Does President Obama Owe Black America?
With a second presidency under his belt, some Afrikan-Americans believe Barack Obama owes his re-election to them, rather than his own merit. With about 16 million registered Afrikan-American voters, and roughly 93
percent of them voting Democratic, does he really owe the Presidency to blacks?
Back in 2008, when Obama first got elected, I was the first one jokingly saying, “Now, give me my 40 acres and a mule !” As a sixteen-year-old, non-registered voter at the time, I did not have the right to be peaking on reparations. While I no longer feel this way, it seems some Black Panther leaders do. According the New Black Panther Party Chairman, Malik Zulu Shabazz, the Panthers “delivered” Obama into office and Obama “owes” the Black Panthers “some favors.”
Along with those great radical leaders of the New Black Panther Party is Ricky Donnell Ross, better known as Freeway Rick Ross, a former drug lord who feels the same. With his ears to the street, Ross says that Obama “energized the streets to take part in politics, leading gang members, drug dealers, and hip-hop stars to turn out at the polls.” With such a great turn out, Ross wants to see more action from Obama for Afrikan-Americans in his second term.
Black America deserves to be a primary focus in this term with targeted social and economic programs in their communities, though this is not to say the President should solely focus on Afrikan-Americans. Gary Younge of the Guardian newspaper shares similar sentiment saying, ” Obama should do more for black people – not because he is black but because black people are the citizens suffering most. Black people have every right to make demands on Obama – not because they’re black but because they gave him a greater percentage of their votes than any other group, and he owes his presidency to them. Like any president, he should be constantly pressured to put the issue of racial injustice front and center and if black people aren’t going to apply that pressure then nobody else will.”
Afrikan-Americans are not the only minority group staking their claim in Obama’s win. There are many Latinos who say their votes put Obama over the top. More than 70 percent of the Hispanic population voted Democratic in this election. With more than 93 and 71 percent
support of groups that occupy 13 and 16 percent of Amerikkka respectively, I’m not so sure Barack Obama owes us anything. Sure 16 million Afrikan-Americans and 12 million Hispanics voted for Obama, but 28 million does not equal the 60 million total votes he received.
President Obama made a staggeringly accurate prediction during the presidential race saying, “Should I win a second term…a big reason I will win a second term is, because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.” Many voters, in the Latino Decisions poll, said the critical concerns in this election were the economy and jobs. 35 percent of these voters specified immigration reform as their main concern. Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, said Latino voters had a message for Obama, “We expect leadership on comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. To both sides we say, ‘No more excuses.’”
Instead of looking for what Obama can do for us, we should also be asking what can we, as Americans do for him? Being first at anything is difficult. Though we sarcastically say Bill Clinton was our first black President, Barack Obama is our actual first Black President, who faces immense pressure on a regular basis. Being first, carries the weight of everyone before it. Obama is shouldering the aspirations and dreams of all of our ancestors, who fought and died for us. Not only that, he took on the remnants of the Bush Administration, which left the economy in the worst state since the Great Depression of 1929. More than 800,000 jobs were lost during his presidency.
During Obama’s first year as President, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act generated and stabilized 2.1 million jobs, boosting the economy by 3.5 percent. Also, in the 2008-09 academic year, Pell Grant consumption was about $18 billion; in 2011-12, Obama doubled it to $36 billion. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the Pell Grant Program provides need-based financial aid to college students.
With Obama saying recently that “we need to seize the moment” and tackle the issue of immigration, he is taking his second term with full force.
With Afrikan-American undergraduate enrollment percentages rising to 14 percent and Latino undergraduate enrollment rising to 13 percent in 2010, as well as Afrikan-American unemployment falling 1.4 percent and .7 percent for Latinos from August to September, I think we may owe Obama something.
So, you can keep your 40 acres and a mule, I’ll take my second four years of the presidential workhorse.