Thursday, September 29, 2011

What Has Obama Done For Black People?

Not much, except facilitate the worsening of their condition. Amidst arresting levels of Black unemployment (official figures indicate 16.7% unemployment, with figures tree times that for Black youth) and massive losses of hard-earned wealth due to the foreclosure crisis, it is clear that Black people are being forced to endure the hard edge of this recession in a particularly intense way. Yet, Obama and the Democrats have done nothing about the problem. In fact, they've made it worse by pushing through austerity. And let's not forget that the Federal Government is threatening to eliminate over 120,000 U.S. Post Office jobs, many of which are held by people of color.

Of course, when ailing financial elites needed liquidity, the Democrats --and the Obama Administration in particular-- wasted no time throwing money at the problem. But when it comes to the social and economic suffering of working people, and of working people of color in particular, we're not just told by Obama and friends that there's no money to solve the problem. We're told that working people must actually give up more, sacrifice more of their meager earnings, and ultimately accept an even lower standard of living. The priorities of the Democratic machine, in this case, are crystal clear.

As the article points out, on a Midwest tour to plug his jobs plan Obama refused to stop in Chicago, Cleveland or Detroit (where there are large Black communities where unemployment is soaring). As Maxine Waters describes it, "The unemployment is unconscionable. We don't know what the strategy is. We don't know why on this trip that he's on in the United States now, he's not in any Black community. We don't know that." I know why. If I wasn't planning to do anything about the economic suffering of millions of people in Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit, I wouldn't want to stop there either.

Still, apologists for Obama are firing back in an effort to resist any and all criticism from the Left. In an effort to silence critics (especially critics on the Black Left), two prominent strategies seem to have emerged. The first is to collapse left-wing criticisms into those of the reactionary racist right. The move is to paint critics who are calling for an end to the wars and a massive increase in spending aimed at ameliorating the economic suffering of Black people (e.g. Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, among others), with the same brush as Republican reactionaries who are openly racist in their condemnation of Obama. That is slanderous and dishonest. To be sure, there probably are some white liberals who apologized for Clinton but refuse to do the same for Obama because he is Black. And they deserve to be called out for this (racist) double standard. But here's what I say to this. First, it simply doesn't follow from the fact that some liberals have racist double standards that all criticisms of Obama, particularly those from the real Left, are invalid. Second, I reject the inference that because some white liberals refused to criticize Clinton, we should therefore refuse to criticize Obama. That's flatly absurd; let's not endorse tepid liberal apologetics for any U.S. President, Clinton or Obama. Apologetics of this sort are inherently conservative; they give the status quo a veneer of legitimacy that it does not deserve.

The second strategy for silencing criticism, already made famous by the likes of Bill Fletcher Jr., is to deflect all criticism of Obama and the Democrats onto the mistakes of "progressives". In other words, rather than hold the president accountable or demand that he live up to his promises, we should instead place all the blame on "progressives" for not doing anything to make it happen. In short, instead of criticizing power, we should save all our criticism of those who are oppressed by it.

What an excellent strategy! I must say, this really gets me pumped to go out and vote Democrat. I mean, if the Dems do really well in 2012 maybe we can get that elusive super-majority in the Senate, and take back the House, and then things will really start happening! Anyone who thinks we can do better must be an unrealistic cynic.

1 comment:

JM said...

Aw, I've liked Coates' writing in the past. It sucks he's gotten all angsty about Obama being criticized.