Saturday, June 19, 2021

President Obama: “I am not the President of Black America”

August 7, 2012 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

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( During a recent interview with Black Enterprise, President Barack Obama was asked about some of the criticism he’s received for allegedly not doing enough to support black businesses.  In response to the question, the president had this to say:

“My general view has been consistent throughout, which is that I want all businesses to succeed. I want all Americans to have opportunity. I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of the United States of America, but the programs that we have put in place have been directed at those folks who are least able to get financing through conventional means, who have been in the past locked out of opportunities that were available to everybody. So, I’ll put my track record up against anybody in terms of us putting in place broad-based programs that ultimately had a huge benefit for African American businesses.”

The president’s remarks reflect a consistent perception that there are members of the African American community who expect too much of the Obama Administration.  The portrayal is that they are demanding that Obama re-paint the White House black and put a picture of Malcolm X on the front door.  The president is absolutely correct that he has to be sure to serve all of his constituents, not just the black ones.  That point has been duly noted and consistently reiterated by both the Obama Administration and all of its surrogates in the African American community.

The concern about the president’s remarks is that he has actually forgotten one undeniable truth:  Mr. Obama, you ARE the president of black America, in addition to being the president of white America, Jewish America,  Gay/Lesbian America and all the other groups that came together to form the melting pot that broke their backs to put you into office.  The “I am not just here for black folks” defense certainly excludes you from having to spend a disproportionate amount of time looking out for black interests, but it does not exclude you from the responsibility to treat the black community with the same degree of legitimacy as every other group that is being consistently patronized by the White House.

If I own a restaurant and my own family comes through the door, I can’t simply say “I’m not just here to serve you” and then leave them without any food.  This is especially true if my relatives loaned me 20% of the money I needed to buy the restaurant in the first place.  Instead, I should make sure they are taken care of like the other patrons, and then tend to the rest of my job.   By refusing to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus for years at a time, and speaking specifically to almost none of the issues plaguing black America (i.e. mass incarceration, urban violence and unemployment inequality), it’s easy to argue that the Obama Administration has gone too far in taking the black vote for granted.

We’ve all seen this before:  A teacher has her child in class and treats her worse than the other children, or the football coach who mistreats and humiliates his son in front of the other athletes.  All of us are tempted to substitute preferential treatment for abusive treatment.  And when one considers the fact that black quality of life has worsened over the last four years, while simultaneously improving for whites, it’s hard not to argue that the Obama administration has pandered to conservative (and racist) white Americans by showing how far it can go in ignoring African American interests.

So yes, Mr. President, you ARE the president of black America.  The same inconvenience being hoisted onto your administration when we ask for targeted (not coincidental) action is no less than the inconvenience being thrust onto the black community when people are asked to take off work to show up to the polls. One favor deserves another, and it is disappointing to see a presidency predicated on the idea that black Americans are their employees.

Anyone who compares transcripts of President Obama speeches to black Americans vs. speeches to other constituencies notices that the tone tends to become a bit condescending, non-committal and even disrespectful when black people are being addressed (as we were once told to “stop complaining, take off our bedroom slippers and put on our marching boots” – something that would never be said to gay people or women’s groups).  If anyone can prove me wrong on that point, please do so.

The modified rhetoric is not by accident, since the white guys working with President Obama in the White House know that black people can be swayed more easily by style over substance.  Also, it’s easy to interpret standard black political advocacy as stereotypical whining and complaining of welfare recipients (we are the only group with a collection of media Nazis telling all Obama critics to be quiet).  Even Mitt Romney leaned on stereotypes when he said that NAACP members booed him because they wanted “free stuff.”   But when white folks show up at the White House door and demand action for the issues that matter most to them, they are simply utilizing their democratic voice.   That, my friends, is White Supremacy 101, and you don’t have to be a racist to use it to your advantage.

If the respect shown to black Americans does not match that which is shown to the gay community, Hispanic community and other demographics, then the Obama Administration has fallen woefully short in its duty to America.  The president has stood strong for marriage equality for gay Americans, so I’m sure he’ll understand those of us who stand up for political equality for African Americans.  If the action and rhetoric is not equally respectful across the board, then it is entirely unacceptable.   There are no two ways about it.

The saddest thing about the experience of the black political orphans in America is that when you ask them why they support the Obama Administration, a large majority of them can only say “they’re better than the Republicans.”  That’s like a wife saying “I’ll never divorce my husband because he’s better than the man who used to beat me.”  Perhaps a more meaningful endorsement from his wife could be “I won’t ever leave my husband because I am absolutely sure he loves me.”  Even the most ardent Obama supporter can’t make such a claim.

The very same broken, two party political system that the Obama Administration complains about is the one that’s keeping them in power.   The black vote is held hostage with fear of a Republican presidency, not hope for a better future.  Rather than being able to point to any evidence that black quality of life has improved over the last four years, they simply win the black vote by default.  There  is not much to celebrate about that and more should be expected from any politician who asks us for so much.

Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. For more information, please visit


15 Responses to “President Obama: “I am not the President of Black America””
  1. Chris says:

    It baffles my mind that you people are dilusional enough to think he (the President) would espouse rhetoric totally supporting African Americans. What you want him to be a one term President also??? The support of College students and the loans needed for higher education, the bank bail out, the automobile bail out, Health care…. Need I go on??? Get a life and support the President. You by implication would be suggesting that a (Black Veteran) receive preference in his disability application. Come on, we as Americans have to fight (white) americans as they are the ultimate decision makers. It is naïve and ludicrous to write this article and quite frankly shame on you. Smh

  2. Steph says:

    Our people who think that most Whites are on our side are reaaaaally naive. We have 2% of their wealth and we built this country for free.

  3. tony says:

    as a black conservative as well i am apppalled by this article to imply that obama isnt spending enough time on black issues is not only ingnorant but also a bloated sense of entitlement, and to imply that all white conservatives are racist is a bogus flatout lie. First off obama is the presdent of the united states and is his duty to adress the needs of all americans just not a certain group of people. also not all conservatives are racist in fact the republican party have done alot more for black people than democrats ever had all the democrats did was give us welfare which is another type of slavery. so i suggest you do some research before publishing ingornant lies.

  4. Steph says:

    Historically, it never has been encouraged that we operate together because they know how strong we could be and they are scared of that. Nobody will complain to see only Asian employees in an Asian restaurant for instance. People won’t question it and they will think it is normal. Same thing with the Jews, etc. We are the only one who believe that lie at our expense.

  5. KNM says:

    Honestly if you look at their voting records, Romney and Obama are very similar on a lot of key issues. Mind you, Romney will never be president, but that isn’t because Obama is great.

    Vote for who you want because in the end it doesn’t really matter too much this year.

  6. christian says:

    I think some of the comments are from the conservatives pretending to be liberal
    They are trying to confuse people not to vote for Obama. If you vote Romney, its the beginning of poverty for all working class. As at now we are spending too much on grocery and gas. when Romney put his taxes on our income then we know we are done for. Am sure we are not expecting Obama to help small business apply for loan or any other help that is out there. There is no time any president will come out and say I make this specially for so so group. E
    We should follow the trend of tings and take advantage of the programs available. Give your vote for Obama. An evil known is better than an evil not known. Ask NJ people, see what Chris is doing to them.

  7. Jazzie says:

    I can only speak for me: MY LIFE, MY MONEY, and MY SITUATIONS have improved over the last 4 years! Is that because of the POTUS?! Perhaps some of it may be. But I would say MOST of it is because I have taken steps to broaden my reach professionally & personally. In other words, I got my DREAM HUSTLE on! I agree with many points in this article and fully respect Dr. Watkins’ approach and position. I will say, however, that regardless of who the president is, each of us has a responsibility to SCRATCH & HUSTLE for him/herself. That part of the deal WILL NOT CHANGE no matter who gets elected.

  8. David says:

    First off Mike, what you’re not understanding is that there are Blacks who truly work hard in what they do to make better changes for themselves and their communities. They’re not just sitting down and complaining depending solely on welfare or a helping hand. Yet when it comes to resources, they want to vote for leaders who can serve the needs or “fill in the blanks” to better things that may be lacking in the Black community. We have to remember that Blacks have labored and worked harder in this country than anybody else and on top of that with NO PAY! So no, we’re not using the whole 400 years slave labor with no pay as a crutch or as an excuse to sit and lay back and expect Obama to give us what we want. We still work hard but yet the ACKNOWLEDGEMENT and DISADVANTAGES of our long labor and hardships is too much at times put to the wayside over other struggles that came after Black struggles like Women’s Suffrage, gay/lesbian rights, etc who PIGGYBACKED off of the Black Civil Right Struggle. We were discriminated before anybody else. We fought for Civil Rights before anybody else. Blacks set the foundation yet our foundation has been deliberately skewed to protect the needs of others whose civil rights struggles wouldn’t have come to be if it weren’t for the foundations that Black Americans and that’s something that the President has to acknowledge.

    The Double Standards of saying “Obama is not just the President of Black America but of all America” when most of this country’s history, all of the US presidents who were White represented “WHITE INTERESTS” at the end of the day but they never say “I’m not the President of White America but of all America” unless to swoon Black votes has to STOP! Before Obama, American interests has for the most part and if not for MOST OF THIS COUNTRY’S HISTORY always been SYNONYMOUS to WHITE/ANGLO SAXON/EUROPEAN INTERESTS, not the interest of the whole AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHIC.

    So what’s the CHANGE that Obama is bragging about? Most people would subconsciously think but many may not acknowledge openly that the CHANGE is that of the President’s RACIAL IMAGE, that it was a time for change from the old WHITE/ANGLO SAXON CHRISTIAN MALE image and background. Other than that, that’s the only change that I see. Seems to represent the same interests as the last 43 Presidents regardless of party affiliations because at the end of the day, they worked for the same interests, and that is the CORPORATE ELITE!

  9. KNM says:

    Sorry I had to amend my statement since apparently it was cut off.

    Conservative is not equal to racist. Republican is not equal to racist. I am both a black conservative and a black republican and I love my people more than the liberal left can imagine.

  10. James Davis says:

    Thank You For Writing This Article – We Need More Like It!

    Let us hope this is the beginning of an objective look at Mr. Obama and his policies with respect to black communities. More black intellectuals like yourself need to lay objective arguments before the Obama Administration, in real time and numbers in regard their lukewarm response to the dire black economic situation. Of great concern to me personally and has been for the last few years is the double digit unemployment rate among black men for almost five straight years. It is painful to see that number escalating again with the last unemployment report to 14.8%. I live in a black community and I see first hand the misery, the lost enthusiasm, the poverty, and in some instance the shameful questioning of young black men when it comes to their manhood. Many internalize their inability not to find decent work and the inability of not being able to provide for their children. We can all see superficially what is going in our communities because it is hard not to miss for anyone who opens their eyes. However, this President has done deeper and greater harm in terms of compromising our normal defenses that we have come to depend upon as a race when faced with these kinds of challenges. Our civil rights organizations and indeed the Black Caucus have been compromised. These interest groups are our first responders, criticizing government policy when it works against our best interest. This President and his Administration have co-opted those who willingly sold out at the first tier level. The Administration has caused confusion of among many who normally would speak out and have in some instances silenced those who have been unwilling to cooperate. This is where some real damage has been done to our race. We must be men and women of some integrity and call a spade a spade, when it comes to this President. We must and shall demand he address, high unemployment as the number one economic issue of our community. If necessary, we should at every gathering, at every opportunity, ask with great focus and intensity, “Mr. Obama, Where is your National Job Creation Plan.” Show it to us! Articulate it! Write it down! By the way, those who think the American Jobs Act was a job creation plan, you are absolutely wrong! It was no more than an expansion of the federal payroll, as the federal government would have paid the salaries of the teachers, firemen, policemen and construction workers. The federal government cannot begin to hire the millions of brothers and sisters who are out of work. It is not just thousands who are unemployed, it is millions! We must not retreat in this demand, as almost every measurement of progress in the black community is flashing RED!

  11. clyde says:

    Obama has been a disappointment.

  12. I think someone should do a serious check on what the President has done for the Black community so we can stop all this back and forth with him about whether he is really doing something for the Black community. Helping the poor and small business in general does help us. I agree he does talk to us in a different way then he talks to other groups. This is because he knows he has our vote, which is what the Democratic Party has been doing forever. I don’t think voting for a republican is the answer. KNM makes a great point. We need to get our economy in the community together so we don’t have to rely on the crumbs we get from the democrats. If we had a strong economic base, we could do what the wealthy do and buy the control we need to help our community. But our internal problems continue to stop us from making progress as a group.

    Black Unity means financial independence and happiness

  13. KNM says:

    First off conservative racist. Republican racist. Just thought I throw that out there.

    Second off, maybe the solution is to stop looking for the government to fix our problems. Maybe if we did come together and stop letting liberal democrats pimp us during election seasons we could move “forward” as a race. The fact of the matter is Obama has been a disappointment. I voted for him in 2008 and he practically drove me to vote for Ron Paul this primary season. We (as a race) need to fix our own problems and become more unified. The reason why other “minority” groups are getting pandered to is because they have a unified voice. We need to do the same. And I don’t mean through the democratic party, the NAACP, Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.

  14. Meesh says:

    Lol @ Mike..

  15. mike says:

    This article is not fair. You know exactly what the president is speaking about when he says he’s not the president of black America. And he isn’t. Some people kill me thinking that just because we have a black president that we don’t have to bust our ass like everybody else in the country. Give the man a break. Or, vote for Mitt Romney and see how much he does for your black ass, lol.

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