The Paradox Of Black America

The Paradox Of Black America
Many Obama supporters are now disappointed with the president’s record on Black issues

AFRICANGLOBE – A paradox haunts America’s first Black president. African-American wealth has fallen further under Barack Obama than under any president since the Depression. Yet, they are the only group that still gives him high ratings. So meagre is Obama’s national approval rating that embattled Democrats have made him unwelcome in states that twice swept him to power. Those who have fared worst under Obama are the ones who love him the most. You would be hard-pressed to find a better example of perception-driven politics. As the Reverend Kevin Johnson asked in 2013: “Why are we so loyal to a president who isn’t loyal to us?”

The problem has taken on new salience with the resignation of Eric Holder. America’s first Black attorney-general has tried to correct the gulag-sized disparities in prison sentencing between Blacks and Whites. His exit leaves just two African-Americans in Obama’s cabinet. Given the mood among Republicans, it is hard to imagine the US Senate confirming a successor to Holder who shares his priorities.

Obama shot into prominence in 2004 when he said there was no Black or White America, just the United States of America. Yet, as the continuing backlash to the police shooting of an unarmed young Black teen in Ferguson has reminded us, Obama will leave the US at least as segregated as he found it. How could that be? The fair answer is that he is not to blame. The poor suffered the brunt of the Great Recession and Blacks are far likelier to be poor. By any yardstick — the share of those with subprime mortgages, for example, or those working in casualised jobs — African-Americans were more directly in the line of fire.

Without Obama’s efforts, African-American suffering would have been even greater. He has fought Congress to preserve food stamps and long-term unemployment insurance — both of which help Blacks disproportionately. The number of Americans without health insurance has fallen by eight million since the Affordable Care Act came into effect. Likewise, no president has done as much as Obama — to depressingly little effect — to try to correct the racial bias in US federal sentencing. Bill Clinton was once termed “America’s first Black president”. But it was under Clinton that incarceration rates rose to their towering levels.

By no honest reckoning can Obama be blamed for the decline in Black America’s fortunes. Yet, the facts are deeply unflattering. Since 2009, median non-White household income has dropped by almost a 10th to $33,000 (Dh121,374) a year, according to the US Federal Reserve’s survey of consumer finances. As a whole, median incomes fell by 5 per cent. But by the more telling measure of net wealth — assets minus liabilities — the numbers offer a more troubling story.

The median non-White family today has a net worth of just $18,100 — almost a fifth lower than it was when Obama took office. White median wealth, on the other hand, has inched up by 1 per cent to $142,000. In 2009, White households were seven times richer than their Black counterparts. That gap is now eightfold. Both in relative and absolute terms, Blacks are doing worse under Obama.

Why then do African-Americans still give him such stellar ratings? To understand, listen to the dog whistles of Obama’s detractors. The more angrily the Tea Party reviles Obama, the more ardently African-Americans back him. When Newt Gingrich, the former Republican leader, described Obama as a “food stamp president”, the subtext was plain. It was too when Joe Wilson, a Republican lawmaker, interrupted Obama’s address to Congress to call him a liar — an indignity none of his predecessors suffered.

Likewise, no president has been forced to authenticate that he was born in the US (rather than Kenya). Donald Trump then demanded proof that the president had attended Harvard. How could a Black man get so far without cheating? That at least is what many Black Americans heard.

Then there is Obama’s impact as a role model. With the exception of the fictional Cosby Show — the 1980s sitcom about an upbeat Black household — many Whites have little experience of intact Black families. The latter remains dishearteningly uncommon. Barack and Michelle Obama have done much to counter that image.

There is a prominently displayed photograph in the White House, showing the moment that a young Black boy touched Obama’s hair to compare it with his own. “So, what do you think?” asked Obama. “Yes, it does feel the same,” said the child. That episode conveys something no Fed statistician can measure.

Black Americans seem to grasp something many of Obama’s White supporters often forget. If the opposing party controls Congress and wants to make trouble, it can stop almost any White House initiative in its tracks. Most voters hold the president accountable for the big trends affecting their lives, particularly economic. But there are times when this is not fully deserved. Under this president at least, Black America’s insights may be a step ahead of the rest.


By: Edward Luce


  1. That is not necessarily true. Blacks have only controlled the same 0.5% of the wealth we had when the slaves were freed. You have to understand that the federal reserve is like a giant overdraft account, so the “dollar” is actually debt not wealth. The wealth is mathematically maintained, so no matter how much the population grows, they adjust the the dollars worth, so that whites will always control over 94% of the wealth.

    But this is technically an illusion. See, all US citizens have an account of unlimited credit, so poverty is not real. Whites keep this info secret, to keep us working for them, instead of creating for ourselves. Think about it! Why are we fighting racism and hatred, when the problems in our race are economic? We don’t need to improve race relations with whites, in order to improve the economic conditions of our race, so why are we wasting our time putting up with all their racism, prejudice, and violence?

  2. It’s interesting these same poor people didn’t blame Bush or Clinton. Also blacks aren’t the only ones who are suffering. WTH do they want him to do so special for blacks. Give some of they lazy butts a ride to a job interview or to school or to volunteer. Let me guess a stimulus check every month???

  3. Black people arguing and confronting each other on issue relating to their upliftment is the worn out dominance strategy of divide and rule. Intellectualizing black people being oppressed is not an option. Get smart.

  4. I’ll never forget the time he told that group of Black folks to stop feeding their children cold Popeye’s chicken for breakfast and send them to school with a good breakfast or to stop complaining and take off their house shoes (implying they were sitting around doingnothing) and put on their marching shoes. Yeah he said it!

  5. When WE begin to understand that no president is going to do for us what we can do for ourselves then we will stop expecting things. When will our youth understand that they need to be educated. Drop out rate is too high. When will our mothers understand that they can’t let their children rule over them. When will our parents start back to showing up at parent teachers conferences and their own children’s school programs. When will our parents understand that our youth are truly smart and need guidance. When will we stop killing each other over dumb stuff. When will our young people realize they need to get a job whether it be at Burger King or McDonalds. [I have a house full of young people living right next door to me. All of them are healthy and capable of working. Yet the only person in that house who is working is the mother. Not even the dad. smh] Do you think that Smart Black folk are going to lay these problems at the feet of this president? Heck no. It’s hard to get OUR PEOPLE out to vote. Shame on us. I don’t need a president or anybody else to lift my family or me up. And, I get really agitated when I hear people talk about what this president has not done for us. Hell, he’s a politician like all the rest of them. We failed to lift ourselves up. We lift him up because nobody else will. Remember, it was a party of hateful people who have blocked every…everything this man has offered. What have we done to support him. Nothing. I just want to know what you’re gonna say when the next White president goes in to office? (sound of crickets chirping) Nothing.

  6. Let’s be honest with it. Black people are happy Obama is a black man that made it to be president and don’t give a damn what he actually does. Anyone that disrespects him will feel the wrath whether or not what they are saying is true or not. He has to be accountable to other groups not black people.

  7. If they did as badly as during the Great Depression it implies that every President after the Great Depression until Obama they did better. All of those Presidents were white. I hate the argument that oh well you should accept bad treat from someone because they are the same race as you. Obama has done nothing for black people plain and simple, get over your denial.

  8. Please go tell that to the people of Libya, Iraq, and Syria; and the fat cats on Wall street, those folks have experienced much change. Some for the better and some for the worse!

  9. Didn’t he tell us he was the American President and not the Black President? His allegiance is to America, not us. He’s doing exactly what he was scripted to do. If this doesn’t make black people question our position in the government, I don’t know what will. He knew that black folks would love him and uninformed white folks would hate him. Which is just the recipe for confusion and confrontation that keep Americans off base, while questionable policies are passed right under our noses. While we argue race our privacy is under attack, the economy has become more unstable, and the divide between rich and poor is getting greater. We talk about how Obama has saved jobs, but the wages of the jobs has been cut by 1/3 but the price of everything has risen by just as much. He is a puppet, just like every other president before him. They will always let one come in the house every now and then, but they gotta know that he is on their side. Can’t have a president that works in the interest of the people that voted for them. That would take some power from the corporations that pay legislators and politicians to act on their behalf.

  10. Can’t blame the president for that. Starts at home, education is the key. Teach your children to do better than you did, stay in them about school and creating opportunities for self instead of begging the white man for their table crumbs. Is it harder for us of course but he’ll that’s nothing new to our people. It’s always been obsticals and until people of color have real power again we will continue to struggle. We all know it’s congress and the house that has the power only thing a president can do is veto a few laws and that’s it. Other than that he’s the face of the country period point blank.

  11. If we as a people are waiting for any President to help us, we are really doomed!
    Obama is the president, he’s only one person! We elected the Congress and Senate, why not hold them and ourselves accountable! Let’s get out and make our vote count! It doesn’t matter who you vote for, just vote and hold all our elected officials accountable! Peace!

  12. I’ve no idea how you colate your figures. Is wealth in America still segregated ? Do you think that the downturn in growth might have something to do with this.We have a similar thing going on on this side of the pond. I see no bankers going to jail for the mess that they created and still profit from but I see that a lot of people have had to take cuts with those lowest on the rung affect most. .

  13. The people with the money is why we are not doing good, not the president and when the next president come in office he will get all the credit for what Obama really has done.

  14. I’m not sure where anyone would get the impression that the President is disloyal to African-Americans. Because he hasn’t shouted down his detractors?
    I think that’s just class, and dignity… not weakness nor submission.

  15. A few are commenting about what President Obama has not done for the BLACK Race in AMERIKKKA!
    I ask you, What would John McCain or Rommney done for the BLACK Race if they were Elected instead of him?

  16. I don’t care who is in the White House; a white man, black man, chinese, mecican, woman, jew, Republican, Catholic andso on, I will still be the same in the same situation; black, gay and poor but in the end it takes me to change my future my destiny. I have been working at the same job for 19yrs. and that’s my fault I’ve had every opportunity to attend college a second time but i haven’t and that is not Obama’s fault. I’ll make a change for myself but when i am ready

  17. But – we are proud that there is a Black man with sterling credentials and a exceptional set of skills, representing the USA and more importantly representing the hopes and dreams of all Black people.

  18. The person that occupies the Oval Office does not set policy. He is just a tool for the military – industrial complex. We as Black people know this, but

  19. I refuse to believe WE as a people are doomed, because of what someone else thinks. WE control our own destiny…and should act like it.
    Stop believing what you read and evoke the change thats in ALL of us. He did what they “allowed” him to do. The change wont occur, until his term is up, so hold on….its about to get real bumpy and challenging, because he’s not done, yet.