Is President Barack Obama appealing more to African Americans during his second term in the White House?
I certainly believe so. And it’s good for the black community.
Last week, while I was sitting inside my barbershop in Washington, D.C., one customer offered this unsolicited assessment of the president:
“President Obama is going to show us his blackness this time around,” the customer said with enthusiasm. “He’s not running for re-election anymore; he’s got nothing to lose. Just watch.”
I’ve heard this same analysis from many black men and women over the past few weeks who believe that Obama will have a more aggressive approach to connecting with black Americans during the next four years in the White House.
I have heard it all: Some folks have told me that Obama will start speaking out more about the struggles of black Americans and others have joked that he’ll immediately join the NAACP.
At least that’s what many black Americans are hoping for.
Black folks feel like they have a stake in Obama’s presidency and many want a return on their investment. They want to feel that the president has their interests at heart, but many also want to hear Obama publicly express his commitment to black issues.
I believe the president is becoming more engaged with the African American community and he’s steadily setting a tone for the months ahead.
Consider this: Last week, Obama met with a group of African American leaders at the White House to reiterate his support for people hit hardest by the economic crisis, partnering with high-poverty communities to help them rebuild, making sure folks have access to job training programs, and encouraging companies to invest in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
During the meeting, the president stressed the harm that the automatic cuts known as the sequester will have on thousands of jobs while cutting services to children, seniors, mental health programs and small businesses if Congress does not intervene by March 1.
And here’s one example: Alabama will lose approximately $11 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 150 teachers and aide jobs at risk. In addition, about 21,000 fewer students would be served and about 40 fewer schools would receive funding. In addition, Alabama will lose about $9 million in funds for about 110 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.
These are critical issues that directly impact millions of African Americans.
On Monday, the White House hosted a Town Hall health symposium specifically designed for African Americans. On Tuesday, the White House will honor ten leaders who have devoted their time to helping further education among African Americans. On Wednesday, Obama will speak on Capitol Hill for the dedication of a statue to Rosa Parks. And in May, Obama will deliver the commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
Two weeks ago, Obama spoke to 500 students at Hyde Park Academy High School in a predominantly black section of Chicago and he also met privately for an hour with 16 black male students who are experiencing a myriad of challenges in their lives.
In an interview at the White House earlier this month, Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s senior adviser, said Obama takes his role as a mentor to black males seriously.
“This is very personal for him because he didn’t have a father,” Jarrett said of the president during a one-hour session at the White House with six African American journalists. “He was raised by a single mom so he knows the challenges.”
These series of events by the president is no coincidence.
The White House has adjusted the president’s schedule to include meetings with African American leaders, sessions with black male teens, and recent interviews with radio talk show hosts Rev. Al Sharpton, Yolanda Adams and Joe Madison.
The customer in my barber shop is right: Obama will become a more vocal and effective advocate for black Americans as he settles into his second term.
In fact, he’s already started.
What do you think?