I have a tendency to see things in black and white — figuratively speaking, not literally.
I’m not sure where this particular character trait came from as both my parents tend to see things in shades of gray and are always quick to pick out a nuance in a particular argument, thought or fact. So when the question was raised to me a few days ago about whether or not African-Americans are better off under an Obama Administration than say under a Bush or Clinton Administration, my first response was “no” which then quickly turned to a “yes” and a “no.”
Let me explain why. First, the obvious. African-Americans have plenty to be proud of under Barack Obama’s presidency thus far since one of our own is in the White House. That is an achievement in of itself, and to have two black adults be such strong role models for all Americans, but in particular African-American men, is a stunning milestone. Not since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. have we had such articulate leaders that look like us who seem to practice what they preach: respect your spouse, don’t be ashamed to be affectionate in public, read to your children and be conscious of your health and remember to give back to your community in some way. Barack and Michelle Obama embody these virtues and for that they should be commended. It should also be noted that their two children seem to be just as carefree and relaxed as every 12 and 9 year old should be.
Black America is better off from a role model standpoint by having them as our first family, and even after three years in the White House it still gives me goose bumps to see them stroll across the lawn of the White House en route to Air Force One or to see them represent our country oversees.
I wish I could say the same for black America in respect to our economic and social situation.
The unfortunate truth is that African-Americans today are squeezed financially now than any other time since the 1960s. To be fair, our economy is still recovering from the worst downturn since the Great Depression and the national unemployment rate is still at an uncomfortable rate of 8.8 percent, which means that a vast majority of black, white and Hispanic Americans are hurting, but when you dig deep into the numbers they paint an alarming picture for African-Americans.
According to the National Urban League, economic equality between black and white Americans dropped a percentage point to 56.9 percent from 57.9 percent in the last year. Black unemployment is at 15.3 percent — nearly twice the national average.
We know that we do not need the National Urban League, the United Negro College Fund, or even the Obama Administration to tell us that things are bad in black America. We only have to listen to a friend or family member who may happen to live or work in the inner city to tells us what’s reality. Boarded up homes due to home foreclosures. The Center for Responsible Lending recently pointed that 8 percent of black Americans homeowners lost their properties. Compared to 4.5 percent for whites. Today. black Americans are three times more likely to have negative or zero net worth than whites.
So, back to the question, are we, meaning black America, better off under an Obama Adminstration than we where under a Bush or Clinton? I wish the answer were simple, but I think you will agree with me that it really is not a “yes” or “no” answer — only shades of gray which brings joy to our grandparent’s and even our parent’s generation who never would have dreamed in their lifetime a black first family would be possible.
That joy, however, is also mixed with sadness and disappointment that yet another chapter in black America’s history will say the same as before: a class of people with an unacceptable number of ill-housed, ill-nourished, underpaid that deserves and is expecting so much more.
Will things look better in a second term? If history is our guide, I don’t think we should hold our breath.