Obama’s Commitment to African Americans Debated

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

On the face of it, President Obama is the America’s first African-American president — though some are questioning whether that’s truly the case in practice.

“Far from giving Black America greater influence in U.S. politics, Obama’s ascent to the White House has signaled the decline of a politics aimed at challenging racial inequality head-on,” says Fredrick Harris, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, writing in The Washington Post.

Harris writes: “Obama has pursued a racially defused electoral and governing strategy, keeping issues of specific interest to African Americans — such as disparities in the criminal justice system; the disproportionate impact of the foreclosure crisis on Black communities; Black unemployment; and the persistence of HIV/AIDS — off the national agenda.”

The title of Harris’ op-ed? “Still waiting for our first Black president.”

The article is drawing quite some attention, particularly African Americans.

Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart responded to what he called the “latest manifestation of the Obama-doesn’t-care-about-Black-people whine.”

Obama is addressing the issues raised in the complaints, Capehart writes, just “not in the theatrical way Harris would like. But in the actions-speak-louder-than-words way of Obama.”

Adds Capehart:

Someone who started his career on the south side of Chicago, whose wife is also from Chicago and who also has two young Black daughters, doesn’t wake up one day and say, I don’t care about African Americans.

That’s why it bothers me to no end that those who are “still waiting for our first Black president” seem unwilling to pay attention to what the first Black president is actually doing.