A few weeks ago, inside my barber shop in Washington, D.C., a somewhat frustrated customer wondered aloud if President Barack Obama would move forward with a “black agenda” in his last term in the White House.

The customer’s thinking was that Obama has nothing to lose in his final two years as the nation’s first black president and could feel more comfortable with his blackness. Many black Americans have said privately they want the president to be more outspoken on race and lead initiatives specifically designed to uplift African Americans.

Well now it’s happening.

I believe the president is focusing more specifically –and publicly — on helping black folks. Call it a black agenda or call it the right thing to do, but there is no doubt that Obama is using his White House bully pulpit to talk about social justice.

Consider this: At the White House this week, Obama met with several civil rights leaders including Rev. Al Sharpton about raising the minimum wage, black unemployment, health care, voting rights and education.

“We talked extensively about the challenges of unemployment, the challenges of under-employment, the challenges of black and urban and brown unemployment in this nation,” Marc Morial, president of The National Urban League, told reporters after the meeting with Obama and U.S Attorney Eric Holder.

“It was helpful to us to hear the president and his team clarify some misconceptions about the Affordable Care Act, one (being) that it adds to the deficit when all the projections are that it will reduce the deficit,” Morial said. “This president’s ear, this president’s concern for our community is as strong as ever.”

Next week at the White House, Obama will unveil “My Brother’s Keeper Initiative,” a national program designed to improve the quality of life for young African American boys.

And, in addition, Obama, a father with two daughters, has an ambitious vision for the nation’s black students during his last two years in the White House: ensuring that all African-American pupils receive an education that fully gets them ready for high school graduation, college completion and productive careers in a highly competitive global job market.

After signing an executive order that created the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans in 2012, the president is dedicating new resources to enable African-American students to improve their educational achievement and prepare them for college and a range of professions after graduation.

There’s more. Last year, Obama announced the new leadership team for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Joining the HBCU Initiative as Executive Director is Dr. George Cooper with Dr. Ivory Toldson serving as the Deputy Director. As part of the leadership team for the White House Initiative on HBCUs, both Cooper and Toldson will work with the presidentially appointed HBCU Board of Advisors and assist Secretary Arne Duncan as a liaison between the executive branch and HBCUs across the country.

In January, in an article published in the New Yorker, Obama talked candidly about his blackness “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president,” Obama said. “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president.”

And last year, in powerful and revealing comments in the White House briefing room, Obama talked about Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in 2012 because Zimmerman thought the unarmed teenager looked suspicious.

“When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said this could’ve been my son. Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama said in an unexpected appearance in the White House briefing room. “When you think about why in the African-American community, at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, it’s important to recognize the African-

American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and history that doesn’t go away.”

Obama is speaking out about being black and male in America, but more important the president is creating substantive initiatives that could benefit black Americans for many years to come.

Some of the president’s black critics, however, have questioned why Obama didn’t step up to discuss race during his first term in the White House, but it’s not about lamenting the past, it should be about embracing new initiatives for black Americans and appreciating this moment in history.

“It was one of the most substantive meetings I have had with any President,” Sharpton told reporters after the meeting with Obama. “We are firmly convinced the President will fight for jobs, training, minimum wage and voting rights as well as explore the other areas of concern that we raised.”

Sounds like a black agenda to me.

What do you think?

(Photo: Courtesy of the White House)

4 thoughts on “Obama and Race: A ‘Black Agenda’ for 2014?

  1. What can he do for a “black agenda”? tell black America to get off its azz stop playing
    Victomology, racistology, and I need the government to take care of me ology.
    What’s the Asian agenda, the Jewish agenda, the Latin agenda, the Middle East agenda
    Stop having baby’s at 14 start understanding that America does not owe you jack
    And like many ethnic people that start with nothing and become millionaires work to that end

  2. We must recognize who is the victim and who is the victimizer, what is the cause and what is the effect, what is some and what is all and when you do, you’ll likely understand what is right and what is wrong. Is it logical? Is it reasonable? Is it rational? Is it good? If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

    I say this not because Obama is Black–he’s not, he’s biracial, mixed or mulatto. And not because Obama is African American–he’s not because African Americans are the descents of Africans enslaved and brought to America and Obama does not fit that definition–but because the Black vote was crucial for his election and re-election. Such a demand should properly be placed on ANY politician who won so much of the Black vote–white, black, biracial, man or woman of any race, creed or color. In 2012, for every 1 Latino vote he got 1.5 Black votes, for example. (Blacks made up 13% of the electorate and Obama got 92% of the Black vote. Latino’s made up 10% of the electorate and Obama got 70% of the Latino vote. Do the math!) And he appears to want to “payback” the Latino community with amnesty for illegal immigrants, which would harm Blacks.

    My draft Black Agenda that Obama must pass includes the following:
    1. In the US, 30%-33% of Black men between 20 and 30 are in prison, probation, jail or parole. That causes tremendous problems for Black society. Children without fathers. Women with out husbands, crime, etc. And when the men get out of prison, they often have felony and other convictions that mean that they cannot vote and are virtually unemployable. After the sentence is over felons should be allowed to vote and participate as full-fledged citizens and not second-class citizens.

    That is a problem that would not be tolerated if 30%-33% of white men between 20 and 30 were in prison, probation, jail or parole. (This is due in part to the fact that there is sever racial discrimination at every step on the criminal-justice system from arrest to charging to conviction to sentencing to probation to parole, etc.) That must be corrected with all due speed and I have thoughts on how to correct that, including ditching the “War on Drugs” and more. For example, the prison population in California is nearly 200,000–half the population of Oakland, California. The California Department of Corrections budget is about $12 billion a year–$55k per year per inmate for 3 hots and a cot. Yet the California prison population was only 67,000 in 1987. The Prison-Industrial Complex must be curtailed. And I have thoughts on how to do that. California just passed Proposition 30, which will raise $6 billion a year–1/2 of he yearly Department of Corrections budget.

    This is more of a state problem/issue than a federal problem/issue but the federal War on Drugs contributes to this as does disparate federal treatment in sentencing or crack vs. powder cocaine, etc. and Obama must be challenged to lead!

    2. Unemployment among Blacks will not be helped by legalizing and granting amnesty to 10 million illegal immigrants who now compete unfairly with them for jobs. In fact, unemployment among Blacks will be hurt by such a measure. (Read this article and pay particular attention to the first two paragraphs and know that that situation whereby illegal immigrants take jobs from Blacks is multiplied by thousands of instances nationwide:http://www.theroot.com/views/how-illegal-immigration-hurts-black-america?utm_medium=feed&obref=obinsite

    And jobs are being stolen in many fields, including construction, hospitality, restaurants and food production, manufacturing and more!)

    And realize that there is no such thing as free pie. Jobs are limited and are not brought to the USA in backpacks in plane flights here or across the Rio Grande. Resources are limited. For every Spanish book or DVD in the public library, there is one less English book or DVD. For every English as a Second Language class or teacher in school, there’s one less advanced English or remedial English class in school. This will work to solve the immigration problem—and not on the backs of Blacks.

    This is comprehensive immigration reform: 1. Require E-Verify for all current and future employees and couple it with a swift appeals process for those who do not pass E-Verify. 2. Couple that with severe (at least $20,000 per illegal hired per day if hired without E-Verify permission and disallow (make not permissible under the Internal Revenue Code) any expense deduction for such hires. To grant illegal immigrants amnesty and therefore allow them to keep the jobs that they have stolen –disproportionately from African Americans would be a stab in the back by Obama. Illegal immigrants do take jobs from Black Americans. Illegal immigrants separate their own families if they are deported. (Hey, they knew when they acted illegally to stay or enter the county that they could be deported at anytime and they may take their families with them if they are deported. And no one says that the government is ripping apart families when parents convicted of crimes go the jail. The separating of families is the natural consequence of criminal violations of the law in each case.) Obama has his wrong-headed ideas.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/13/obama-immigration-action_n_2125625.html

    Obama must be kept from stabbing Blacks in the back!

    3. The third item is for Congress and the President to set up a “Blue Ribbon” commission to determine the effects of slavery and Jim Crow on African Americans (the descendants of Africans enslaved and brought to America). The effects should be determined cumulative for each decade, starting in 1860 to date.) It is clear that the effects are ongoing—from the use of the N word, to preferring light-skin, to the term “good-hair”, to the ongoing results of the “doll” test (done perhaps first by Dr. Kenneth B. Clark in the 1940shttp://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151227149888558&set=a.258455448557.141362.228102923557&type=1&relevant_count=1&ref=nf ) and on and on. The effects of slavery should be determined for the beneficiaries of slavery each decade, starting in 1860 to date as well. Obama must be challenged to lead on this issue as well.

    4. Obama must be challenged to address the Penal-Industrial complex and the harm done by it, particularly to African Americans and the African American community. Obama must be challenged to address the jobs that illegal immigrants are taking from African Americans and the resulting loss of resources and the loss of jobs to African Americans. And finally, he must be challenged to definitively ascertain the costs and benefits of slavery and Jim Crow to all Americans and to determine who got the benefits and who paid the price and what effects are ongoing. I have more ideas for the Black Agenda that Obama must pass. In fact, I suggest that the Black vote be put up for “bid” to the candidates and parties that will follow the Black Agenda-Democrats, Republicans, whoever. How about these ideas?

    5. Many right-wingers have gone to the White House website and have filed petitions regarding secession.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/13/petition-to-secede-states_n_2120410.html
    Perhaps Black Americans need to file a petition there regarding the prison-industrial complex and illegal immigrants stealing the jobs of Black Americans.

  3. No matter what he (President Obama) does for the black community it will not or never be enough. Black people have to get their values and morals straight. Stop the black on black crime, getting high of everything and get to getting educated on how this world keeps us in slavery with clothes, sneakers and the excesses of the life.
    We have to get out of that kind of thinking and have a forward thinking mentality!
    We are our own worse enemy.
    President Obama can only do so much, we have to be accountable, starting with our children and what is tearing our communities apart. Rap music, spending too much money on the wrong things and not be educated!!!!!!

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