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Black America -- What If Obama Were White?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
What if President Obama were white?

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said last year, "If (former President) Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem, we probably would be marching on the White House."


The problem to which Cleaver refers is black unemployment. At the beginning of the Obama administration, 12.7 percent of black adults seeking work were unemployed. Black unemployment is now 14.1 percent. Black teenage unemployment at the beginning of the Obama administration was 35.2 percent. Black teenage unemployment is now 37.9 percent.

Last month, Cleaver said: "As the chair of the Black Caucus, I've got to tell you, we are always hesitant to criticize the President. With 14 percent (black) unemployment, if we had a white president we'd be marching around the White House. ... The President knows we are going to act in deference to him in a way we wouldn't to someone white."

A reporter asked Cleaver what would he say had Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, instead of Obama, been elected president. Cleaver admitted: "As much as I love Sen. Clinton, I would have been all over her on 14 percent unemployment for African-Americans. I would have said, 'My sister, I love you, but this has got to go.'"

Actor Morgan Freeman accuses Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of placing the defeat of Obama ahead of the welfare of the country. But there is no problem with Cleaver putting Obama's re-election ahead of the welfare of the very people who most enthusiastically voted the President into office?


Cleaver and other black Democrats in the House hail from the same tax/spend/regulate left side of the left party. What possible useful advice could they offer? "Hey, Mr. President, please don't accede to our political demands because, in truth, they are counterproductive."

Back in April 2003, then-Illinois state Sen. Obama sharply criticized high black unemployment under then-President George W. Bush. Obama assailed Bush's "attack on working families," arguing that the President needed to "fix up the economy first" before doing anything else -- like lowering taxes. Black unemployment, at the time, was 10.3 percent. Obama spoke about "the economic disaster that is occurring in our communities."

When black unemployment edged up to 10.9 percent the next month, Obama called out Bush for his "unprecedented $300 billion deficit," which, he said, "underscores the recklessness of the George W. Bush administration and the Republican Congress." Under Bush, the economy grew for 35 consecutive months. And black unemployment reached a low of 7.9 percent.

Puzzled at the disdain for Bush -- despite better black employment numbers than those under Obama? Consider the contempt so many blacks display toward former President Ronald Reagan. A few months ago, I interviewed PBS television host Tavis Smiley. To make the case for less government and lower taxes -- the opposite of which Obama has pursued -- I cited the unemployment rates and other economic numbers for blacks under Reagan.


Smiley: Every stat you cited, vis-a-vis people of color, does not measure up when you talk to the people of color who had to live through the hell of those eight years of Ronald Reagan.

Elder: What do mean, "talk to the people"? I've just given you labor stats, census stats -- these are facts, Tavis. Unemployment fell faster in the black community than the white community -- it fell faster for teens, it fell faster for adults, it fell faster for Hispanics. And you're telling me when you talk to people, they don't like Reagan, so therefore stats go out of the window?

Smiley: Larry, your numbers are not true. When I get back to my office, later today or tomorrow, I'll send you some more numbers. You know this -- numbers don't lie, but people do. The numbers are very clear.

What if Obama were white?

Apart from high black unemployment, Obama opposes allowing urban parents to select the school for their children. Though he calls education "the civil rights issue" of the 21st century, Obama opposed the popular D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. By lottery, inner-city Washington, D.C., children received vouchers to help allow parental choice in education. High school graduation rates increased from 70 percent for applicants not offered a scholarship to 82 percent for the scholarship recipients.


The head of the Congressional Black Caucus concedes that blacks suffer from a level of unemployment that would be unacceptable under a white president. But because of Obama's race, Cleaver refuses to criticize him.

How is this any different from how actor Samuel L. Jackson explains why he voted for Obama? "I voted for Barack," said Jackson, "because he was black. 'Cuz that's why other folks vote for other people -- because they look like them." Meanwhile, black political leaders like Cleaver refuse to criticize what Obama himself, in 2003, called "the economic disaster that is occurring in our communities" -- because Obama looks like them.

And Tavis Smiley's "more" numbers have yet to arrive.

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