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by Dr. Boyce Watkins
We’re all happy to see President Obama get a second term in office. There is no debating that he was a better option than Mitt Romney, on that we can all agree. But being better than Mitt Romney is a low bar for us to set for our president, since I know a few Burger King employees who could also do a better job. As we get served the kool-aid that most politicians try to see if you’re willing to drink, I encourage us all to remember that the kool-aid is designed to keep you high and drunk. When a pimp keeps a hooker on drugs, he does so because he knows that an employee on dope isn’t going to ask for much and is very easy to manage. The pimp’s biggest fear is that the woman wakes up one day and says, “Why am I working for all the money and you’re keeping it?”
I’m not saying that Barack Obama seeks to be a pimp. But the fact is that most politicians are master manipulators, hoping that you will try to feed your family on empty slogans and symbolism rather than substantive results. The truth is that they are watching and waiting to see if they can buy your loyalty for 10 cents or if you’re going to force them to pay 10 dollars. Most of the time, they’ll pay whatever price you demand. Given that billions of dollars in our hard-earned tax money (as well as your vote) has been given to politicians in Washington to help solve our collective American problems, it’s impossible to say that we’re asking for a handout.
I find it interesting that there are people who say that there is no black agenda and that black leaders never asked Obama to do anything specifically. This is hilarious, since Jesse Jackson, Julianne Malveaux, Tavis Smiley, Cornel West and even I have been citing the same issues since the first day that Obama came into office. The issues are on the table if you’re willing to listen. And, as much as I once had tremendous love for the well-paid black commentators on MSNBC, I wonder how they sleep at night knowing that any rhetoric that contrasts with the messages being handed down by King Obama are going to reduce their ability to pay the mortgage. It’s not as if Al Sharpton meets with President Obama and tells him what to do.
In case you’re not sure if there’s a black agenda because the message has been drowned out by topics like gay marriage and immigration, here’s the list in black and white:
1) Mass incarceration – Black males are seven times more likely to be in prison, especially for drug possession/distribution (even though we don’t use or sell drugs more than whites), breaking down the black family in the process, since fathers and eligible men are behind bars and marginalized.
2) Poverty – 40% of our kids are born into it and black family wealth has plummeted since the start of the 2008 recession. The recovery has come in three stages: Big business first, then whites and finally, people of color. We’re still waiting for our recovery to take place.
3) Black unemployment – Our unemployment rate is twice as high as that of white Americans, and the issue was brought to the president back in 2009. I find it interesting that whites are given an ear when they moan about 7% unemployment, but when blacks speak about 14.3%, we’re told that it’s because “Barack can’t make dem lazy n*ggas wanna work ” (I’ve actually heard this from black people). The truth is that whatever is OK for whites or Hispanics should be OK for African Americans. Anyone who disagrees is a racist, even if you’re black (we’ve been taught for hundreds of years how to hate ourselves).
4) Urban violence – black males are far more likely than others to die from a handgun. This is largely because guns flow so freely in our communities, there are few jobs and the schools are atrocious. These factors form the tenants of racial inequality in America, which every president, of any race, has an obligation to address. Obama is not the first president that has been presented with these issues. Rather, he is the first that has been allowed to ignore them.
This is the agenda that existed when Bush was president, Clinton and Obama. Very little has changed and naysayers can check the record of men like Cornel West and realize that he was speaking on these issues before anyone knew about the word “Internet.” By asking President Obama to support the community that gave him more support than anyone else, we’re not “picking on your baby.” We’re simply helping him to become a better president by forcing his administration to respect black Americans as a viable constituency (go peek at how the gay and Latino communities are handling their business as a significant case-in-point).
Some black people care about these issues, and some are drinking the kool-aid. All kool-aid drinkers, please sit back while the real soldiers go out and do the work.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about College.” To have Dr Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.