Friday, August 19, 2011

Black Leaders Must Pressure the President to Address Unemployment and Poverty!

As reported on the Grio,
Sparks flew Tuesday during the Congressional Black Caucus "For the People Jobs Tour" town hall in Detroit, MI, as black caucus members told the mostly black audience to "unleash" them to confront President Barack Obama on the issue of jobs.

California Rep. Maxine Waters expressed her and other Black Caucus members' dilemma of having to walk a line. As representatives from communities that have had great love for President Barack Obama, it can be anywhere from difficult to impossible for Waters and the other members to be as critical of the president as she wanted to be.

"We don't put pressure on the president," said Waters. "Let me tell you why. We don't put pressure on the president because ya'll love the president. You love the president. You're very have a black man [in the White House] ...First time in the history of the United States of America. If we go after the president too hard, you're going after us."

"When you tell us it's alright and you unleash us and you tell us you're ready for us to have this conversation, we're ready to have the conversation. The Congressional Black Caucus loves the president too. We're supportive of the president but we're getting tired ya'll...we're getting tired. And so, what we want to do is...we want to give the president every opportunity to show what he can do and what he's prepared to lead on. We want to give him every opportunity...but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don't know what the strategy is. We don't know why on this trip that he's in the United States now, he's not in any black community...we don't know that."
Unemployment and poverty are major problems in the African American community. Here are a few sobering statistics cited on The Poverty Tour website:
"Between 2008 and 2009, the poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites (from 8.6 percent to 9.4 percent), for Blacks (from 24.7 percent to 25.8 percent), and for Hispanics (from 23.2 percent to 25.3 percent). For Asians, the 2009 poverty rate (12.5 percent) was not statistically different from the 2008 poverty rate.

In 2009, 43.6 million people were poor, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty. The nation’s official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008 — the second statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004. (Census Bureau 2010a p.13)

The poverty rate in 2009 was the highest since 1994, but was 8.1 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available. The number of people in poverty in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates are available.(Census Bureau 2010a p.13)."
According to CBS News,
"While unemployment among the general population is about 9.1 percent, it's at 16.2 percent African Americans, and a bit higher still for African American males.

CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reports that, historically, the unemployment rate for African Americans has always been higher than the national average. However, now it's at Depression-era levels. The most recent figures show African American joblessness at 16.2 percent. For black males, it's at 17.5 percent; And for black teens, it's nearly 41 percent."
It is a disgrace that many activists and elected leaders are afraid to pressure the President to address this crisis. Our people's cult like devotion to the President is even more disturbing.

I understand why our leaders are so hesitant to criticize the President. Look at what happened to respected scholar Dr. Cornel West and radio host Tavis Smiley. For attempting to hold the Obama Administration accountable, they have been vilified by black bloggers, activists and other segments of the African American community. Despite decades of proven commitment to the advancement and empowerment of black people, those brothers have been called poverty pimps and uncle toms.

They have become victims of group think. Frankly, I cannot understand how any rational person could actually believe that Dr. West and Mr. Smiley would conduct a nationwide poverty tour simply to settle a personal vendetta against the President. Dr. West is not raising this issue simply because he didn't get inauguration tickets. Mr. Smiley is not raising this issue simply because President Obama did not come to the State of Black America forum in 2008. Awake up people!

The election of Barack Obama was a major milestone in America history. It was a sign of major progress in race relations. It represented hope and change. A black man and his beautiful black family in the White House is powerful symbolism. The African American community is completely enamored by that symbolism. Unfortunately, that symbolism has become more important than substance. Protecting the symbol has become more important than protecting the interests of black people. The people are mesmerized by President Obama's larger than life cult of personality.

Anyone who legitimately criticizes the President's policies is blindly attacked and reduced to persona non grata. Ironically, while we push for racial commitment to the President, he fails to directly address the problem of disproportionate unemployment and poverty in the black community.

Sadly, too many of our politicians have exchanged their principles for access to the White House. Like a bunch of mindless groupies, our so-called leaders are content with just being in the presence of the President. Instead pressuring the President to address the issues facing poor and working class people, they just clamor for the opportunity to be seen with the President.

Real leaders don't ask the people to unleash them. Real leaders lead, inspire and motivate the masses. Real leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. sacrificed their precious lives for our freedom. Surely, our politicians, if they are sincere, should be willing to face criticism from the Obamaholics. Our politicians should be willing to sacrifice their political careers for the love of the people. Our issues are too vital for them to do otherwise. Congressional Black Caucus, Cornel West, Tavis Smiley, keep up the pressure and turn up the heat! If you don't, nobody will.

This article is cross-posted on Jack and Jill Politics. Follow me on Twitter @AnsonAsaka.

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