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Obama reaches out to African Americans

By Krissah Thompson
President Obama is pushing back this week against criticism that he has not been concerned enough about the disproportionate impact of the economic recession on African Americans. In interviews this week with media outlets targeted at the black community, he defended both his record and his connection to the community against accusations that he is taking black voters for granted.

Recently members of the Congressional Black Caucus have said his administration and Congressional leaders are not doing enough to target aid to the black community, which has higher levels of unemployment than others. Nationally, unemployment stands at 10 percent, but 15.6 percent of blacks are jobless.

Obama said he is doing what he can, and on Monday told April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks that "this notion, somehow, that because there wasn't a transformation overnight that we've been neglectful is just simply, factually not accurate."

In a Tuesday phone interview with syndicated radio host Tom Joyner, Obama added: "One of the things about being part of the African American community is that no matter how well you do, you know there's somebody in your family that's still hurting because we're not that far away from the neighborhood. And people need to know that I carry their stories with me whenever I come into the Oval Office."

Black Caucus members have been the source of much of the criticism targeted at Obama. Earlier this month, ten members held a dramatic boycott of a House Finance Committee to bring attention to the disproportionately high levels of unemployment among black workers, which in some of their districts has soared beyond 20 percent.

"We're out of the box, we're full speed ahead and we are not going to sit back and watch our communities suffer in silence," Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who led the boycott, said in an interview this week with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a federation of black community newspapers. "We have cooperated with the leadership. We have cooperated with the administration. We have supported the bailout and now we're saying, 'What do we get for all of this cooperation? What are we delivering to our communities?' And the answer is little or nothing."

Obama mounted a defense against that notion, citing aid from the economic stimulus bill that saved the jobs of teachers, firefighters and police officers. "The only thing I cannot do is, by law, I cannot pass laws that say 'I'm just helping black folks.' I'm the president of the entire United States," Obama told Ryan in the Oval Office interview. "What I can do is make sure that I am passing laws that help all people, particularly those who are most vulnerable and most in need. That in turn is going to help lift up the African American community."

Obama told Joyner that the health care bill the Senate is expected to pass this week will help the one in five black people who don't have health insurance. And he closed his interview with the radio host by saying: "I think the main message that I've got for the African American community as we go into this next year is that this has been a hard one. It's been a tough one. But Michelle and I are so blessed by the support that we receive, and everywhere we go, people come up to us and say, 'We're praying for you, thinking about you and rooting for you.' I just want everybody to know that goes both ways, and I'm praying for all your listeners and thinking about all your listeners, and we're rooting for you. And that's not just Michelle and me -- that's Malia and Sasha, the first grandmother."

An edited version of the Obama's conversation with Joyner follows. The full transcript can be read on BlackAmericaWeb.

Joyner: What do you have to say to the struggling people this Christmas?

Obama: Well, I think the main message I have is a) I know you're hurting. I get letters from people across the country everyday that I read, and you know, the stories are heartbreaking. Folks are worried about losing their homes. They've lost their jobs. They're trying to figure out how they can still pay for their kids' college education. They've been sending out resumes, and nothing's happening. They've lost their health care. The main message I have for them is help is on the way. I know it's not coming as quick for some as we would like, but our first job this year was to make sure that the economy just didn't collapse because then it would have been even worse. We could have had an unemployment rate that is double what it is right now. We've stabilized the economy and it's starting to grow again.

By the way, people need to understand that one out of every five African-Americans do not have health care. Nobody stands to gain more from this health care bill passing - 30 million people who are going to get health care from this insurance deal. It's going to be disproportionately people who are of low-income. They work every day, but they're not getting health care, so that's going to be in place. But then next year, we've also got to focus on things like the education reforms that we've been initiating. Additional child care dollars. Setting up green jobs so that we can train some of those young men on the street to weatherize homes and put up insulation, put in new windows. That saves people on their energy bills, but also starts refurbishing and revitalizing communities that have been neglected too long. So there's some long term projects to revitalize communities that are going to be in place next year, and I'm confident that 2010 is going to be better than 2009. And I think 2011 is going to be better than 2010.

We just want to keep making steady progress for a more just and equal society, and that may not be complete consolation for folks who are really struggling right now. Just know that Michelle and I are thinking about them every day. As I said to one interviewer the other day, it's not as if Michelle and I don't have relatives who are going though this stuff and are unemployed. One of the things about being part of the African American community is that no matter how well you do, you know there's somebody in your family that's still hurting because we're not that far away from the neighborhood. And people need to know that I carry their stories with me whenever I come into the Oval Office.

Joyner: You told us when we last talked, and it's been about a year, that it was going to be tough, and it was going to be a tough job ahead. You warned us about it when we talked to you. So what's been the toughest part for the first year as the first African-American president?

Obama: You know the truth is that I probably had more crises on my desk than any president since FDR, and that's just subjectively speaking. You think about two wars, the economic crisis, the banking crisis, swine flu, we just had a lot of stuff coming at us quickly. I think we have managed it well, but the thing that I think is the toughest is, number-one, that the job growth is not as quick as we'd like. We've got the economy growing, but companies are not hiring back yet, and so we're doing everything we can to try to push companies now that they're making a profit again to start hiring some of those folks who were laid off so that they can further support the economy.

Joyner: So, we're not out of the woods. Now, at the Christmas party there at the White House, you couldn't see (Bill) O'Reilly and the other Fox news people at the party all frowned up, and they were eating up all the shrimp and the ham. Drinking all the liquor. I mean, the people that bad mouth you were there at your party. How hard is it to deal with that - or does it make you stronger and more determined?

Obama: Well, look, first of all, they all got their pictures taken with me.

Joyner: I know!

Obama: So, I think that's part of the Christmas spirit, and Michelle and I try to kill them with kindness. Michelle starts hugging all of them.

Joyner: Ha, ha - I saw that.

Obama: 'Oh, it's great to see you!' And you know, look, the thing about a lot that goes on in cable news - and you know this better than anybody Tom - I mean, these guys fundamentally are entertainers. They are often times not thinking from a journalistic perspective; they are thinking, 'How can we generate some controversy to boost our ratings?' You know, the difference between you and them is you're explicit about the fact that you're entertaining people, and some of the stuff they try to pass off as news. My hope is that with the health care debate winding down, we get that done. The people, everybody takes a deep breath and remembers that everybody's an American. I've got my birth certificate to prove it. We are all just trying to do what's best for the country. We're gonna have our differences, but we don't have to attack each other's motives which I think has become a habit in Washington. You know you know me pretty well, Tom, and I'm always an optimist. I don't hold grudges, and I'm just interested in getting the job done.

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 22, 2009; 12:51 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments


African Americans as respected descendants of slavery have been exploited by Obama and continue to be. He is half white and only around 6% African thus not African American at all.

In fact, he is descended from the ARABIAN SLAVE TRADERS who made a business of kidnaping Africans and selling them into slavery. None of his ancestors were ever slaves. His great, great, great, grandmother was an African child kidnapped by one of the Arabian slave traders who married her at 13. All of their descendants, including Obama were Arabians who like Obama exploited and enslaved Africans for their own benefit.

So he is very little African and if we ever see the Birth Certificats, may prove not be American at all. He merely took advantage of the African Americans of this country to secure the presidency in order to exploit and enslave Americans of every color and now he continues to exploit the honored descendants of slavery by playing the race card if anyone opposes him.

He claims to be helping African Americans, but he has only enslaved us again and our country for generations to come.

Posted by: jaii | December 23, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: granylee23 | December 23, 2009 3:52 AM | Report abuse

I like it when he said that "all are Americans and we all have differences and dont have to attack each other's motive...He just wanted the job done"...i understand him perfectly .Being President is a tough job.

ive read more updates on the Pres. at this great news site...

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Posted by: fozzy13mailbox-ler | December 23, 2009 3:39 AM | Report abuse

Congressional Black Caucus = Professional Race Pimps.

Posted by: gbooksdc | December 22, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

I whole heartly agree with (AmericanInterestsFirstandLast) what true statements...Let it go it is time to move forward and stop hatin old mentality crabpot affect if I can't have U shouldn't either, as stated some of us are holding our own byt the grace of God,Please my people we have a Black president U yourself need to step it up and read a book and stop being so jealous all the malise in your heart for each other is holding U back..educate, educate, move forward, move forward,what you didn't get when you thought you should have well take a look in the mirror did you try or cut your Blessings short!!!!!God is good, get with him... |

Posted by: JACZY1 | December 22, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

So our president is "reaching out" again to one of our "communities." One is not entirely clear about the meaning of this term. The presumption is that it is roughly equivalent to our garden variety "sucking up" or "brown nosing."

But just what do the activists such as Black Caucus hellraisers have in mind when they use the term? Sounds to many they simply want Obama (in the famous words of the big-eyed black girl as she was on her way to vote) "He gonna buy my gas and pay my mortgage."

Now maybe this is just a black thing and those of the Hispanic community, the Asian community, the Indian community, the first immigrant community, the Chinese community, other miscellaneous communities, and oh yes last but not least the white community, should be excused if they interpret Black demands as simply efforts to extort another check from the Pols without any effort.

The higher rates of unemployment for blacks are evident in all phases of the business cycle. And it ain't just due to that legacy of slavery and the awful mindset of whitey. Those days are long past and today the Black Community should recognize at long last their woes are not so much as fixed in their stars as by themselves.

A start would be to get more adept at carrying books than balls, rap less and speak English more, chase those sweeties less and higher grade points more. And for God's sake quit passing on the poison of Black racial aggrievements from generation to generation. After 150 years more or less just let it go.

Millions of blacks are doing very well indeed, why we even have a black president and trust me baby, it took more than the Black community to put him in the Oval Office. Blacks should realize this crucial fact and note that President Obama represents us all.

If all the communities in this country cease to believe this fundamental fact and conclude he favors blacks and illegal aliens/Hispanics,his approval numbers will surely continue to decline and he will be out of office in 36 months certain.

Even now it appears likely that in ten months he will have lost his Dem majorities in Congress.

Should Obama continue the error of his ways, sucking up to Communities and kowtowing to foreign leaders and accepting direct insults from the Premier Wen of the Chicoms,perhaps even the Blacks will support him less even if he "buys their gas and pays their mortgage."

Posted by: AmericanInterestsFirstandLast | December 22, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

it's interesting to read the comments of what is assumed to be white posters on this and many of the WaPo articles. Since the taking of this country from the Natives, it seems that many whites don't realize that they have (and still benefit)from a system that favors the white anglo saxon protestant. So many Post commentors won't admit that racism has denied opportunities and accessibility for those who are non-white. Yet, you criticize organizations like the NAACP, and the Congressional Black Caucus for what they do. If you all would end your racial discrimination and prejudices against Blacks and other non-whites, there would be no need for these organizations. But you take comfort and pride in your racist practices.

Posted by: bebopjazz | December 22, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I am disappointed in the Black Congressional Caucus and all African Americans who believe that President Obama is somehow hurting African Americans. He is the President of all Americans and what would they be saying under a McCain and Palin Administration. President Obama is being harshly accused by the Republicans, who still don't see the big picture and now he has to contend with criticism from some African Americans. My grandmother use to say that we are like "crabs in a pot". I sought further explanation and she said "well, when one crab is trying to get out of the pot the others will try to pull him down". Of course, the Republicans are also acting like crabs. I agree with President Obama and his policies will help the poor and if there are more of us in this group then his policies with help. Again, what gains would have been made under a McCain and Palin Administration. Stop being crabs and realize that the old ways are gone and perhaps the Black Congressional Caucus is passe. We are all in this pot together.

Posted by: happybren57 | December 22, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: edtroyhampton | December 22, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

What does the WHITE CAUCUS say? ... Have we heard from them about what he has done for the poor rural WHITE communities up in the mountains and the rural Towns that have no GUBMINT JOBS ?

Is this just a freakin BLACK WORLD or can anybody live in it ?
=====
why dont you ask the rest of Congress..they're pretty much all white..and you're complaining about a few dozen black lawmakers voicing their opinion? lol

Posted by: detroitblkmale30 | December 22, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

It amazes me some of the comments. Are white people brain dead. You guys spend so much time talking about black people. WHen you country and your people are vanshing
because of the immigrants invading the country. Keep on watching us, while your race is losing...........

Posted by: higgins_demarco1 | December 22, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Recently members of the Congressional Black Caucus have said his administration and Congressional leaders are not doing enough to target aid to the black community, which has higher levels of unemployment than others. Nationally, unemployment stands at 10 percent, but 15.6 percent of blacks are jobless.


LOL and you have more people in prison than any other race. See the connection. You have higher rates of unemployment because you have higher rates of stup1dity. Don't ask the Gov. to change the system change the people you ignorant fool.

NAACP = New masters to the poor blacks.

Posted by: askgees | December 22, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

The Congressional Black Caucus.

How sad!

United States elected officials meeting and grouping based on skin color for the sole purpose of exclusively represetning like skin colored peoples -- excluding those who do not look like them.

Our tax dollars funding racism, race bias, race prejudice, race preference, racial bigotry, and racism.

The CBC is racism. Affirmative action is racism. It is supposed to be against the law. Against the contitution. But there it is.

F'n liberal racists! You make me sick!

Posted by: ram_xxx_ram | December 22, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

What does the WHITE CAUCUS say? ... Have we heard from them about what he has done for the poor rural WHITE communities up in the mountains and the rural Towns that have no GUBMINT JOBS ?

Is this just a freakin BLACK WORLD or can anybody live in it ?

Posted by: noHUCKABEEnoVOTE | December 22, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

obozo,maxine and the group are irritated. throw some $$$$ at them. take it from the fund to save the environment in nowhere africa,asia,middle east,the ice caps,the whales and whatever BS cause. do not shortchange the financial gurus or they will not approve the loan

Posted by: pofinpa | December 22, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Reaches out to Afro-Americans?

That's a joke, RIGHT?

He is on record as saying he can't do a thing for them specifically.

He says he cannot help a group, but everyone with his policies.

No matter that those most deeply effected by the recession are Afro-American (15% unemployment against the national average of approx 10% elsewhere)

So if he's reaching out, it's for photo-ops... because CERTAINLY not with help.

So yeah, empty handed reaching is REALLY gonna help.

Posted by: BellsBlu2 | December 22, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

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