But when you happen to be a part of the 16% of black Americans who are currently unemployed, those words ring hollow. Ditto if you happen to be a black victim of discrimination or unwarranted police violence. These days, it seems the concerns of the black community are the furthest thing from the mind of the president. Of course, black Americans don't expect Obama to cater to their every single wish or whim -- that's a great way for whites to become upset and walk away from Obama in droves. What black Americans want is for the president to acknowledge some of their concerns in a concrete manner,
In politics, black folks usually stand in solidarity with elected black officials, seeing as they were usually the only ones who could be relied on to actually act in the black community's interests, historically speaking. Black Americans stand by Obama because he represents the best and most reliable chance of acting in the interests of the community. When there aren't any major black political figures available, the black community goes for those who represent the best chance of having their interests heard. Hence why blacks side with the Democrats instead of the GOP, and why Bill Clinton was considered "the first black president" during his tenure.
But thanks to the appearance of inaction on Obama's part and mounting frustration with America's current economic state, plenty of black supporters and politicians are thinking about taking their arm from around Obama's shoulders. To wit, Representative Maxine Waters:
U.S. House Rep. Maxine Waters is asking black voters who are struggling with an unemployment rate nearly twice the national average to "unleash" her and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus on President Obama.
The California Democrat, speaking at a raucous town hall in Detroit hosted by the CBC on Tuesday, said she doesn't want to attack the president from his base unless the base gives her the go-ahead.
"If we go after the president too hard, you're going after us," Waters said. "When you tell us it's all right and you unleash us and you're ready to have this conversation, we're ready to have the conversation."
Judging by the reaction of the audience, including someone yelling to Waters, "It's all right," the president will be hearing very soon from the congresswoman and her fellow caucus members.
Since Obama took office, he has resisted pressure from the CBC to create jobs programs specifically targeting blacks, saying that improving the entire economy will help all groups.
Waters said the Congressional Black Caucus "loves" the president, but it is frustrated.
"We're getting tired y'all," she said. "We want to give him every opportunity. But our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. ... When you let us know it is time to let go, we'll let go."
You're probably wondering why in the world would Rep. Waters and any other black politician would seek permission to criticize and otherwise not support Obama. For starters, Obama still enjoys a relatively large amount of support from the black community, and secondly, her fellow politicians and spokespersons would most likely go on the defensive in support of Obama. Yes, black folks realize the man's a bit tone-deaf and some even wonder if he really understands what it means to be a black person in America, given his half-white heritage and otherwise unconventional upbringing, but they're not about to see their own jump down the man's throat without just cause.
This interview in Time Swampland goes into further detail about what Rep. Waters felt Obama's done so far and what Rep. Waters would like to see Obama doing for the black community. Others may see it as a temper tantrum from someone who not only doesn't get that Obama has to build consensus and work towards the benefit of the entire nation, but also someone who allegedly hasn't done much for her constituents.