In 2008, with the presidential fight heating up, America’s most powerful Blacks turned out in force for then-Senator Barack Obama. Celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson and Magic Johnson hosted and attended fundraisers for Obama, crowding their Beverly Hills homes with glitzy friends who wanted to take part in an historic effort. It was an exciting time for Black America, especially for older celebrities, who had seen the racial barriers to success in their industry broken down while racial barriers to high political office remained.
Four years later, Black Hollywood, like some Black Americans, is more reticent about Barack Obama. In a new Daily Beast article, Allison Samuels lays out the problems:
As one member of the Congressional Black Caucus put it, “Last time around it was enough that he was a smart Black man with a beautiful family running for president.” This time, he’ll have to contend with some disappointment in his record among African-Americans, including grumbling from leaders such as Cornel West and Tavis Smiley about what they see as Obama’s lack of attention to the needs of minorities and the poor.
With outspoken Black leaders like West and Smiley criticizing Obama’s perceived weak response to African-American poverty, and with Black unemployment remaining absurdly high, some African-Americans are wondering if they put their faith in a poor leader. “Some days I agree with Dr. West and what he says about the president not dealing enough with the plight of the poor,” Samuel L. Jackson told the Daily Beast. “Then I think about how they won’t give him credit for anything. … The president got about a week of moderate applause for capturing the most-wanted man in the world.”
Of course, while it’s certainly OK to criticize Obama for not doing as much as you’d like, as we’ve argued before, it’s not OK to say he’s done nothing. And that being the case, it also makes little sense to not support Obama in 2012, especially if you’d like a candidate who works for Black causes.
Luckily, many Black Americans, like Spike Lee, for instance, haven’t totally given up on supporting the president’s reelection. But for those that have, it’s important to consider seriously who they will support come November. Without a doubt, Obama is not a perfect politician when it comes to Black issues. But until that candidate comes along, he’s what we’ve got. And he’s far superior to Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney. That our presidential elections have come down to something as ugly as “at least he’s better than the other guy” is a sad reality. But the key word there is “reality.”
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