There are some African Americans that find themselves in a bit of bind on the eve of this presidential election.
We like our president, deeply respect his rise to the top and are proud that he has achieved so much in such a short period of time. We all agree that President Obama gets an A for effort.
But here’s the real question: are we as African Americans obligated to vote for his reelection just because he’s one of us? I posed this question to many African Americans 4 years ago and not surprisingly, many said — including some within my family — that the opportunity to not vote for one of our own given the historic nature of Obama’s candidacy was just too good to pass up; regardless of party affiliation.
Although I disagreed with the premise that anyone should vote for someone solely based on race, I understand then why so many of us votes strictly because Obama was African American. Four years later with unemployment within the Black community in double digits, Black teen pregnancy still uncomfortably high and Black health (or lack thereof) still at alarmingly dangerous levels, I believe, quite strongly that we as African Americans must hold this president accountable based on the hardcore facts that confront our community.
Are we better off than we were four years ago? Is their hope and opportunity in our community and are we moving forward?
Those are the real questions: In reality, this should not be about one’s skin color. In fact, it should be about one’s record of accomplishment and one’s vision for the future and whether or not from our point of view our president deserves reelection. This is why I am somewhat pleased by recent polling data that suggest that some within the African-American community are not sure our president deserves reelection. Don’t get it twisted. I’m not saying this because I may be of a different persuasion? I am saying this because it means that African Americans are thinking independently.
In other words, many are saying that this isn’t personal its permanent interest. It’s not about helping the president write another chapter in the history books about him winning a second term; rather it’s about whether or not African Americans want to be written into the history books as monolithic group that thinks and votes based on one singular issue.
I think the president understands this, when asked how he responds to the criticism that his administration has not done enough to help Black businesses; he responded by saying, “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.”
He’s right. Sorta.
He is the president of all Americans. Not just a finite few; but he has done less than stellar jobs of communicating his vision for our community. Hell, white presidents have done it so why can’t this one? Lyndon Johnson laid out his Great Society agenda for all Americans in 1964 and had specific language for urban America where many African Americans reside. George W Bush even had one and actively promoted it.
My point is regardless of whether you agreed with either president that I just mentioned, they both expressed their desire to have a dialogue with the African-American community, and the community responded based on that and my instinct is the mildness that you are seeing from the community this time around is because our current president — who just so happens to look like you and I has not done that. At least not in a meaningful way. Hello, White House. Are you listening?
Follow Robert Traynham on Twitter @roberttraynham.