*L.A.’s Congresswoman Maxine Waters has started a firestorm after her comments yesterday at Wayne State Community College in Detroit regarding President Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus, and Blacks.
When asked why the Black members of Congress don’t pressure the president she replied, “We don’t put pressure on the president because ya’ll love the president. You love the president. You’re very proud to have a black man — first time in the history of the United States of America. If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us.”
I almost fell out of my chair. While what she said is absolutely true, I was just shocked to actually hear a Black member of congress say it publicly.
I don’t think it’s a secret that the majority of Black people are still celebrating the election of “the first Black president”—whether they voted for him or not. With us, because he’s Black, we feel some since of ownership and kinship when it comes to the President.
However, I can’t say that it’s a mutual adoration—in fact, these days I’d go as far as to say it feels like “the first Black president” might even be shuckin’ and jivin’ when it comes to us with no shows at the NAACP (2009), Urban League (2010), and National Action Network’s (2011) conferences—but time enough to speak to Latino’s with the DREAM Act and gays about DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Black people—well all we get is “a rising tide lifts all boats” speech, and tell your kids to stop eating Popeye’s for breakfast and to turn the TV off.
Me–I long fell out of love with the President. I don’t talk about it much because doing so can be a detriment to your well-being in certain company.
To be honest, I’m just not that impressed with his policies regarding poverty and more importantly on Black issues. And while the two issues are not synonymous, there are a lot of poor Black unemployed people.
I’ll admit, I expected more. I hate to think that a white woman would have done more for the poor and for Blacks than “the first Black president.” Or that a cheating philandering white man would have made sure that my grandmother’s other senior’s Social Security checks weren’t less $200 every month now.
But that’s me and just framing your mouth to say anything negative about “the first Black president” around the wrong people could result in exerting the kind of energy I really don’t have to waste in arguing with people—who while they love their “first Black president” haven’t voted since 2008, won’t vote again until November 2012, and couldn’t tell me who their councilmember, Assemblymember, or State Senator is to save their life—but will fight to the death over “the first Black president.”
And no—I am not a Republican, but at the same time, I’m not and haven’t been feeling the Democrats either–who have a tendency to be just as racist as their counterparts—they just hide it better.
In continuing her comments on the president and Black people Rep. Waters said, “all I’m saying to you is, we’re politicians. We’re elected officials. We are trying to do the right thing and the best thing. When you let us know it is time to let go, we’ll let go.”
Now keep in mind that members of the Congressional Black Caucus are themselves member of Congress, i.e. politicians, who like any other politician are concerned with staying in office. Waters herself knows that as long as Black people continue in this love affair with “the first Black president,” while she might want to say something against the president’s policies, it might not be in her best interest if he wants to get re-elected. Although with Congresswoman Waters—if anyone is safe in doing so and retaining their seat in Congress, she is. Black people love her as much or more than the President himself.
So even while in Rep. Waters words, “ our people are hurting” and “the unemployment is unconscionable,” I truly believe that Black people’s love infatuation with “the first Black president” is what keeps them blind to all this or at least the president’s role in it. We like to rationalize all of the president’s actions or inaction with six simple words, “but he’s the first Black president.”
But the plot thickens.
Now, whenever challenged on what the president has or hasn’t done for Black people the message has been drilled into our heads to blindly and without much thought repeat something to the tune of “let’s just him re-elected. Once he’s safe and in office for another four years, he’s going to look out for Black people.”
If he hasn’t shown up for us now, I have little—make that no faith—that another four years will do the trick.
And no—I am not of the mindset that the Black president has to be the president for Black people. I’ve spent enough time working in politics to know that’s of the question. But what I did expect was that “the first Black president” would do more for Black people in this country than pay us lip service and that for the poor they’d show up in his agenda for America not just as an afterthought or third in line to middle class and corporate America.
To be fair, the president isn’t alone my disappointment—the whole of Congress can join him in that. My point is that, since he’s “the first Black president” and it is assumed that the majority of Black people are following blindly behind him like he’s the second coming of Jesus Christ himself here on Earth, I felt it my duty to say something for the few Blacks who don’t subscribe to that train of thought.
A former press secretary in California State Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives, Jasmyne A. Cannick writes about the intersection race, sex, politics, and pop culture from an unapologetically Black point of view. Online at www.jasmynecannick.com. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne
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