by Dr. Darron Smith
Its generally dangerous territory to criticize powerful people, especially when it’s the nation’s first black President. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West (http://www.povertytour.smileyandwest.com) learned this lesson the hard way in 2011 during their highly visible poverty tour. Cornel West, a strong supporter of the President in 2008, has been the most vocal critic with his characterizations of Mr. Obama as the “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” West has gone with his criticisms to the point of intimating that the President is out of touch with the everyday suffering of Black Americans because he, Mr. Obama, that is to say, was not socialized himself to be a black man (http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/2011/05/west_obama_a_bl.html). In response to his perspectives on the President, Cornel West experienced a bitter backlash against him from members of the black intelligentsia. Given that black Americans have endured a 246 year history of brutal chattel slavery followed by another 90 years of Jim Crow, it is perhaps then reasonable that Black Americans might feel the need to be a bit protective toward Mr. Obama and would want and even look for Messianic leadership from the first Black President to ease the burden of nearly 20 generations of race-based discrimination and gross racial inequality, still a pernicious reality in American life.
In the US, Blacks have yet to benefit from the fruits of the so-called “American Dream.” Black unemployment is still unacceptably high for millions; the unregulated predatory mortgage debacle disproportionately injured Black Americans with little federal relief rendered. And how about the prison industrial complex and mass incarceration of young black men and women removed from the workforce and their families, often branded and stigmatized as felons in America, which surely means a lifetime of second class citizenship? There is much more this president can still do for 43 million African Americans who so richly rewarded him with a whopping 96% of their vote in 2012 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-ross/black-voters-obama-2012_b_2086538.html). But Black Americans have to be careful not to get too caught up in romantic notions of the First Family and the President as the coming Messiah newly arrived. For many African Americans of faith, the president occupies a sacred place in their hearts and minds. He is above reproach and is the personification of hope and change, the deliverer from Pharaoh’s army. The blending of religious discourse with notions of American exceptionalism where every American gets a fair chance, as the President so often makes reference to, will not and cannot happen by ignoring issues relevant to the black community. When the LGBT community’s mounting criticism were leveled against the President for not addressing key issues for that community reached it’s peak, Mr. Obama responded by ending the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy and publically supporting same-sex marriages (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/05/obama-comes-out-i-think-same-sex-couples-should-be-able-to-get-married/). When Latinos took to the streets demanding that Washington address immigration on some level, the President likewise responded and gave them an executive order—The Dream Act (http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/15/us/immigration-deferred-deportation/index.htm). But what of Black folks? —those to whom he owes much to with regard to his reelection. The President has done very little thus far in his presidency for Black Americans. In fact, he has been overly cautious and careful to avoid being seen as too black (http://www.darronsmith.com/2012/10/dont-be-too-black-mr-president-the-racial-effect-of-president-obamas-performance-in-the-2012-presidential-debates/) by his white constituents, which has impacted his ability to deliver effective relief for millions African Americans anxiously waiting deliverance.
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