Black lawmakers and civil rights activists are desperate to find ways to focus President Obama’s attention on the staggering unemployment rates in their communities. But they struggle mightily over how best to accomplish that goal, largely because they don’t want to be viewed as being critical of the president. But as they watch their Latino and gay and lesbian counterparts getting their wheels oiled by the administration because they are as loud as they want to be about expressing their views, they may have to start squeaking, too. It’s a quandary that several black leaders discussed during a Thursday jobs summit hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus to explore their options.
In the meantime, the CBC will soon launch a jobs tour and plans to raise the roof at civil rights, religious and other annual conventions and meetings that will take place this summer. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri), who chairs the group, said they don’t have all the answers, but just because their ability to help solve the problem is limited, there’s no reason to do nothing.
“Today we have a coalition of African-American leaders from every sphere in this country—from the NAACP to the Congressional Black Caucus—and we’re saying this is an urgent appeal to the White House, to the Congress and to the people in municipalities all around this country, that we must attack this issue of unemployment and that Black unemployment deserves some kind of targeted approach in correcting that injustice,” Cleaver said. “There’s something wrong here. This has not been a headline story anywhere in the country. We’re more concerned about Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton than we are about 16.1 percent of the American population unemployed.”
Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University professor and popular commentator on African-American issues, said that part of their goal Thursday was to “make a philosophical and a paradigm shift, if you will, in some of the thinking of the highest levels.” He disagrees with Obama’s philosophy that a rising tide lifts all boats.
“We realize that some people don’t have boats, some people are drowning, some people need extra life support,” he said, adding that the president must target the Black unemployment rate because of its exacerbating domino effect on the community’s overall well being, which is already far less than ideal.
It’s a worthy goal, but the biggest paradigm shift that may need to be made is Black leaders giving their constituents’ feelings and circumstances more consideration than Obama’s.
(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty)