Dr. Boyce: Should Black Americans Expect More from Obama Than Any Other President?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I’ve heard people say that the expectations on Barack Obama are greater from our community than they have been for any other president.  When someone highlights the fact that black unemployment has actually worsened under the Obama Administration while improving within the white community, the quickest reaction I typically hear is “He’s president of all of America, not just black America,” which appears to be an excuse for him not to do anything.  There is no question that President Obama has bigger issues to worry about than us ‘lil old black folks,’ but we seem to become pretty important to the White House around election time.

While one might argue that some black Americans expect more from Obama than any other president, we must also remember that we supported him more than any other president. So, I argue that if we are being asked to expect the same from him that we would anyone else, then we should give him the same support as any other Democrat on election day.  In other words, don’t ask for more if you are not prepared to give more.  Extraordinary benefits and expectations are a double-edged sword.

Has the Obama presidency been good for black America?  It depends on who you ask.  But what I ask, quite simply, is that we focus on tangible results and not symbolism when making our assessment. Singing Al Green songs might seem pretty cool, but it’s not so cool when black Americans are singing the blues in the midst of foreclosure, poverty and unemployment unlike anything we’ve seen in the last 25 years.

I long for the day that the leading reason to support the Democrats in the next election doesn’t simply amount to, “Well, the Republicans are going to be much worse.”  That’s like a woman choosing to work for the pimp who beats her or the one who steals all of her money.  Perhaps she should remove herself from prostitution entirely.

Three years ago, the Obama Administration made it clear that they would not have a targeted policy to deal with racial inequality in wealth or unemployment.  The president said that he believed that “the rising tide will lift all boats,” implying that targeted policy would not be necessary to deal with inequality.  My Finance PhD led me to interpret these words as a racialized-version of trickle-down economics, another failed policy of the Reagan Administration.  The notion that racial inequality will simply “fix itself” is socially lazy, naive and counterproductive.    The same government that played a role in solidifying inequality in our society must also play a part in correcting that inequality – we didn’t get to this place by ourselves.

Well, the facts have made it clear that the “rising tides” policy has been a miserable failure.  Over the last three years, white unemployment has improved, while black unemployment has gotten worse. During the last two months, when the Obama Administration celebrated improved employment numbers for the economy, the fact was that these improvements missed the black community entirely. During the past year, white unemployment has dropped from 8.3% to 7.5%, while black unemployment has risen from 15.2% to 15.8%, more than double that of white Americans.

Supporting a black president is very important.  But the same courage that it takes for us to get out and vote for the president must be returned with courageous policy that reflects the interests of those who support him.  You can’t ask for extraordinary support and then turn around and say, “Hey, I’m just a regular guy.”   Also, avoiding favoritism toward the black community is very different from the abandonment of political responsibility.  There are times when it seems that the administration works so hard to avoid appearing biased that it goes to the other extreme – sort of like when a father hires his son and then treats him worse than everyone else.

At the end of the day, the proof must be in the pudding.  If the numbers on unemployment, foreclosure and wealth inequality show that Obama has done a good job for black Americans, then we should support him.  But if the numbers do not justify his re-election, we should not allow anyone to play the race card to convince us to vote blindly.  In fact, I don’t even blame those who choose to sit out of the election in protest.  Al Sharpton, Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Melissa Harris Perry or other Obama surrogates should not be making the decision for you – taking care of a few select members of the black community is not the same as taking care of the community itself.  We must be sure to vote intelligently.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracusef University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. 



Filed under African Americans

17 responses to “Dr. Boyce: Should Black Americans Expect More from Obama Than Any Other President?

  1. Dr. Christopher Mobley

    Presidents aren’t Kings. It’s just not as if President Obama can issue orders to combat poverty in inner cities or any of the other issues that Dr. Watkins speaks of. Political scientist Richard Neustadt put forth the proposition that one of the central elements of presidential power was “the power to persuade”.
    With this Congress, between a Republican party that defines compromise as “give in to us” and a Democratic party that is split into multiple directions (ex. the moderate to conservative “bipartisan” Democrats too often feed into what the Republicans want by giving in without demanding that Republicans give up anything), and a Supreme Court that is primed and ready to declare laws unconstitutional (watch this spring’s case on health care reform), it is VERY difficult for the President to achieve what he campaigned on in 2008.
    Lastly, the American political system has always been designed to prevent or limit what any President wants. The Founding Fathers designed it for something NOT to happen, or if it does, very slowly and with deliberation. Barack Obama has achieved most of what any Democatic president could have, whether it’s Bill Clinton, Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt, or any other.

  2. Dr. Christopher Mobley

    The last sentence from Dr. Boyce is the most troubling. “Sit out the election in protest”. WHAT? What would that accomplish but guarantee a Republican victory? Would sitting it out get anyone better for what Dr. Boyce prefers? NO WAY. I’m disappointed and expect better advice and analysis than that.

  3. Sharon

    @DrMobley real talk, if we think black america is in trouble now despite Pres Obama’s efforts lets see where we will be if the republicans win? They will reverse everything he did get done and more which will set us back even further. He deserves another term.

  4. BlackBeauty

    “But if the numbers do not justify his re-election, we should not allow anyone to play the race card to convince us to vote blindly. In fact, I don’t even blame those who choose to sit out of the election in protest.”

    Hard to believe that some folks are this stupid!

    We should expect a President who has ALL the people of the United States welfare, and the safty of our country, not just whites, blacks or whom-ever.
    There is no other candidate that will be running against President Obama that is worth too much, and especially for poor, black Americans, or poor other races of people!
    Take a good, hard look at what this President has accomplished, given what he has had to deal with (including blatent racism) since being elected.

    Re-elect OBAMA/BIDEN in 2012~

    Please stop these types of foolish commentaries. I know you are expecting to be asked to comment on various news shows, but stop the crap!

  5. WizardG

    The things we shouldn’t believe, we believe, and vice versa!
    American citizens etc., having been thoroughly lied to, conned, scammed and tricked for ages do not seem to have the logic it takes to understand that the US social system is run by people who consider themselves Kings and rulers over the minions of the unknowing. We have been fed, nourished, inundated, and kept in mental stupor all our lives, In fact we are so swept away by the constant bull crap which controls and fortifies the beliefs and patriotic fantasies of this system that we go on to assure each other and our children just as well, and in doing so, we help the sociopathic ruling class to continue abusing us and ‘our’ world!

    All this to say that you have all been told over and over again that the two party system is set up to both work in tandem, and that the people who are posted up for us to vote for are generally part of this atrocious game played on us. You have ignored these facts and continue to look at the political and governmental structure as if with blinders on!

    Your mind doesn’t question where the candidates for political office etc. come from or why they tend to receive media recognition when most people are unable to. Your mind doesn’t realize that you have not chosen these grifters who are paid handsomely to do the bidding of the secretive “King-Like” elite! Your mind cannot grasp that ‘the people’ are left always trying to stop the elite from overwhelming our lives with their insane machinations, and that we may win a few of the constant battles we are forced to fight, while these elite and their cohorts tend to always find other ways in which to get whatever they want!

    It doesn’t matter who you vote for because the choices have been made for you and they are not good for you and never have been! You are made to think that some of these imposters are your friends and that you have chosen well or failed to get the best choices when in reality you never had a choice, and none of these people are good! Believe it or not! We are caught up in an eternal cycle of brainwashing-mind conditioning fakery, lies, deceit, misinformation, etc, etc. The actual truths are kept secret, and the lies come down like rain upon our already weakened minds! What is worse is that those who try to clear the minds of the populace are shut down by any means necessary! Still, if they were allowed to speak out, many people have minds so distorted that they still wouldn’t get it!

    After reading this many will still believe that voting for Mr. Obama or someone from the other side will actually make a difference! That merely shows just how distorted the consciousness of the populace is!

  6. Dr. Christopher Mobley

    So what’s your point? What do you want? You’re not happy as is clear but what you want isn’t.

  7. Sharon

    If your not apart of the slution you are apart of the problem. Wht do you propose?

  8. Yes not because he is black but because it is time. A nation is as strong as its weakest link.

  9. Dr Boyce you are a F..king fool. Why would I sit out the most important election in my lifetme. President Obama has fought to get this economy back on track against incredible resistance from a Republican minority in Congress. In addition 45% of the populus hate him because he is a Democrat and more importantly he is black. Just consider some of the names the Repubs are caling him “Food stamp” President, radical, elite, arrogant, socialist, etc., etc. Keep your mouth shut! We are out here fighting the good fight against ring wing radical extremism. Re-elect President Obama 2012!

  10. Renelda Moorehead

    Wow! The foregoing posts have been the best I’ve seen., What a titillating
    argument Dr. Boyce presented. It sure got us to posting. As I see it,
    therefore, is not in the black community. And forget poor blacks or any poor. During his 2008 campaign speeches he NEVER (or seldom) MENTIONED THE POOR. HIS hew and cry was about the “working class”,
    or the “middle class.” He never even referred to the working poor. Elitist!!!
    If Obama were a black man, his heart would not allow him (provided he was
    not bought and bossed) not to favor his own people on the most important
    issues. That being said, Again, I will not vote for Obama. Solution:
    1) America needs to found a third party–uncorrupted and uncomprimised.
    2) We need to have a real black American to run for president.
    3) America needs a new and revised Constitution written in the American
    language, by a racially diverse group.
    Until then, it reallydoesn’t matter for whom we vote, or if we vote.

  11. BlackBeauty

    @ Renelda Morehead

    “2) We need to have a real black American to run for president.”

    Please educate the rest of us on who/what is a “real black American”?


  12. Dr. Christiopher Mobley

    1. He’s only a “black President” if he stresses the inner city poor?
    2. Do you think that he could have won in 2008 if this was his central theme?
    3. You think that he’d be able to govern with this as his central theme? He fought tooth and nail for health care reform and that mostly impacts upon whites. The same for the banking and auto industries.
    4. How would you define “real black American”? Even though I fit many of the “profiles” (ex. single parent, first generation college student, etc.), did the Ph.D. mean that I was no longer “a real black American”? So now my citizenship and personhood is denied by Blacks as well as prejudiced whites? I’m now in a “two-front war”?

    I’d just say it’s highly unlikely that he could have won with “the inner city poor” as his central campaign theme and his presidency would be dead in the water if this was his central governing theme.

  13. Kit

    Sounds like some of the posters are for Obama out of symbolism. But what good is sybolism doing us? I am a Black independent conservative, I wanted to support Obama, but he lost my support the first go around. I was furious how he treated us while campaigning. He was always made sure that whites were behind him when he spoke on TV. He did not go in very many black communities and campaign. He took our vote for granted even more so than any other Democrat politician. He knew we would vote for him because he’s black. Since in office what has he done? He sent his surrogate out in Al Sharpton, Donna Brassil, and others to hush us, “He’s not just the president of black Americans….” And we shut up and gave him a pass. Then he stood in front of a black caucus and told us to “Shut up and stop whining.” Now he has his cronies out again, he’ll visit a couple of black communites to appear cool and that he’s a brother. He’ll dupe us again because we are so gullable. He’s just like all the rest of the white liberal Democrats who have taken the black vote for granted for years without any effort at all.

    What’s funny is the next white president we get and demand that he come up with a ‘black agenda’, that president will be able to say, “I’m not just the president of Black Americans,….. and “The tide lifts all boats.”

    This business about everything will be turned back or be worse with Republicans is a bunch of foolishness. The Democrat party is the reason why we had to have a Civil Rights Movement in the first place. The Democrat Party was the Jim Crow laws, the KKK, and other racist codes that spurred the Civil Rights. If it wasn’t for the Republicans, there would not have been a 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment to U.S. constitution. Yes, those were introduced, sponsored, and passed by Republican controlled House and Senate, and was vehemently rejected by all Dems. Even the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Act wouldn’t have passed without over 80% of the Republican vote; the majority of Democrats voted against it. The majority of blacks need to check the history concerning both parties as it relates to blacks, and also current voting records of all these Democrat polititians you all hold in high regard; the Library of Congress has great records and they are online. I said all that to say this, I am tired of Democrats smelling like a rose to Black Americans, especially when they are the large part of the condition we are in. We have voted for them them the last 40 years, and we are still dead last in just about every economic category there is. What are the Democrats doing for our people that is so great? I can’t see it, that ‘s why I refuse to blindly give them my vote like a good little…… We are the only ethnic group that votes for one party, that foolishness has got to stop. I hope one day, and prayerfully this election, that we are better served if we have representation in both parties. We should put ourselves in the positions that both parties fight for our vote, black polititians included; especially Barak Oboma. That’s what every other ethnic group in the U.S. does, that’s why they are in better position than we are. Don’t be gullable enough to believe that racist are in both parties; except the Democrats probably laugh us to scorn about how easy it is to get us to vote for them. We need to stop letting the media influence us also, and do some research on all candidates so that we can make an informed decision, not a blind one. I refuse to believe that the Civil Right marchers and participates did not march, fired-hosed, bitten by dogs, jailed, and killed for me to only vote for one party. They were fighting for my freedom.

    As for Oboma, the article above, his economic policies are two of the reason I won’t support him. The third is his social policies; everything he has done go against biblical order. I have watched a little more than most and this president has past more policies that take away from religious freedoms than any other president in history. I can’t imagine what another four years of damage he could exact on freedom of religion. The majority of black probably testify that God is the head of their lives, but support black polititians whose policies go against the very Word of God. As for me. I will never put my race before my faith. Many will disagree with my stance, but I will stand nonetheless. It is what it is!

  14. Kit

    Oh, and in case someone says that it’s the Republicans fault that things aren’t better for black economically; the Democrats controlled the House all but 6 of the last 41 years. They couldv’e done what they needed to for blacks if they were serious. All of 2009, 2010 they had control of the presidency, the house, and the senate and what got done economically? They could have passed any type of legislation they wanted to, the votes of “no” from the Republicans didn’t matter because they were outnumbered period.

  15. Dr. Christopher Mobley

    You’ve said a lot and nothing at the same time. What’s your point?

  16. Kit

    Unfornunately, you’ve asked that question to other posters. I’ve said a whole lot, but it won’t penetrate a mind that is enslaved. My prayer is that you join the real world someday, and stop thinking nobody’s right but you; your world will be awful only. We all are entitled to our pursuit of happiness, so if blasting and attempting to insult someone because they don’t hold the same views with you, than go ahead with it. Eventually you’ll find out that you don’t matter to people like you think you do.

  17. Dr. Christopher Mobley

    You’re assuming majority vote, when it’s not that simple. Many votes require “super-majorities” (60+), which the Democrats didn’t have in 2009-10. The second assumption was that Democrats vote together. Again, not the case with the moderate-conservatives “bipartisan, compromise” persuasion. The Republicans are much more lethal in sticking together and voting as a bloc, counting on the Democrats’ not doing so.

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