Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Dr. Boyce Watkins; Randall Kennedy, Harvard Professor Defends President Obama.

September 19, 2011 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

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( I recently read a well-written piece by Randall Kennedy at the Harvard Law School.  In the article written for CNN, Kennedy argues that black critics of President Obama are flat out wrong, and that that their efforts are sorely misguided.  In Kennedy’s words:

Obama’s black detractors receive a degree of attention in the news media that is far greater than their representativeness of black America or their influence within it.
Kennedy also goes on to argue that many of these critics mislead the public into perceiving that presidential discontent is greater than it actually is.  He cites the fact that President Obama received over 90% of the black vote in 2008 and likely has the same degree of black support right now.   In Kennedy’s words, “rank and file” African Americans are not as lofty or unrealistic in their expectations of President Obama as are some of his critics:
Unlike some of Obama’s most vocal detractors, the black rank-and-file have a realistic appreciation of the limits of his authority and the power of the forces arrayed against him, including a large, albeit amorphous, strain of racial resentment. Pained by the economic recession, they refrain from blaming Obama and instead direct their ire at those who not only saddled the first black chief executive with such a harrowing task of cleanup but also obstruct him relentlessly and often with barely disguised contempt.
I can quickly layout a few thoughts that went through my mind as I read Kennedy’s piece:
1) We must not mistake a black agenda for a Harvard University agenda. Similar to what happened when the Obama Administration pushed for the Supreme Court nomination of former Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan (who  had a sad and racist hiring record), there is typically a concerted effort among Harvard faculty (especially black ones) to write commentary unconditionally supportive of President Obama’s policies.  The commentary is designed to convince the black community to blindly support every move made by the Obama Administration, even if the move is not good for them – no black women were seriously considered for the Supreme Court nomination (although the Jewish and Harvard communities have received representation far greater than their proportion in the population), but Kagan was a better choice to shore up other bases that the administration deemed to be important for re-election.  You don’t get much from politicians if they can take your support for granted.
The truth is that much of the Harvard political manipulation seen in media is not designed to empower the black community, but rather, it represents a series of efforts by the elite to protect the political empire of Harvard University.  You’ll notice that every member of the Supreme Court attended law school at either Harvard or Yale (Judge Ginsburg transferred from Harvard to Columbia), and Harvard has also had several alums occupy the presidency in recent decades.  This power is maintained by a series of campaigns structured to manage and manipulate public perception – even when President Obama spoke up two years ago for Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, his administration remained woefully silent during other very clear cases of police brutality, misconduct and even wrongful execution (has anyone in Obama’s camp joined the NAACP, former President Jimmy Carter and former FBI Director Williams Sessions to speak against the scheduled execution of Troy Davis?).
2) Kennedy seems to believe that Obama receiving 90% of the black vote implies that his critics are wrong about how the black American public truly feels. I’m sure Kennedy understands that millions of African Americans are going to support President Obama primarily because they have no other choice.  In a recent Your Black World poll, it was revealed that more than half (56.6 percent) of African American respondents did not approve of the president’s performance before his recent jobs speech.  While the majority of those who saw the speech felt better after hearing it, millions of African Americans are quietly wondering why the advent of the first black president has led to the most serious period of economic suffering in the last 40 years.  This suffering doesn’t apply to everyone – black people have been hit far worse  than others – whites have an unemployment rate of 8.1 percent, which is probably lower than the black unemployment rate will be after the recession is over.
3) Kennedy didn’t cite much data to support his assertions. As Kennedy speculated that Obama critics are politically irrelevant, he was quite selective in how the black American public should be portrayed.   Kennedy’s article didn’t mention black unemployment being the highest that it’s been since 1984.  He didn’t mention the black poverty rate being 27.4% .  He also failed to mention that some of the concern about the Obama Administration is that (until the 2012 campaign began), there was almost no mention whatsoever by the administration of the severity of these problems.  In other words, the black community  has been dying economically, and our political leaders have engaged in an embarrassing degree of selective ignorance.  As a result, white unemployment has improved since the start of the recession, while black unemployment has skyrocketed – this doesn’t happen by mere coincidence.
I don’t consider myself to be an Obama critic.  I’ve praised and defended the administration when they’ve done the right thing.  My article last week about Tavis Smiley clearly shows that I have little patience for anyone who appears to be attacking the president as part of a personal agenda (believe it or not, I respect Smiley immensely.  But I believe his friendship with Hillary Clinton reduces the credibility of his views on Obama).  But when I feel the pulse of the black community through our readers at Your Black World, and also analyze increasingly disappointing data about black economic suffering, there is no way one can see all of this and think that everything is going to be just fine.
You can typically divide black voters into two categories:  Those who’ve been hammered by the recession and those who have not.  I can guarantee you that the recession hasn’t hit many of the black professors at Harvard University, with almost none of them facing joblessness, foreclosure and many of the other issues of concern to working class African Americans.  It is due to the comfortable insulation provided by life in the Ivy Leagues that many are tempted to allow the maintenance of Harvard University power to trump the vital concerns of a struggling community.  While this does not invalidate the remarks of black Harvard University faculty, I can guarantee you that none of them will ever seriously criticize President Obama.
In other words, I encourage voters to make their own decisions and not fall for the hype.  Don’t let your views be managed by others.  YOU are your own greatest black leader, and all politicians must be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin.
Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. For more information, please visit



2 Responses to “Dr. Boyce Watkins; Randall Kennedy, Harvard Professor Defends President Obama.”
  1. Dell Gines says:

    James, I agree. I think if he would have stayed with a focused message he would have a better perception in the eyes of the public.

    Boyce, another good article. Although I am not sure I agree that simply because Smiley is friends with H. Clinton his criticism is marred.

  2. James Davis says:

    This President is champing the wrong issue. There is old African proverb which states, “When elephants fight, the grass suffers.” This President at the behest of his ill informed advisors, has been suckered into an argument with Republicans over taxes, while by the way, the American people who are the grass in this proverb suffer with high unemployment. This President is out making intellectual points about millionaires and billionaires, when he could be about the business of searching for a detailed and specific plan to reduce unemployment. He is participating in a “yippy” discussion of rich vs. poor. Is there anyone in this administration who cares about the man on the street not being able to provide for his family because he does not have a job? Is there?

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