In 2015 The Telegraph published an article stating “Obama has done nothing for Black People”. Which is a lie!
It was shared by Black people who were expecting some sort of reparations day or a white slave with Obama’s election victory[RIP Patrice O’Neil]. Along with, being shared by the White people who support Trump and those who think Black people only support Obama for one reason; because he is Black.
Actually, maybe it is too simple to make such a sweeping generalization about all of those who support this incorrect narrative. But, it is also too simple to say Obama has done nothing for Black People. If we do proper analysis this statement doesn’t hold up to scrutiny or take into account the difficult political climate Obama was elected into.
In short, President Obama has done a lot for Black people. If Black consciousness could have been measured at the moment Obama election win was announced, it would have shown a people proud, jubilant, hopeful and full of belief. Whatever President Obama achieved after that, could not have taken away from the special moment that America had its First Black President. But as Dr Eric Dyson stated Obama being black probably limited his ability to do everything that some Black people may have wished for. But, have those people forgotten racism still exists?
As I stated in another article the racism Obama has faced has been on unprecedented levels. From calls for his birth certificate to be released, plots to assassinate him, assertions that he was a Muslim, Socialist, Anti-Christ, Un-American, immigrant and that Michelle Obama was a man. Even his two beautiful daughters were not even allowed to be out the firing line of ignorance. These attacks did not just come from random anonymous cowards on social media. But, more poignantly from journalists, news channels, public figures and other politicians. Despite all of that he still manages to handle his business!
Therefore, as we look upon President Obama’s legacy we must look at the statistics of what he has accomplished, the impact and the future he will leave behind. All through the lens of context and reality; not fantasy and shortsightedness.
The fallacy in this article and the argument that Obama failed Black people is founded upon people not acknowledging that Barack Obama is the President Of The United States; not the President Of Black People.
Even if every single Black person voted for him that would only equate to 13% of the USA population ie not enough to be elected. President Obama was elected by people of all races and demographics; just like any other president. Therefore, his policies reflect that. But more than any other president he has attempted to speak up, speak out and act upon the needs of Black people. All despite facing overwhelming objections and challenges.
For instance, Congress has 535 voting members: 435 Representatives and 100 Senators. Of that 46 Congressmen are Black. If as some people want Barack Obama had tried to give Black people reparations he would have been shot down; figuratively and maybe even literally.
Obama had a hard time establishing ObamaCare. A policy which benefits people of all races. Do you really think the other Congressman would have made it easy for him to implement some of the hopeful policies and wishes people demand?
Yet, despite those challenges President Obama has many accomplishments as 44th President and as the First Black president.
As The President, Obama has brought America out of the recession, lowered unemployment, lowered Gas Price, Killed Osama Bin Laden, restored the auto industry, brought reforms to Wall Street, reformed Student Loans, legalized Gay marriage, restored relations with Cuba and provided health care to far more people.
It is literally a joke how little credit President Obama gets from some black and white people. Here’s TV host and comedian Bill Maher listing his achievements compared to former President George W Bush.
- Unemployment went from 7.2 percent to 5.1 percent.
- Gas prices went from $3.24 to $2.31.
- Percentage of uninsured went from 15 percent to 9.2 percent.
- Oil imports went from 11 million barrels per day to 4.5 million.
- Teen’s pregnancy went from 40.2 births per thousand to 26.5.
- Iran went from 19,000 centrifuges to under 6,000.
- GDP growth went up from -.3 percent to 3.7 percent.
- The Dow Jones average went from 10,365 to 16,000.
- High School Dropout rates are at an all-time low
So what has Obama done specifically for Black people?
Let us not forget that Black people drive cars, that there are Black teenage girls, Black students, Black homosexuals, Black people released from jail for low-level drug offences, there were Black people who were unemployed and now aren’t and there were many Black people without health insurance who now have it. Point being, a lot of the ‘American’ policy and reforms help Black people as well.
I will list just how much President Obama has been doing for Black people. A list that hasn’t got enough space to mention all of the great work Michelle Obama does for Black girls, Women and people in general.
Restoring Economic Security
According to the White House, American businesses have added over 14 million jobs. This job growth has helped cut the African-American unemployment rate in half – from 16.8% in March 2010 to 8.3% in December 2015, its lowest level since September 2007. The African-American unemployment rate has fallen by more than the overall unemployment rate in the past few years, and is further below its pre-recession level than any other racial or ethnic group.
Awarded $1.2 Billion To Black Farmers
President Obama’s administration oversaw a $1.2 billion settlement awarded to Black farmers. Those of whom were denied loans and assistance by the Agricultural Dept. for decades.
In 2012, President Obama signed an executive order increasing funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to $850 million over the next 10 years.
However, some have criticized Obama’s speeches to Black students and people. Saying they are more like lectures that demand us to be better fathers and use fewer excuses for some of our lack of achievements. But why are we complaining about Obama speaking the truth? If a shining example of just how much we can achieve cannot tell us some home truths, then who can? There are many Black fathers handling their business but there are also too many who are not. As Chris Rock says why are we looking to praise the father simply doing what they are supposed to be doing.
“I take care of my kids; YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO!” Chris Rock
We need to talk to those men who aren’t handling their business as fathers.
Although, Obama has increasingly found time to empower black students. In his latest speech at Howard University Obama called for students to “be confident in your blackness”. A good leader tells you what you need to hear not what you want to hear!
Signed The Crack Cocaine Bill (Fair Sentencing Act)
Previously, the sentencing for drugs has always been unjust and unequal. Crack users are disproportionately sentenced to longer jail terms than those who use the powder form. Such, unfair sentencing practice punished Black people more severely than their white people. With the signing of the Fair Sentencing Act, though, President Obama narrowed that disparity significantly. Along with releasing 6000 people from jail for low-level drug crimes.
Graduation rates are up
“I believe the children are the future; teach them well and let them lead the way” Whitney Houston. Graduation rates for Black students increased by nearly four percentage points from 67 percent to 70.7 percent. There are many Black Charter schools with 100% graduation. Whether this is policy or simply ‘The Obama effect’ is debatable. However, it still happened during Obama’s era of being president.
The Obama effect could have worked two ways:
- The first Black President may have inspired young African Americans to work harder on their education to one day reach similar success or break similar glass ceilings.
- The first Black President may have taught teachers to push their African American students more. If Barack Obama can be President surely so can any of African American child. Therefore, each teacher must give them that kind of belief and expect that level of ambition and ability from their children. In short, his election may have raised the expectations and belief some teachers had in their African American students.
No matter the reason, a better-educated community is a very good occurrence.
Recently, NBA fans would have seen the advert with Obama and Stephen Curry. Well, Obama launch My Brother’s Keeper in 2014 to specifically target improving the lives of young Black males. The initiative is encouraging nonprofits to raise $200 million in five years for programs focused on young men of color. However, in the first 2-years it has raised over 1 Billion for Black and Brown boys.
“It’s incumbent on all of us as Americans …that we recognise that this is an American problem and not just a Black problem. It is an American problem when anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law.” President Obama.
However, Obama was not all talk- he invited Black activists to the White House and asked them to be involved in the process of reforming the police. This has led to body cameras being introduced and called for Federal investigations into many Police Forces from Albuquerque, Chicago to Ferguson.
In Britain, we can attest to just how long it took the Stephen Lawrence Enquiry to implement changes into the police force. It took longer than 8 years and Britain is nowhere near the size of America or suffering from its high gun crime rate. Blaming Obama for police shootings or Black homicide rate is ridiculous. If a person thought one man was going to change a system of racism and violence in 8 years then they were always destined to be disappointed.
Obama is cool. Now, being cool doesn’t exactly physically help Black people. But in a way it helps to fight the stereotype that working hard, doing your best in school and being a family man isn’t ‘cool’. Many Black people face having their ‘blackness’ questioned for not living up to negative stereotypes, speaking eloquently, dressing formerly, doing activities or enjoying things that aren’t always synonymous with Black culture. Obama expanded what it means to be ‘cool and Black’.
Obama is obviously academic, professional but can also sing, do stand-up comedy, play basketball and still listens to Hip Hop. Obama has all the traits of a statesman but can also ‘keeps it real’. Obama knows exactly what he means to people; especially to black people. You can see the joy and the magnitude of the moment each time a Black person meets him. This Funny Key and Peele Sketch embodies the love Obama shows Black people
One of the biggest impacts Obama has had on Black people and all people is Hope. Yes We Can! In truth, this surge of hope has been both positive and negative. As Red says, in The Shawshank Redemption “Hope is a dangerous thing”.
At first the Yes we Can movement meant to some that ‘if WE vote for Obama then we can sit and let him save the day’. The optimism was so high that people forgot Obama was Black, institutional racism was alive and well and that it would be extraordinary for one man to dramatically change the lives of a whole nation of people. For some the come down from this high was too much to cope with. Some people felt disappointment and resentment that the election of the first Black president seemingly didn’t dramatically change America. Or did it?
More and more people are taking responsibility for their own lives, destiny and political movements. There would be no Black Lives Matter movement without Obama. It was the fact that Obama isn’t the leader of black people that motivated some Black people to lead themselves again! It was Obama not being able to highlight police brutality or speak out as much as people wanted that provoked people to speak for themselves.
Yet, after the murder of Trayvon Martin Obama spoke at the right time with the right message “ If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon [Martin]… when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids”. Obama’s words acted as a counter argument to the media narrative that Trayvon Martin was a thug; instead of just another regular teenager; a child of America.
I believe the election of the First Black president acted as a wake up call to many Black people. Waking up to the fact that even with a Black president, America was still divided in parts, racism was still alive and well, police brutality was still ongoing, unemployment/incarceration/homicide were all still too high and Martin Luther King Jr. promise land was closer but still a dream away.
That awakening has led to more protests and more people seeking social justice. People now think:
“If we can have a Black president, why can’t we have: equal employment opportunities, an equal justice system, an equal prison system, police system where black Lives matter and media and Hollywood with diversity and positive roles for Black people.”
Obama’s election has inspired a generation to speak up and speak out, to mobilise and to expect and demand a better world that has more equality for all.
Barack Obama a good leader
The assessment of a good leader is their ability to make more leaders. Black America has far more people willing to lead in their communities and speak for their people due to the election of President Obama. Some of these people have been around before Obama was elected. Some of them are vocal in their disappointment with his presidency. However, his mere election has given them a far bigger platform to lead and influence; to the extent that it could be argued they use anti-Obama propaganda to gain more followers. For and against Obama the new leaders include DeRay McKesson, BLM founders, Dr Boyce-Watkins, Dr Umar Johnson, Dr Eric Dyson and many others.
‘Yes We Can’ is now ‘Yes I Can’. The future is each person can be the change they want to see. Black Mother’s and Father’s can say to their children with a little bit more belief that “You can be whatever you want to be”. A whole generation of children will grow up seeing the most powerful man in the world as a Black man. A whole generation of elderly brothers and sisters will die knowing they lived to see something they had only dreamed of during the hardship of the civil rights era.
Yes, Obama could have done more. Yes he isn’t perfect. But remember he is a politician not a messiah. The system is imperfect and he has done the best he can in an imperfect situation. President Obama has got us further up the mountain top and gave belief that what seemed impossible can sometimes become possible.
“This dream of equality and fairness has never come easily—but it has always been sustained by the belief that in America, change is possible. Today, because of that hope, coupled with the hard and painstaking labor of Americans sung and unsung, we live in a moment when the dream of equal opportunity is within reach for people of every color and creed.” – President Barack Obama
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