This week President Obama touted the achievements of his year old stimulus plan, claiming that his administration saved the country from a “second depression” by extending unemployment insurance, making COBRA health care more affordable, cutting taxes for first time home buyers, and keeping essential workers like police and fire personnel employed. Obama also said that his plan has also either created or saved two million jobs.
Nonetheless, many advocates feel that this economic growth has not be felt within the black community. While unemployment nationally hovers around 10 percent, the numbers are almost double for African Americans. Last week the president met with Rev. Al Sharpton, National Urban League president Marc Morial and NAACP head Benjamin Jealous on black unemployment, however, there are other African Americans who say that Obama has been too slow to move on this issue.
Namely, actor/activist Danny Glover criticized the president of following the “same playbook” the previous administration used on both international and domestic policies.
“What’s so clear is that this country from the outset is projecting the interests of wealth and property,” Glover said. “Look at the bailout of Wall Street. Why not the bailout of Main Street?”
In the past, Obama has suggested that class might more, if not as important, as race when dealing with policy issues, and wants to deal with issues affecting the black community without actually framing them as black problems. However, a report from the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity says that just the opposite, stating that the “stimulus did not go far enough in terms of marginalized communities, and it lacked transparency and accountability in regard to racial equity.” In addition, the report states that the stimulus has not properly established an infrastructure that would help enable black workers to find jobs.
Barbara R. Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, may have a solution to the black unemployment question: have a jobs bill specifically for blacks.
“To address the specific difficulties that African-Americans are experiencing in this economy, you need very targeted and specific programs that would respond to the crisis, and unfortunately we’re not seeing that,” she said.
But does having a race-specific policy work in Obama’s post-racial dream? Possibly not, but the reality of the situation is that even if the country wasn’t in a economic downturn, the unemployment rate among black men would be about the same as the current national jobless rate, and there is nothing post-racial about that.