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How Hispanics and Gay Activists Could Make Valerie Jarrett Look Silly

valerie-jarrettby Dr. Boyce Watkins

I think that most of us can agree that, in the age of Obama, black journalism is effectively dead.  Being objective about the Obama presidency is nothing short of treasonous, and even if you voted for Obama, that means nothing if you don’t go along with the administration without questioning its policies.

I’m especially curious about two black news websites:  TheRoot.com and TheGrio.com  I honestly wonder how easy it is for their writers to say anything that might be significantly critical of the Obama Administration without receiving a lashing in public.  TheRoot.com is run by Henry Louis Gates, a Harvard colleague of Obama, and a friend to the administration.  TheGrio.com is run by MSNBC, a corporation that appears to be firmly committed to being a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party.  In most areas, both publications provide accurate and reliable information that is of tremendous value to the African American community.  But the other truth is that anyone considered too critical of the Obama Administration is likely going to have a hard time getting their article onto the front page.

As an interesting case-in-point, Lawrence Bobo at TheRoot.com recently asked if President Obama owes a debt to African Americans.  The piece was in response to those who feel that the president hasn’t paid much attention to his most loyal constituents, and empirical data suggesting that Obama has led the least racially-responsive Democratic administration in the last 50 years.  But who cares about academic research when you’ve fallen in love?

Bobo states that it is unreasonable to expect President Barack Obama to acknowledge a race-specific agenda for African Americans.  He even refers to those critical of the president as “the black-authenticity police,” arguing that they are demanding that the president govern primarily as a black man, and nothing else.  I find it interesting that the same criticism thrust onto those seeking Obama’s support on black unemployment, poverty and mass incarceration have nothing to say when the president acknowledges a race-specific agenda within the Latino community.

The simple bottom line is that no president should be excused for ignoring clear, empirically-documented, undeniable racial inequality, whether he be white, black or biracial.   It took 400 years of targeted policy to create structural racism, and it’s going to take a tremendous amount of targeted policy to unwind it.  We didn’t let Bush or Clinton get away with ignoring racism, and the same thing must be true for Barack.

Those speaking out for the black community are not asking that we encompass the ENTIRE presidential agenda, or even a significant part of it (black people are accustomed to being ignored).  We just want our share of the pie, which we earned by producing more votes for Obama than any president in American history.

If you can’t provide clear policy examples to show that this president is any better than Bill Clinton, then it’s tough to argue that your decision to silence your Democratic voice is driven by anything other than irrational fanaticism. Fanatics get no respect in Washington, even from politicians they support.  This is part of the reason why I get those White House emails in my inbox that often feature articles from TheGrio.com or presidential interviews with Al Sharpton:   It’s nice when journalists support your quest for good propaganda.

Also interesting is the recent speech given by Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett to a group of black journalists who came to visit her at the White House.  Upon being asked whether President Obama was doing things for the black community, Valerie leaned on two important accomplishments:  1) The Affordable Care Act and 2) the extension of unemployment insurance.  Jarrett argued that both policies significantly impact the black community, since millions of African Americans are in need of adequate healthcare and unemployment insurance.  Point taken:  Thank you Valerie for telling us what we already know.

But now, let’s take that same conversation and apply it to a meeting with Hispanic journalists.  We can easily simulate such a discussion:

Question from an Hispanic journalist:  The Latino community is seeking presidential support for the DREAM act.  What has your administration done to this effect?

Jarrett’s answer:  Well, we just passed an extension on unemployment insurance, which helps millions of Latin Americans who have lost their jobs.

Question from a gay journalist:  We are concerned about the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and would also like to know what the Obama Administration is doing to support gay marriage.

Jarrett’s answer:  Well, the gay community is disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic, and our passage of the Affordable Care Act nips that issue right in the bud.  Because of the first gay president (as Obama was described in Newsweek), when gay people get sick, they have inexpensive access to the very best medication.

I hope you get my point here.  If you don’t get my point, then you should probably go read something else.  The fact of the matter is that there is a clear difference in the manner by which Valerie addresses black people vs. the way she might speak to other constituents.  If this doesn’t bother you, then I feel sorry for you.

The essence of equality means that you are given the same respect as everyone else, as well as the same rights and opportunities.  The idea that someone can so blatantly point to severe inconsistencies in the degree of responsiveness of the Obama Administration to black constituents relative to those from gay and Latino communities lets us know that equality has truly left the building.  White people can be outraged about 7% unemployment, and black people are expected to cheer while facing 14% unemployment.  Gay people can get angry about not being allowed to build families, while black people must remain silent about millions of families that have been ruined by 150-year prison sentences given out during the War on Drugs.  When Valerie Jarrett speaks to gay people and Latinos, she gives a sensitive response to their concerns, communicating an appreciation for targeted policy.  When black people come into the room, the conversation turns “negro-licious.”

The goal here is not to be disrespectful, but the truth is that the lines of disrespect were crossed long ago.  The nonsense has to end, and Valerie Jarrett must change her talking points.  People are not as dumb as she would like to believe.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Black American Money.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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