pit of perpetual generational poverty, regardless of the illusory and misleading picture of prosperity painted on reality shows like “The Atlanta Housewives” and others.
The black male pipe line to prison continues to flow unobstructed. African-American men comprise a mere 6% of the American population, but according to the Department of Justice, they make up half of the 2 million inmates in U.S. jails or prisons. While these men are largely imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses, there is a growing epidemic of crime in our communities which has created a siege mentality in Black neighborhoods. We are no longer safe where we live, and where our children play. Although this alarming trend can’t be attributed directly to Obama, where are the government initiatives and executive orders designed to address it. A big part of the problem is economics and a lack of opportunity. Yes, it’s 2015 and we still have a long way to go in overcoming centuries of institutional racism, but we can’t continue to take backward steps. There are still more black males in prison than are enrolled in colleges and Universities, and as recently as September 2012, only 52% of Black males graduate from high school. Mr. President, you should and could have done more.
So I say to the chorus of African Americans who steadfastly and blindly support Mr. Obama without holding him accountable: What’s race got to do with it? All we did was put a black face on the latest reincarnation of centuries of oppression heaped upon African Americans, with apparently no prospects for real change in sight. With President Obama, black people missed their last best chance for real change in America. The hope that was Obama has been denied, and the dream once again is now deferred. How unfortunate indeed.
Gerald Torrence is a lawyer, educator, writer, social and political activist, and motivational speaker living in Atlanta. You can find more insightful opinions from TheTruthTeller at the-truth-teller.com. You can follow Gerald on Twitter @tttspokentruth.