Dr. Boyce: Obama’s Approval Ratings Rise, So What Does That Mean for “Us?”

President Obama’s job approval rating has risen to 50% for the first time since last summer.  The poll comes right after news that there were 227,000 jobs added to the US economy.  Additionally, the percentage of Americans who disapprove of the job the president is doing has dropped to 48% from 49% last month.

Many attribute the rise in the poll numbers to economic growth.  Others are taking a look at the divisive and sometimes sloppy Republican presidential campaign, where no clear candidate has emerged.

“The economy is improving,” said Ipsos pollster Cliff Young. “Not by leaps and bounds but people feel that things are getting better.”

The percentage of Americans who feel that the country is headed in the right direction also increased from 32% last month to 37% today.

This is good news for President Obama.  Whenever I’ve been asked about President Obama’s chances to win re-election, I’ve always had a very simple answer:  “It’s the economy.”  Like the quarterback of a football team, the president typically gets extraordinary credit for economic growth and extraordinary blame for economic decline.  Massive budget deficits and worsening job numbers were laid on the president’s back from 2008 – 2011, so it only makes sense that he would be rewarded for economic growth this year.

One group that has been forgotten in all of this celebration about economic growth is the African American community.   Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that black unemployment rose yet again this month, to 14.1%.   This is much higher than the 8.4% number claimed by the rest of America.

If African Americans have a bone to pick with the Obama Administration, it is the fact that they’ve turned a terribly blind eye to targeted economic policy for communities most affected by the economic downturn.  Three years ago, the president told African Americans that the “rising tide will lift all boats,” meaning that neither he nor his administration felt compelled to try to address racial inequality in economic opportunities, which is a clear and undeniable problem in our nation’s history.

The Obama’ Administration’s passive response to racism was likely designed to counter the extreme reaction of those who wanted to punish the president for acting like he cares in the least about black people.  We are America’s political mistress – everyone wants something from us, but no one is willing to claim us out in public.  Although we provided a quarter of the votes to get Obama into office, some feel that we are out of line for asking that our interests be represented – this just doesn’t make any sense.  That’s like giving someone a fourth of the money they need to start a business and then having them tell you that you that they are going to give the profits to someone else.

Telling black Americans that the “rising tide will lift all boats” is like saying “let them eat cake” during the French revolution. As a result, our nation experienced exactly what you expect when we choose to ignore racial inequality:  the problem has gotten worse.  Wall Street bankers have seen a massive economic recovery (their recession ended before any of us), and white Americans have seen their unemployment numbers improve to levels that black folks can only dream about.  African Americans, on the other hand, have seen their numbers worsen.  Wall Street bankers recovered the fastest because there were TARGETED injections of financial resources to help solve their problem.  African Americans may never recover because we’ve only been told to accept whatever trickles down from white American-owned corporations that hire us last, fire us first and rarely give us promotions.

So, effectively, we have a world in which millions of African Americans have no secure place to put their vote.  Racism serves as a cap of political opportunity, keeping black people from being able to vote in their interests.  Black conservatives who are unhappy with the policies of the Obama Administration can’t vote for openly racist Republicans.  Black progressives seeking solutions to racial inequality and the prison industrial complex can’t support Democrats who don’t seem to realize that these problems even exist.

What’s left is the symbolic value of having a black man in the White House.  Symbolism is probably all you’re going to get from Obama or his cabinet, but symbolism may be all you need if you are part of the 86% of African Americans who are gainfully employed.  Barack Obama’s success in securing re-election shows that whether you are conservative or liberal, ignoring black folks is the way to get elected.  But in a nation that is so deeply committed to the preservation of racial inequality, it’s hardly a surprise that politicians are rewarded for succumbing to the demons of our past.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, Black American Money. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.




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  1. Dr. Boyce since you, Cornell West and Tavis Smiley are so concerned about our black people and our black communities, will you please post the number of BLACK BUSINESS’S each of you own in our BLACK COMMUNITIES, and the number of BLACKS you have managing and working those BUSINESS. And will you please teach a FREE class outlining how we can do the same. God Bless.

  2. Dr.Boyce, Cornell West and Tavis Smiley, I appreciate you much. Keep the questions and talk going about Obama because maybe you will eventually open the eyes of these ignorant black folks who think Obama is doing so much for blacks. Many of them are just a lot of big talk on this site. If they don’t like what you write about don’t read it or keep your comments to yourself. I enjoy and appreciate you.

  3. West,Smiley and Boyce are attacked because they point out the truth that Obama as president has not improved the lot of the vast majority of Afrikans in the U.S.Black Power advocates in the 1960’s like H.Rap Brown,Stokely Carmichael later known as Kwame Ture et al pointed out from then that we can have a ‘Black’ president visibly who serves the interests of his European racist imperialist masters and mistresses which includes perpetuating the racist colonial oppression of Afrikans in the U.S. Obama is the first example of this nightmare come through.Most Afrikans in the U.S. are politically ignorant and have been mis-educated to put the interests of their racist enemies before their own interests and they consequently indulge in fighting against those Afrikans who are fighting for self-determination,empowerment as a people.In his classic book Die N…Die,H.Rap Brown points out the difference between the Afrikan revolutionary and the militant.The militant fights to be a part of the racist anti-Afrikan forces in order to benefit by selling out his/her own people in exchange for their own selfish material gains.Militants are Colin Powell,Condi Rice,Wilson Goode the ‘Black’ mayor of Philadelphia who bombed and murdered 6 Afrikan children and 5 Afrikan adults of MOVE in 1985 and Barack Obama.Barack before and after his election has constantly and publicly supported the Zionist Jews,bailed out the racist Wall Street gangsters who caused the financial holocaust and given them key positions in his regime,supported gays etc but does nothing positively for Afrikans in the U.S.In fact Barack the hypocrite attacks Afrikan fathers instead of the racists who have imprisoned Afrikan fathers the most in order to exploit their labour in the prison industry and to keep down the population of Afrikans in the U.S. Of course Barack is busy with continuing the racist imperialist wars in Afghanistan,Libya,Somalia,Zimbabwe,Ivory Coast,Haiti etc and keeping the Guantanamo Bay gulag,concentration camp open.No wonder he hatesAfrikan revolutionaries like Malcolm X and Kwame Ture….read his two books which also details his overtly racist grandmother.Obama is simply an European mind inside an outwardly brown looking body.Amen Ra.Afrikan Self-Reliance in everything is our only salvation via us working together as a people and not depending on traitorous figureheads and stooges as Marcus Garvey said truthfully.


  4. “Black politics and activism without Black ownership of and control over primary forms and bases of power such as property, wealth, organization, etc., is the recipe for Black political and non-political powerlessness. The rather obtuse pursuit of political office and the ballot box as primary sources of power by the Black Community and its politicians without its concomitant ownership of and control over important resources, has actually hindered the development of real Black Power in America. More ominously, there appears to be a paradoxical and positive correlation between the number of Blacks elected and appointed to high office and retrogressions in the civil and human rights extended to Black Americans during the past twenty years. Increases in homelessness, poverty, unemployment, criminality and violence in the Black community; disorganization of the traditional Black family, inadequacies in education, increases in health problems of all types, and host of other social and political ills have all attended increases in the number of Black elected and appointed officials. That is, the more elected and appointed Black politicians, the more socio-economic problems the Black community has suffered. While we are not implying a causal relationship between the increase of the number of Black appointed and elected officials and the increased misery indices of the Black community, we are implying or asserting that their increase obscures those things which are responsible for and do little to ameliorate or uproot the increasing prevalence of social and economic problems in the Black community… The activities of Black politicians, given the current inadequacy of social organization and economic resources, harmfully distract the Black community’s attention from recognizing and eradicating the true causes of its problems and the remediation of its powerless.” Dr. Amos Wilson’s book, Blueprint for Black Power 1998, pg 28-9

    Dr. Amos Wilson (1941 – 1995)
    Former Social Caseworker, Psychological Counselor, Supervising Probation Officer, Training Administrator in the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the City University of New York, Master Teacher, Organizer, and Author
    The late, Honorable Dr. Wilson was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 1941.

  5. I quite agree with your “political mistress” anology. If other American Presidents have used the African American people in that regard, why shouldn’t Barak Obama?, after all he is a politician.He does,or has done what others before him have done.
    But I happen to think that for the Obama/African American relationship, there is more than just jobs to be gotten from his presidency, there is a huge reservour of psychological gold mine to be mined. For example, African Americans will now be boosted psychologically to think that if Barak Obama could make it, that they can also make it. Dont be surprised to find African Americans running for the US Senate, a position, or office, which, disgustingly enough, there have been a paucity of them. Right now, as I write, there are no African American Senators in that top American legislative body. Barak Obama’s presidency, I am hoping, would remove that mental bottleneck that for eons, has stymied our thoughts and thinking that such an office, or for that matter, other high profile positions are not for African Americans.

  6. @Patricia Heath: A most poignant observation. You are so on it.
    Colleen and Tee: Well said.
    @Renelda Moorehead: You are misled. Those old enough to remember, know that if you participated in the Jesse Jackson campaign, you learned the system. Thats what the whole involvement was about. If you didn’t choose to get involved, then you didn’t learn the lessons. There are lots of politically wise people out there, but like a previous writer said, we’re getting old and the inexperienced in “blatant” racism don’t understand the nuances.

    There are great entreprnual minds out there. They’re largely uneducated so they use their acumen to do unwise things. And can justify in some sophisticated terms why they are right to do what they’re doing. The others are in prison. Much of it due to “Children having Children.” We are losing a lot of talent (not just black). That’s why we’re losing our step in the world market. Those leading large companies are as bad as the ones who choose to operate outside the system. It’s all GREED. In a nutshell, greed and self-centeredness are taking us down.
    Discussion is good! But you do know how to vote, don’t you?

  7. I think HUGE part of the problem is that most white Americans dont have a clear under of what racism is and don’t realize that it’s more than using a racial slur. They don’t understand how racism can play into hiring practices and interviews and jobs. In order for The Obama administration to make big changes for the black community, first he would have to educate the country on how racism works, which is something they dont want to hear and don’t care. They will accuse him of only caring about “his” people and it could start a lot of problems. I don’t think he is purposely ignoring the black community, I think he is just trying to address the problem in a way that won’t cause white Americans to freak out for no reason. I really wish there was a better way and I wish he was doing more, but I can’t blame him for the choices he’s making.

  8. So if I guess I should vote Republican in 2012 because I Just know Mitt Romney is going to do more to help black people. Right? We as black people we have to do for ourselves and anyone that thinks someone else is going to turn us around is fooling themselves. What’s sad is the crab in the barrel mentality is alive and well!

  9. This is the 21st century.
    Not the 60’s.
    The 21st century.

    We have never been able to do the things other groups could because we were locked out of the system. So we either had to build it ourselves (nationalism), or force the system to pay attention to us (civil rights). Sometimes, these remedies are still needed. But with the Obamas, the Condi Rices, the Colin Powells, and yes even the Clarence Thomas’, we are now officially IN.

    This does not mean that racism, sexism, classism and cronyism are dead. It just means that it’s tiime to learn to play the game. And that means that the first black man to head up the country can not be doing special things for black people, and everybody with some sense knows why. Mind you, it doesn’t mean that he can’t do anything for us, it just means we have to be careful about how he goes about it, same as we had to be careful about a house negro who sneaks out blankets, medicine and books to the other slaves.

    If the other groups get things by lobbying, well it’s time we learned to do the same. If they get theirs by means of campaign contribution, then it’s time we learned how to scrape them up too. We have to learn to play the game…now that we’re finally in it.

    My fear is that our generation will be forever stuck in the 60’s, and that we will have to die out before the next generation can come up and do things differently. That’s ok…dinosaurs are supposed to become extinct. But the problem is that they did not live throught the overt more defined racism that we did, so something might be missing from their perception of how things are racially. We need both old and young perspectives.

    But we older cannot contribute properly. We are divisive and stuck.

  10. these days man i read anything of yours with obama in the title just to see how twisty you will have to get to dis him w/o looking like you dissing him –

    you, your boys and the hardleft have become a joke, we got a realworld situation here and you folk still sitting over in the corner talking revolutionary purity – yall need to grow up, and you need to grow up quick, we need you on the battlefield

    its like you think there is only one road to timbuktu, it aint either or, you can still do your thing, ima do mine and obama can do what he do –

    more than enuf struggle to go around, struggle should be multifaceted

  11. I love this country! We each have the opportunity to speak our mind freely. That’s a good thing.

    While it’s great to debate what’s in it for us, it is equally important to debate what’s NOT in it for us if either of the republican candidates gets elected President.

    Debate! Lobby! OK. But be sure to vigorously advise & support & V-O-T-E to keep the OBAMA administration in place as the economy continues to improve. Any other direction would be against our own best interest. Keep it real!!!

  12. Wow, 50% approval!!! – And that’s something to feel good about????? And if the election were held today against Romney – OBAMA would LOSE!!!

  13. Surely this is not about why Obama has,nt done anything for the black community regarding black unemployment its about black folks enpowering themselves to be self sufficent did,nt brother Malcolm X say that it was a very sad thing for a black man or woman to go to their enemy to be hired for a job.Black folks need to create our own industries and business and not be dependant on whites to make a living.Have,nt black leaders been saying this for decades? I hope Obama does get re-elected anything would be better than those republican misfits getting into office ,then what would the likes of Travis Smiley and Cornel West have to say then?

  14. It’s not a good idea to bring the freedmen bureau back. Welfare and foodstamp is about the best the freedmen bureau would do. Now reparations, would be a better idea. Reparations for all the free labor our ancestors did that made this country rich. In the meantime we have to establish big businesses.

  15. The answer to how the freedmen can get jobs is for them to open up businesses. Who do the freedmen want to work for? The freedmen will be a free man when he becomes more independent instead of depending on white men for jobs.

  16. Renelda Moorehead

    Diana Kirby, et al., your statements show how politically naive you are. ‘Ignorant’ might be a better word. If you are new to US politics, then you cannot possibly understand the nuances. And your
    diatribe against anyone (Dr. Boyce,particularly)
    who sees the real Obama, is childish. Really, dear, who are you to say Dr. Boyce or anyone else will not be included in THE BLACK COMMUNITY if they see the symbolic Negro, President Obama, for who he is, and what he is about. I am very much in the black community, and you do not speak for me. It is
    sad and interesting that many Obama-ites who never before delved into American politics, are now experts. If you have studied and been involved in the electoral process and The Civil Rights Movement of America most of your life, you would not be so thin-skinned about this president. I wish
    that you and those of your mindset would begin to get involved in politics at the grassroots level, and finally work your way up to the presidential campaigns. Participating in politics will broaden your horizons lending you objectivity, I hope.

    • Charles Patterson

      Like most negroes I try to deal with in regards to discussions about President, Obama. From most Blacks I see and hear is that just because this is our first Black American President, they believe that they expect specialized treatment or more hand-outs. You know as well as I do that will never happen. How can that be possible when 400 years of white hate, what makes you think that they’re in love with Obama and still worse than I ever seen racism. Blacks are never going to get ahead because of their low self-esteem against one another. I do not live in a all Black community but I on atop of any issues when it comes down to Black issues.

  17. Oh! It will not change a thing because everyone from Goldman Sachs is working or should I say Obama is working for.

  18. The Devil You Know Over Another Devil You Know.

  19. I acknowledge that the unemployment problems are large in the African American community. Pointing fingers at President Obama only will not change things. I am often told that all politics are local. I see things happening at the state level that are having an even greater impact like the Governor of Pennsylvania cutting a billion dollars from the education budget, young people who cannot afford college and states who are pushing voter I.D. laws. Your articles speak to all of the challenges of President Obama’s tenure in the White House. I would like to hear some of your solutions for the problems that are plaguing the African American communities. How can we connect with one another to be an economic power house? Let’s leverage our wisdom and knowledge to change the economic conditions of people that we see every day. How can we help small businesses to create more jobs for African Americans? Dr. Watkins, I would like to hear your solutions. There are things that we can do today to make a difference in the African American employment situation. I am one educator who is willing to work with you to change our children’s destiny as you consider potential solutions .

  20. The points you make here are interesting. From a personal perspective…I have not I i I have not worked consistently for nearly three years. But, I don’t blame the Obama administration! Instead of looking to blame the Obama administration for ‘BLACK UNEMPLOYMENT’…you should point out the many ways in which BLACK AMERICANS can assist themselves by education and not the blame (white) other Americans for the BLACK UNEMPLOYMENT!! I think your position should be one of teaching, showing and directing ‘BLACK AFRICAN AMERICANS’ on how to control their future. We need to stop looking outside of our community and work with all due diligence towards fixing the ‘BLACK UNEMPLOYMENT’ problem!! Black men need to become business owners. Same for ‘BLACK WOMEN’. We need ‘Black owned banks! We need ‘BLACK’ owned movie studios and production companies. We need ‘BLACK’ owned engineering companies!! How about ‘BLACK’ owned drug companies!!!! Additionally, we need ‘BLACK FATHERS AND BLACK MOTHERS to be better parents.
    Bottom line, let’s stop blaming the ‘BLACK PRESIDENT for ‘BLACK AMERICANS’ problems. Let’s build a new ‘BLACK’ Healthy and thirving AMERICA!!!

    • michael..good points, but understand boyce write this type of article to get us into a frenzy to increase traffic on ybw for profit in the name of love for black people.

      boyce is what we call, a “shit starter.” it’s people like boyce that help keep acromony among our people under the guise of love to make a profit.

      boyce needs mess! it’s his livelihood, his bread and butter. people pay him a lot of money to write and talk about it.

      if you peruse the articles written on ybw, you see a lot articles with 0 comments which translates into this site being “irrelevant” and money out of his bank account.

      like someone said earlier, boyce give it a rest. surely you and yvette can come up with new articles to put us in a frenzy to divide us for personal adulation and wealth.

  21. It’s about time someone finally spoke on this, and I was on the verge of canceling my subscription, good job Dr. Boyce.

  22. Dr. Boyce, why don’t you give it a rest ? Or is that financial reward given to you by white conservatives/Republicans too good to resist. As much as you would like to believe that we black folk can’t see through your constant effort to demean and diminish President Obama, WE CAN. We know that SOMEONE is lining your pockets and this persistent ‘I only care about the welfare of black folk’ spin you put on your consistent hating of President Obama is a farce. To suggest that ANY black person ‘sit out’ this next election (as you have done in the past and continue to suggest) is absolutely unforgivable.

    When one looks up the phrase ‘Uncle Tom’, they should put your picture there.

    So,give it up, why don’t ‘cha cause WE AREN’T BUYING WHAT YOU ARE SELLING. And once President Obama is re-elected (and he will be, despite your work to prevent it), WE WILL NOT FORGET WHAT YOU TRIED TO DO. There will be a reckoning for you, Tavis Smiley, and Cornel West. You are no longer welcome in the black community.

    • Charles Patterson

      Dear Diann Kirby,
      I read your comment on the behalf of Dr. Boyce Watkins. There was something within your comment that I get indignantly angry about when I hear one Black person calling another Black person an Uncle Tom. I do not know how far you went to school to learn the truth in regards to the name calling
      “Uncle Tom.” I was born in a southern state and now resides in a northern state whereas I always believed also that Uncle Tom was the actual figure
      who underminded or undermind Black folks. Wrong! When I started research over 40 years ago I discovered that it was not Uncle Tom who talked against or about his own race. It indeed that it was Black character who’s name was SAMBO, Sambo Freeman who’s massa was named Simon Legree. Uncle was the premier Christian of all times trying to help his race to escape from bondage. His master hated Uncle Tom Christianity. He would get whipped for even for praying and a failure for not heeling down to his master. Everything the Uncle Tom and the field slaves did, Sambo would go tell massa. Therefore Massa would even whip females because Sambo would go tell Massa and Massa would try to whip these women, but Uncle Tom took the whipping himself. Stunning! If you don’t believe me, why don’t you read it for yourself. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harrie Beecher Stowe. Whites lied to Blacks when it comes down to this issue. To them good Blacks are always bad to them and this is one reason for Blacks to know the difference between Uncle Tom and Sambo.

  23. Keep hope alive! Your comment on race could have been inserted in a simlar article 50 years ago. Your response to high unemployment numbers among African Americans is racism. What keeps anyone from getting a job? Lack of education? Lack of training? Lets be real. Also, blacks made up only 13 percent of the total electorate who put Obama in office. He picked up 96 percent of the black vote and 43 percent of the white vote. It can be argued that the latter put him in office.

  24. We apply for jobs, we are rejected and we don’t know how to fight rejections. President Obama wants us all have a job or succeed. Therefore the first step to get a job is to apply for one you’re qualified for or able to do with little training. Once you establish that step, then go and apply for vacant job. You can know there is vacant position by looking at postings by employers in private or government sectors. Once you get an interview that is a sign you’re qualified. Now wait for being hired. If employer gives you a ”regret” ask why? If they say somebody else better qualified was hired, then ask for open record or file a complaint with EEOC or local state or county EEOC to know what color of person was hired. If the person hired is white, then you have established a prima facie case of race discrimination. The employer has to explain why he passed off you. If employer does not have reason, you got them. The employer has to hire you as a matter of law and back pay. If many Blacks are rejected then file a class action suit. It’s simple as that.

  25. Well. it’s obvious how you feel about President Obama. You, Cornell West and Tavis Smiley have made it clear that he is not doing enough for the black communities. I “beg to differ”. I think the “rising tide will lift all boats” is quite an appropriate statement.

    • Sandra,
      I totally agree with you.

      President Obama was being interviewed several years ago on TV and a fly kept landing on his slacks. He gracefully somehow got the fly off of him and may have killed the fly in the manner he wanted him off. In the meantime, several people came at him with criticism of killing this fly. There was no proof, that he killed him but what if he did. Pesty insects are killed hourly. Donal Trump’s sons killed a rhino, an elephant and a jaguar and were displaying it on a photo. Where are those that criticize our President over the fly when you have animals that are being killed. Donald Trump spoke aout how great of hunters his sons are and that they were feeding people with the meat. President Obama killed the fly to keep it from contaminating someones food.

  26. Electing a Republican – What will that mean for US????