Commentary: Why Obama Should Focus on Jobs for African-Americans

The December unemployment report is evidence the Black community needs help.

Posted: 01/09/2013 06:18 PM EST
Why Obama Should Focus on Jobs for African-Americans

Job seekers wait in line at Kennedy-King College to attend a job fair hosted by the city of Chicago. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

After the unemployment report was released earlier this month, a few news outlets said that the numbers were “building hope” for the American economy. However, the report from the U.S. Department of Labor appears to tell another national story for African-Americans.

On Friday, the Labor Department reported that unemployment for whites remained nearly a full point under the national average. But jobless rates for both women and African-Americans swelled. The unemployment rate for American women crept up to 7.3 percent and the unemployment rate for African-Americans rose to 14 percent in December.  

Low-income and high-unemployment data among African-Americans is clearly not President Obama’s fault or a new phenomenon in America. In the very same year President Obama took office, the U.S. Census calculated that the median income for all households in America stood at $49,777. By race, whites were just above average at $51,861 and Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders were well above average at $65,469. However, Hispanic households lulled at $38,039 and African-American households lagged in last at $32,584.  

Unfortunately, while President Obama isn’t the one to blame, he also doesn’t seem to want to address it either. Just a few months ago, in the thick of his re-election campaign, President Obama told Black Enterprise magazine, “I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of the United States of America.”  

To be fair, President Obama’s seemingly shortsighted quip to Black Enterprise is buffered by statements that he wants all Americans to succeed and has put in place programs designed to help provide opportunities for everyone. But at what point should the president be held accountable for America’s struggling African-American communities?

Yes, the U.S. economy has rebounded since its 10 percent unemployment rate in 2009. However, the nation’s progress rings slightly different in the Black community. Fortunately for African-Americans, the president has shown that he can change his mind on policy decisions. Our president has changed his stance on keeping the Guantanamo Bay detention camp open, allowing lobbyists to work in the White House and supporting the right for same-sex couples to wed.

We can only hope that President Obama has a change of heart on creating jobs and economic fairness specifically for African-Americans. 

Charles Chamberlayne is a public affairs specialist, political consultant, and veteran of Capitol Hill. He has worked as a spokesperson former Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and many senators, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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