What has President Obama done for Blacks?


Affordable Care Act, HBCU investment top some advocates’ lists

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


Since Barack Obama took office four years ago as the first Black president in U.S. history, he has been criticized by many Blacks for not doing enough for the Black community. The MSRspoke with an author and political leaders who say the political sound bites that list the president’s accomplishments are not being captured.

Heather Harris, Stevenson (Md.) University Business Communication Associate Professor and co-editor of The Obama Effect — Multidisciplinary Renderings of the 2008 Campaign

“I think much of the criticism on the president is unfair, and I think part of my job is that we get the information out there in the community on what the president has done. He doesn’t get enough credit on things he has done, and [for things that] have directly benefited the African American community,” states Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who also is U.S. Conference of Mayors president.

“This president has put more money in Historically Black Colleges than other presidents before him have,” says National Congress of Black Women, Inc. President E. Faye Williams on the Obama administration’s investment in HBCUs.

“Based on what I have been noticing in the press, I think [Black people] aren’t seeking out more information. What we are getting is sound bites, and the sound bites are often out of context. To get that context, we have to go back and read for ourselves,” observed Stevenson (Md.) University Business Communication Associate Professor Heather Harris.

E. Faye Williams, president of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc.
Photo courtesy of the National
Congress of Black Women, Inc.

Harris, University of Maryland Baltimore County Assistant Professor Kimberly Moffitt and University of Minnesota Journalism Professor Catherine Squires were co-editors of The Obama Effect — Multidisciplinary Renderings of the 2008 Campaign (SUNY Press, 2010).

Harris says that the Black community as well as the general public “is often misled” by media sound bites. “Then we are left with the perception that is inadequate in terms of what the Obama administration actually [has] managed to accomplish in the last three-and-a-half years. I just think people are not taking the time to find out the facts for themselves.”

In her chapter, “The Webbed Message: Re-Visioning the American Dream,” Harris recalls, “One of the things I said was that Senator Obama at the time was trying to rekindle the American Dream. Ironically the dream that he tried to open up to everyone is being perceived as taking the country in a direction that is not official to the majority of people here.

“I think just…the passage of the Affordable Care Act leads us in the direction of a kinder, healthier nation, if people are willing to see the benefits of how their health care” can be addressed, she notes.

“How many of our community have benefited from that particular piece of legislation,” said Sacramento, Calif. Mayor Kevin Johnson on the Affordable Care Act (2010). He added that Congress instead deserves more criticism than the president.

As far as the high Black unemployment rate, “Unemployment in the Black community was higher than the national average before the president [took office],” says Nutter. “The president has tried to put more money into job training programs to help people.”

“The president needs four more years to get things done,” says Williams. She also would like to see more regulation on financial institutions “and we know there’s more to be done in [the] area” of Black unemployment.

“There are so many ways our community have been helped” by President Obama, says Williams. “He and his wife have been the greatest role models that our children could ever have, and [children] can look at them and raise their own horizon because somebody [who] looks like them already has been president and first lady.”

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.