- Racial Equity
- Talk About Race
On Friday September 17, The Washington Post reported that “Black Scholars [were] to debate how to hold Obama ‘accountable.’ I was fortunate enough to be one of several Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commissioners to engage in this dialogue at the 40th Legislative Annual Congressional Black Caucus Conference.
To give some background, in 2008 at its State of the Black World Conference in New Orleans, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) announced a new initiative: the Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission (SCPAC), named in honor of the first black woman elected to Congress and the first black woman to seek the Democratic nomination for president.
Richard Adams, Chairman of the Board of IBW and Convener of the Commission said:
The Shirley Chisholm Accountability Commission was not organized to react to President Barack Obama. As we indicated when the idea of the Commission was announced at the State of the Black World Conference, we need a mechanism that can monitor progress on the Black Agenda, no matter who occupies the White House. We finally have a structure that can fulfill that function in Black America.
Founding Commission Co-Chair, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, tells the story of a conversation between Franklin D. Roosevelt and civil rights leaders, including A. Philip Randolph, who were concerned about jobs for African-Americans. Roosevelt told Randolph to “raise enough hell” so that Roosevelt would have no choice but to address their needs.
Dr. Malveaux related this anecdote to the Commission on Saturday. She said, “He’s our brother, and he gets it, but we’re not his only constituency. He’s not the President of Black America. We have to make him do right. He’s not going to do right just ‘cause. We’ve got to make him.”
Terry Shropshire transcribed the proceedings:
Malveaux also said: “The economic times that we’re in does not warrant an A, except that if it were not for the policies that this administration implemented, we’d be in worse shape than we are in now. If we look at the unemployment rate [it's] 9.7 percent and going up. And the [stated] unemployment rate for our people is fiction. Our real unemployment rate is 28.7 percent. This is an unreported fact. The money that has gone to states? States, not cities. What’s the flaw?
The president and his team have done what they’re supposed to do, and that is put money in people’s hands. What do we know about states? Legislators tend to be rural, melanin-deprived with anti-urban bias making decisions about how money goes to cities. Obama and his team did not understand the level of antipathy [state legislators] have toward progress and urban areas. And where do you find most black people? In the cities. The black poverty rate is above 25 percent. Black income is dropping and others incomes’ are rising. Over 50 million people do not have health insurance. They voted down the extension of the unemployment benefits for four months. He’s taken a page out the Clinton playbook and says you’ve got to get something done. That’s why I give him a B. In terms of interaction with us, I give him an incomplete because someone from his administration should have been here today.”
Makani Nixon, CEO, Praxis Project: “Our infrastructure is under-funded. And It is race that decides who gets what monies, and there hasn’t been the kind of civil rights enforcement even though there is an initiative to try to really look at the disparity in funding. That’s where we want to see more improvement. If I grade objectively, I have to give him a C.”
Dr. Mtangulizi Sanyika, planning and development director consultant, African World Studies, Global Encounters in Houston stated: “First of all, his predecessors get F’s across the board. The condition of our people always stay[s] the same and I don’t expect to see much difference this time. Not because I don’t wish to see such but the cultural constraints of this president do not allow him to eliminate the exploitation that is rooted in the American capitalistic system. Obama’s response to New Orleans, post Katrina: unequivocal A. His support for recovery is less ambiguous [than his predecessor]. His understanding [of] the problem is much more brilliant than his predecessor.
Conditions for black people in New Orleans: a grade of incomplete. The … city is whiter and more expensive than it used to be. The number of minority, black, Latino, local and women-owned contractors receiving money to help recovery is dismal. The president can help [make] changes, that is the basis for the incomplete. Our homes are worth less than they were during Katrina.
Urban policy: All of you are living in cities on the brink of disaster. We have [to turn] the effort into coherent policy. … In this area, we give the president a B.”
The Commissioners were cautiously optimistic, and The President received a lukewarm C+ on his report card.
The mediocre grade was mainly given due to the fact that the associate director from the White House Office of Urban Affairs, who was scheduled to attend, never showed; however, the President did attend the evening’s awards ceremony. Please review my colleague’s comments and let us know what grade would you give?
Others have suggested a broader critique of the Obama administration rather than the Presidency alone. In terms of accountability, I think that a less reductive metric would produce more useful analyses of the President’s various policy agenden. Having said that, the impulse to issue a grade is tempting and a mid-term grade may be warranted; however, there are too many unfinished assignments to give a fair and firm grade. For now, I am going with an incomplete.
September 29, 2010 at 3:36 pm
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