“I need everybody here to go back to your neighborhoods, to go back your workplaces, to go to the churches and go to the barbershops and go to the beauty shops. And tell them we’ve got more work to do.”
— President Obama speaking to the Congressional Black Caucus
“I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for. I’ve been told that I voted for a man who was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class and I’m waiting sir, I’m waiting. I still don’t feel it yet.”
— Velma Hart, an African-American woman speaking to the president at town hall meeting who identified herself as a chief financial officer, a mother and a military veteran.
Oh no! There are Obama supporters that aren’t feeling the love anymore? Does this mean–gulp!–President Obama could lose the Black vote?
Sometimes the scenarios the press and pundits bang away at are already written. They sit back and wait for someone to fill in the blanks.
Velma Hart tells the man she voted for she’s tired of defending him and waiting for the change he promised he’d bring to Washington. Film at 11:00. The line forms to the left Mrs. Hart of those folks who feel exactly the same way.
Frustration sometimes gets confused with disappointment. At times accidentally. Other times quite purposefully.
Hart’s heartfelt words were seized upon by Obama critics as a sure sign African-Americans have lost faith in him. “In plain English, she’s T-I-D-E of pretending the black agenda is being addressed” harrumphed blogger and “citizen journalist” Faye Anderson, a former colleague of mine when we both wrote the now moribund Politically Black.com.
I didn’t hear a woman frustrated with the president for not pushing “the Black agenda.” I heard a woman frustrated with President Obama. That’s a fairly common sentiment these days.
If she had been a White woman and said the same thing, would Faye be claiming she was distressed about Obama not pushing “the Black agenda?” This is Faye thumping the mythical “Black Agenda.”
Obama is flailing a bit. He’s pissed after two years he doesn’t seem to be getting any credit for the good things he’s done and he knows the Dems are probably going to get pounded in November. Joe Biden is putting on a happy face and saying the Democrats are going to hold the House and Senate. What else can he say? “We’re gonna get our asses kicked?”
By the way, if there is a “Black agenda” who created it and why wasn’t I included? Bob Herbert in the New York Times thinks he knows what set Mrs. Hart off.
Mr. Obama has seldom addressed black concerns directly, although many of his initiatives have benefited blacks. What has taken a toll is the perception that the president has consistently seemed more concerned about the needs and interests of those who are already well off, who are hostile to policies that would help working people and ethnic minorities, and who in many cases would like nothing better than to see Mr. Obama fail.
Most blacks are reluctant to publicly express their concerns about the president because they are so outraged by the blatantly unfair and often racist attacks against him from the political right. But many blacks are unhappy that Mr. Obama hasn’t been more forceful in the fight to create jobs. And there is disappointment over the dearth of black faces in high-profile posts in the administration.
There is real danger here for black people. In many cases, because of an excess of caution, policies that would help people in need are never even seriously considered, much less implemented. Forces that are hostile to blacks are not aggressively confronted, which, of course, empowers them. Perhaps more important, when you have to tiptoe around absolutely anything that has to do with blacks, it can leave the insidious impression that there is, in fact, something wrong with being black, something to be ashamed of.
We need to be careful not to corrode the joy and pride felt by blacks in the triumphs of African-American leaders.
Obama has twisted himself into a pretzel trying not to be ghettoized as “the Black President” but as “the American President who happens to be Black.” He hasn’t always been successful pulling it off, but while I don’t deny there are issues of specific and particular interest to me as a Black man, I never was sold on the idea a Black man in the White House meant everyday was Kool-Aid and buttermilk biscuits for the next four years.
However, my friend Faye apparently has a different take on what Obama should have done.
I need a spreadsheet to keep track of the black-agenda-deniers’ efforts to, well, deny that African Americans expected more from President Obama than more of the same. But that would be too exhausting. Instead, I’ll track black voter turnout for the midterm election, which is only 41 days away.
Apples and oranges, Miss Anderson.
Black voter turnout is not indicative of a lack of faith in President Obama. He’s not on the ballot, but thousands of White Democrats are. All politics are local and if local Democrats don’t deliver the goods it’s a referendum on their job performance and their campaigns, not the president.
Miss Hart says undeniable progress has been made by Obama, not “more of the same” but apparently you overlooked that little point?
It doesn’t make me a “Black Agenda denier” to ask WHAT the Black Agenda is, WHO created it and WHY I never got a chance to make my suggestions of what should be part of it. I check my e-mail daily and return all messages promptly.
There is no Black Agenda. There is no Black Agenda. There is no Black Agenda. Oh, and by the way, THERE. IS. NO. BLACK. AGENDA.
The Black Agenda is like Bigfoot: often talked about but never seen.