They are his most unified and ardent supporters, but now some Blacks are questioning whether it was worth making a “race-neutral” president the first African American in the Oval Office since they’ve received far less attention than other key constituencies such as gays, Latinos and women.
In a new book expected to stir up debate about President Obama’s blackness, a Columbia University scholar calls Obama a “hollow prize” for African Americans and his victory unworthy of the long civil rights battle for racial equality.
“One day the question will be asked–years if not decades from now–whether the sacrifices of previous generations were worth the rise of a ‘race-neutral’ Black president, whose ascendancy was made possible by their efforts,” writes Fredrick Harris in “The Price of the Ticket,” his new book.
“As it stands now, the price has not yet proven its worth in sacrifice, to the memory of those lost in battle nor for those who still sit at the very bottom of society, still believing and hoping in the possibilities of change,” adds the university’s director of the Center on African American Politics and Society.
Harris writes that Blacks expected more but accepted Obama’s reluctance to push Black issues because that might result in a White voter backlash in the reelection. He cites several examples of areas the president could have weighed in on Black issues, but pushed them to the back burner.
But he suggests Blacks have been ‘dissed as Obama has wooed and worked with other controversial groups such as gays. “While Obama has repeatedly told Black leaders and Black voters to be patient with the slow pace of change regarding his economic policies, Obama vowed to ‘never counsel patience’ regarding the LGBT community,” he writes.
He mocks Obama’s meagre efforts on Black issues, poking fun at the White House web site’s Black History Month page that highlights personalities, not policy.
But he also writes that Obama’s timing was unfortunate, entering the White House in a recession that left little money to use to promote programs targeted to Blacks. “It is difficult to be the captain of a sinking ship,” says Harris. “And it is troubling when the captain of the Titanic tells those barely holding on for survival that a ‘rising tide lifts all boats,’ as Obama did when asked about the mounting rate of Black unemployment.”
The bottom line in the book provided to Secrets: “When it comes to the Obama presidency and Black America, the symbolic and the substantive are assumed to be one. This is the price of the ticket.”