I feel like I’ve heard this at least once before but it never hurts to repeat it when you’re constantly criticized for not doing enough for your people. In a recent interview with Black Enterprise, President Barack Obama was asked how he feels about criticism that his administration hasn’t done enough to support black businesses, and he said this:
“My general view has been consistent throughout, which is that I want all businesses to succeed. I want all Americans to have opportunity. I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of the United States of America, but the programs that we have put in place have been directed at those folks who are least able to get financing through conventional means, who have been in the past locked out of opportunities that were available to everybody. So, I’ll put my track record up against anybody in terms of us putting in place broad-based programs that ultimately had a huge benefit for African American businesses.”
The president definitely does have an entire nation to worry about, and theoretically a positive policy for American business should improve Black American business under that umbrella, but that doesn’t mean that certain segments of the population don’t need or even receive more attention than others when it comes to various issues. Not long ago, the president openly supported gay marriage, and though it’s not as though he could create a policy to legalize same-sex marriage across the country, the move was a serious head nod to the gay community—albeit a political one.
A comment on BE’s interview summarizes well the frustration some black people feel with the president. One reader wrote:
“He’s not the president of black america, yet he needs the black vote!! When other groups holler they get his attention, when we do we’re told to stop complaining and put on our marching boots. We defend him the most and get s***ted on by him in the process. Black unemployment is through the roof and we have no right to complain?”
When asked about the 14% black unemployment rate, the president offered this:
“Most economists will tell you that there is no doubt the economy has gotten stronger, but we are digging ourselves out a deep hole. There are a lot more things we could be doing. To get them done, we need cooperation of Congress. We got the payroll tax portion of [my American Jobs Act] done, but what we didn’t get done is the assistance I was proposing to the states to help them hire back teachers, firefighters, and first responders, because one of the weakest parts of this recovery has been state and local government hiring.
“Given the weaknesses of the construction industry, the American Jobs Act proposed that we rebuild schools, roads, bridges, airport, and ports. That would provide small businesses with opportunities as contractors and vendors in this rebuilding process. Again, Congress needs to act.”
And when it comes to housing, he said:
“Something that has disproportionally affected a lot of minority communities around the country, both African American and Hispanic, [is that] they were preyed upon when it came to predatory lending. What we have been able to do is to help those who have mortgages held by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We have been able to help them refinance at historically low rates, which saves somebody as much as $2,500 a year. And that’s money in their pockets that they can either be spending at your local small business or [to] help them rebuild equity in their homes.
“My goal, not just leading up to the election but as long as I’m president of the United States, where we have the capacity to act on our own through the executive branch to widen opportunity or to give small businesses a fair shot, we are going to do it.”
It’s possible we’ll have the next four years to see how that pans out.
Do you agree with the president’s take on helping black businesses during the economic recovery?
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