President Obama’s Web Portal for African Americans: Questions I’d Like to Have Answered
President Barack Obama just opened a new web portal for African Americans. The page drops to significant fanfare, with some feeling less than perfectly optimistic about the White House’s most recent gesture. The most interesting comment came from someone named Slim Jackson, who tweeted: "Can’t help you in real life, so here’s a page."
The site is likely in response to the fact that President Obama’s support among African Americans has been slipping. A recent poll at YourBlackWorld.com shows that roughly a third (34%) of black respondents are disappointed in the Obama presidency, which is likely reason for concern for the president. Black disappointment doesn’t necessarily give votes to the Republicans, but it can manifest itself in poor voter turnout. The argument that “the Republicans are worse than I am” is not likely going to be enough to get black folks out to the polls next year, so perhaps the administration would be wise to take notice.
As the president reaches out to the black community, I’d like to have a few questions answered by this web portal. I’m not entirely pessimistic about the administration’s efforts, but I’ll admit that creating a website is not exactly what I had in mind when it came to doing the things that our community needs our political leaders to do. Advocating for black voters (who gave Obama roughly 20% of his support) goes deeper than giving speeches to black people or dancing to Motown music in the White House. It speaks to asking what the administration is doing in terms of substantive policy that will truly impact the lives of black folks everywhere. I’ll keep it light-weight and just start with a few quick questions I’d like to ask the White House about their new website:
1) Given that African Americans are disproportionately incarcerated, although we don’t commit more crimes than whites, what’s the Obama Administration doing to deal with the mass incarceration epidemic that is destroying black families?
2) A recent Your Black World survey showed that nearly 90% of African Americans have dealt with racial discrimination in the workplace. What’s the administration doing to help put laws in place that will protect people of color from enduring such hardships?
3) Black unemployment is going up, while white unemployment has been going down. Is the administration committed to dealing with this disparity in a way that acknowledges that the white and black job markets are not quite the same? The “rising tide lifts all boats” answer from last year may not be the best response.
There are other things I’d like to ask the president, but I’ll hold off for now. The point is that anyone can create a website, anyone can do a speech and anyone can dance to Motown. What the black community needs is to hear about substantive and meaningful policy that addresses our disparities in the same way they are being addressed for the gay community, Hispanics and women. Anything less is just the same old political song and dance.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.