Since President Barack Obama’s historic rise to the highest office in the land, he was immediately praised in the African-American community. Many Black Americans saw Obama as a history-making savior, crafting a mythic image of a man who never claimed to be more than human. Expectations skyrocketed and the cheers became jeers as some African Americans began to feel shunned and shut out from the White House’s policy advances in the last three and a half years.
Some talking heads from the left as well as Black public figures, such as Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, have increased their criticism of the President. While there is an almost rabid bloodlust present in Obama’s critics, which reeks of pettiness, there is very little mention of the policies and political strategies that the White House has put in place for African Americans since taking office.
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Critics point to the economy, the mortgage crisis, and other skyrocketing issues related to the nature of the global fabric of commerce – all issues that Obama has worked feverishly within his administration to address with a largely uncooperative Congress.
A detailed look at the White House’s list of accomplishments tailored toward the African-American community highlight that the Obama administration isn’t idle on many of our key issues. Through a variety of programs and measures, there exist several actions Obama has made to ensure African Americans have the same opportunities as others.
Obama’s Key Actions For Black America
In February of 2009, Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law to help address the country’s economic woes. As a result, $5 billion was doled out to programs, such as Head Start, Early Head Start, child care, and other related needs. The Obama administration also increased the number of Pell grants for college students, with an aim to significantly boost the number of grants by 2020.
Consequently, a 10-year, $2-billion investment from Obama serves to assist students who wish to attend HBCUs and other minority-focused institutions.
Watch President Obama sign an executive order to increase federal funding to HBCUs:
When Obama signed the Small Business Jobs Act in 2010, it funneled $12 billion geared toward small business owners looking to borrow funds to erect or improve existing businesses. The Minority Business Development Agency, also developed by the Obama administration, gained businesses contracts and lending opportunities, with $3 million granted over a two-year period.
Health care was also an area of focus for the White House. With the administration expanding access to preventive care, they effectively aided 41-million African Americans nationwide. Community Health Centers, a staple in many urban communities, also received help in the form of an $11-billion infusion of funds that would help improve centers nationwide and provide necessary care to more than 40-million African Americans by 2019.
With African Americans disproportionately arrested, the president signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which focused on closing the gap of convictions stemming from cocaine powder and crack cocaine possession. The administration’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative has the primary focus of combating poverty in public housing complexes and creates stronger educational policies for those areas hardest hit by down times.
Watch footage of President Obama changing the crack-cocaine laws:
While African Americans can’t expect President Obama to become a miracle worker for Black American woes, the above legislation and initiatives present both a concrete and realistic picture of his policies in our communities.
Sure, there is much more to do, but to paint Obama as negligent to our needs is both unfair and untrue. Instead of African Americans looking for ways to undermine Obama’s presidency and legacy, we should seek to rally around issues that are important to us and lean on Congress to makes things right.