Across the board, Black Americans love President Barack Obama. We love his wife and his family. We love the symbolism of it all and most refuse to attack his presidency. But, has it stuck you that the ever-growing list of problems Black Americans face aren't on anybody's agenda? Though we have Black people in high positions the quandary of Black Americans is not on the president's agenda, or that of Congress and mainstream media. Even the Congressional Black Caucus leadership takes a hands-off approach to their constituents' dire situation. Unless African Americans develop an agenda and make the requisite demands, their economic prospects will continue declining.
With the current national unemployment rate at 9.5 percent, Americans across the board are wondering when they'll see an economic recovery. But those concerns are even greater for African-Americans, whose unemployment rate is closer to 20 percent. Lack of economic opportunities has long been a problem among most African Americans, but financial woes have fallen on the Black middle-class. Disturbing trends made up of a stagnant economy and an inactive Black middle-class has put this group on a downward slope. A report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that economic gains African-Americans made in the 1990s have slowly eroded.
These economic concerns are even greater for African Americans that languish behind the rest of Americans. But, from all appearances, Blacks are just "fine on Cloud 9." The historic election of President Obama led to big cheers among Blacks, but their reality is growing uncertainty, joblessness and poverty. As it was in 1920, the economic trajectory for Black Americans continues downward -- despite the presence of a Black man in the White House. On all major economic indicators, which can include income, wages, employment and poverty, African-Americans are worse off than at the beginning of the decade. A Pew Research Center report reveals that of the sons and daughters of the 20th Century Black Middle-Class are ending up with lower incomes than their parents.
As Blacks were defending his presidency, Obama signed economic stimulus legislation in the form of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - $787 billion aimed at helping America's economy recover. The act includes increased federal spending for health care, infrastructure, education, various tax breaks and incentives, and direct assistance to individuals. But nothing has been targeted to help Blacks in the grave economic circumstances they face.
Many Blacks elect to fall in behind the fantasy being pushed that America is better because it has a Black President and that "we all" are moving towards becoming a post-racial and equitable society. It looks like Blacks will be the last Americans to hold Obama's feet to the fire for their lack of "economy recovery." Most Blacks, definitely those of the middle class, don't seem to realize how they've brought about their own decline. DuBois' vision of Blacks building an economic foundation by incorporating into White industry and gaining skills and acumen that foster capitalism never happened. Blacks in positions to do something, don't. Few among the mainstream have looked out for Black Americans' best interest. Like Obama, many Blacks have assimilated American Establishment mind-sets and apologize for this nation's injustices and inequality.
The unique circumstances of Black Americans will get no attention from the Obama administration unless Blacks in crowds stop adoring and making apologies for him and start making demands of him. If Blacks continue to lose assets, homes and jobs and fail to bring attention to their plight, then hackneyed speeches from Obama will be all we will get. Blacks are foolish to not hold Obama, et al., accountable. We continue confusing "political empowerment" with "economic empowerment" and as we accept "politics as usual" and continue African Americans' downward spiral. Blacks overlook basic mechanisms we need to employ to gain and sustain collective wealth. Interactive participation in capitalism is the way we can maximize economic growth and generalize prosperity. Capitalism can work for us if we hold elected officials accountable and form effective economic and political bases.
William Reed is available for speaking engagements via BaileyGroup.org.