By Alexis Garrett Stodghill
At the Republican Leadership Conference held recently in New Orleans, presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann called out President Obama, claiming that he has failed the black community. Citing the recently released jobless rate for blacks, which rests at 16.2%, observers note that these depression era levels of unemployment have not been seen since 1929.
The portrait for black unemployment is worse if specific segments of the community are considered. Joblessness for black males has risen to 17.5% since Obama was elected, while black teen unemployment has also increased from 36.3 to 41%. Bachmann used these statistics to attack the president in the area that many consider his greatest weakness — jobs — while appealing to African-Americans. She also played the race card in an attempt to dissuade Latino voters from supporting Obama in 2012. The Daily Mail reports:
‘The status quo certainly isn’t working for the African-American community, with 16 percent unemployment, or the Hispanic community, with nearly 12 percent unemployment,’ Ms Bachmann added, according to CNS.
‘It’s even worse for the youth: For Hispanic youth right now, 26 percent unemployment; for African-American youth, 40 percent unemployment.
‘This president has failed the Hispanic community. He has failed the African-American community. He has failed us all when it comes to jobs.’
The worrying figures emerged as leaders of a national Hispanic organization slammed Obama for skipping their annual conference for the third consecutive year.
Michele Bachmann might not have her statistics quite right, inflating numbers dramatically to promote herself, but overall she is correct. African-Americans have fared the worst during the recession, but President Obama has done very little to address our needs directly. Obama’s failure to create lasting prosperity for blacks does not prove that Bachmann is capable of doing any better. But her speech reminds us that his refusal to address our needs is worthy of deep consideration.
President Obama has shown more interest in luring Latino voters for the 2012 election, and seems eager to make up for the anger he caused by being a no-show. He recently made a historic visit to Puerto Rico, many theorize because 850,000 Puerto Ricans reside in Florida, a key state needed to win. The president also made a key move by naming a Latina, Katherine Archuleta, as the political director of the Obama re-election campaign. As the census has shown that Latino voters are becoming a larger urban voting block in areas that have been traditionally black, plans to woo this group make perfect sense.
Latino votes can make a difference, and they are up for grabs: equally available to Democrats or Republicans. So Obama is putting in the work to secure them.
By contrast, blacks are being taken for granted — again. Aside from President Obama’s recent attendance at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network conference, he has not made significant investments to show African-Americans that our votes matter. It is safe to guess that Obama assumes most blacks will vote for him because he’s one of us — regardless of the worsening unemployment rate for our community.
Many black leaders, ranging from Cornell West to Tavis Smiley, have called out President Obama, too, regarding this type of failure. It’s ironic that a white, female, ultra-conservative presidential candidate could have something in common with the loudest pro-black voices in the country. But they are unified in the observation that, to put it in an old fashioned way, President Obama has not done right by us.
If a member of the GOP can make that observation confidently, black people should be able to consider it, and act on it. We might support President Obama in 2012 because there is no other viable option, but we can and should remain vocally aware of his shortcomings. Latino voters count more than blacks now, because they are seen as having voting options. Would the needs of blacks be taken more seriously if we did, too?