Just because he's African-American, is President Barack Obama obligated to make a targeted effort to help the nation’s Black communities that have been most affected by the recession and are experiencing an unemployment rate that is double the national rate? That's the trillion dollar question for many Congressional Black Caucus members who don’t want to send a message that they’re dissatisfied with the nation’s first Black president.
They’ve waited patiently for some sign that the administration does in fact have plans to ease their constituents’ economic pain, but they’re starting to feel some frustration and are hoping that during their Thursday afternoon meeting with the president, they’ll finally hear the answers they’ve been waiting for.
"We’re going to talk about the number one issue we’re hearing about—jobs. We asked people on our Website what issues they’d like us to raise with the president and the answer was jobs,” said CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri). “And some of them were very candid. People are understandably frustrated that they haven’t gotten any jobs and aren’t hearing about the creation of jobs or that we’re working on creating jobs.”
Cleaver said that during the meeting, members will make a presentation outlining the myriad challenges their constituents face. He believes that once Obama is made aware of “how dire the situation is” he’ll need to address it.
“We don’t want a situation where after eight years we see African-Americans slip backwards,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland). “I realize that he came in under some very dire and unfortunate circumstances that had been created by President Bush and the Republicans, but I think it’s important that we not allow African-Americans to continue to suffer so disproportionately with regard to foreclosures, loss of jobs, loss of healthcare, loss of savings.”
The attention that Obama has paid to Latino issues during several meetings in recent weeks with congressional and community leaders, and most recently, when he delivered a speech on immigration reform earlier this week in El Paso, Texas, has not gone unnoticed. Cleaver said he’s been questioned about it by just about every Capitol Hill reporter, but is not interested in engaging in a conversation about competing minority needs.
Cummings, however, was more frank.
“I think that the example of him going to the border and talking about Hispanics should be brought up,” he said. “That we respect it, but why can’t similar actions be made on behalf of African-Americans?”
(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)