Friday, May 24, 2024

African Americans Must Set Clear Expectations for Obama…

June 3, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( In recent times much discussion has spawned regarding President Barack Obama’s general performance throughout his first few months in office. Not only have the President’s acts been measured within this context, but also his works as they relate to the addressing of the concerns of the African American community. While the Obama administration has primarily had to contend with our nation’s economic crisis; some African Americans have still found cause to level criticism towards the President asserting that he has essentially ignored many of the communities’ issues and to some degree the group itself.

In mid April, Obama drew disapproval from African American activists as well as the Congressional Black Caucus, as the White House announced it would not send a delegation to the international conference on racism, in Geneva, Switzerland. Obama’s decision to forgo this event was stated to be predicated on his refusal to involve the United States in any discussions that would potentially inspire anti-Semitism in addressing relations between Israel and Palestine. Obama’s pronouncement was received in some African American quarters as an act of “quasi-treason,” as many members of this group empathize with the plight of the Palestinians in their efforts to overcome oppressive measures imposed upon them by their Israeli neighbors. Additional angst registered within segments of the African American body as sentiments emerged suggesting that Obama’s decision to skip the conference signified his willingness to acquiesce to Jewish interests at the expense of those of other ethnic populations. Further discontent regarding the Obama administration has found its expression, as some Americans of African descent have begun to call the President’s legislative intentions into question.

In late April, a measure featured in Obama’s “Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan,” that would have allowed scores of home owners facing foreclosure (many of whom are African American and where targeted by banking institutions engaged in predatory lending practices) an opportunity to have their mortgage loans adjusted by bankruptcy court judges was rejected by the Senate. Although multitudinal indicators suggested the provision would face defeat days prior to the Senate vote, the White House made little attempt to counter the actions of banking industry lobbyists conscripted to bring about the amendment’s demise. This circumstance prevailed in the face of Obama’s prior proclamations touting his administration’s commitment to the legislation and his desire to bring it into law. While Obama has perhaps made a significant overture towards addressing the interests of the African American community by the appointing of Eric Holder to the position of United States Attorney General, conceivably little else by way of action suggests that his administration is principally intent on working to remedy the societal arrangements that have perpetually hampered African American prosperity. In light of this plausible reality, one question must be asked. What actions must the African American community take to ensure that our nation’s first President of African descent (as well as the political class in general) acknowledges its issues to the extent they become integrated into the national and (where necessary) international agenda?

The answer to this question may be revealed through an analysis of what African Americans have unfortunately failed to do for many years as it relates to “group survival,” within the political construct of our nation. To this end, Americans of African descent have not been able to effectively organize on a national level where by a comprehensive analysis of its social, political and financial condition would be realized. Resultantly, an agenda encompassing a list of prioritized, “African American interests” which political figures would be expected to consider (with the understanding that the African American vote weighs in the balance) has not been crafted. This prevailing circumstance persisted and was further exacerbated during this past Presidential election cycle as the African American public, enamored with the prospect of our nation’s first President of African descent, (as reflected by Obama’s 95% support rating among this group) intentionally sought not to make overt demands upon Obama. This approach was adopted as it was reasoned that such actions would have functioned to provide the foundation by which Obama’s opponents would have been able to portray him as the “Black Candidate,” whose ultimate allegiance was to the group to which he belonged as opposed to that of the larger society, thus potentially alienating the candidate from large portions of the electorate. As a result of this reality, Obama has not had to “make good” on any promises to African Americans, as none were ever made.

The African American community finds itself in a precarious position. While the Obama administration has been and will continue to be confronted with a plethora of problematic occurrences and circumstances, this group must find a way to secure its seat at the table of, “political opportunity.” Although the African American vote served to help propel Obama to our nation’s highest office, efforts in this area were done so without any real expressed contingencies. Americans of African descent as a result, have essentially been left to rely on the will of the Obama administration to contend with the multitude of societal issues that function to constrict their collective advancement in an environment in which, the needs of the many are great, and political capital is at a premium. The African American community may have initially missed its opportunity to concisely specify its expectations of and to Obama and in so doing implicitly exercise its political girth however; it may not be too late to perform this maneuver. If such an evolvement is brought to fruition perhaps the full breadth of “Change” may be experienced within the communities of this population.

Written By Frederick Alexander Meade

Frederick Alexander Meade is an educator and journalist providing analysis on social and political matters. His works have appeared in news magazines and publications around the country. Meade, who lives in Atlanta, GA, can be reached by E-mail at

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