I write this letter with all due respect to yourself, as well as the office of the presidency. Your historic rise up the political ladder has been nothing short of inspirational, and your extraordinary vision has positioned you as one of the most celebrated leaders in the history of the United States. As a fellow scholar and African American male, I applaud your achievements. I am especially excited about how you, Michelle and your beautiful daughters present such a magnificent image of the African American family.
While the black community remains inspired by your achievements and overwhelmingly sympathetic to your challenges from conservatives, there are concerns that the economic plight of black Americans has not been a priority for the Obama Administration. To be sure, opinions on this matter are far from unanimous. But the numbers tell a story that needs to be heard.
As of last month, black unemployment rose to an astonishing 16.3 percent. This was .7 percent higher than the previous month, with the increase being 700 percent higher than the rise in unemployment for white Americans. Additionally, black teen unemployment is now over 45 percent, compared to just 23 percent for white teens. In addition to massive unemployment, wealth inequality in America remains a persistent problem, causing African Americans to bear the brunt of this economic crisis in ways that are unimaginable to other Americans. Our homes are facing foreclosure more often and we are less able to rely on a source of background wealth to help us get through the toughest times. Yet, while we are the least prepared for the recession, we are being hit with a downturn that is twice as forceful as that being experienced by the rest of America. In fact, even after the recession is over, our unemployment rate will probably be as high or higher than the rate that white Americans are agonizing over right now. The United Nations has investigated this issue as a human rights violation, because it appears that we live in a nation that accepts a black underclass as a default way of life.
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To this point, your administration has remained disturbingly silent on the issue of black unemployment. The silence is deafening, but the economic hardship is loud and clear. I am concerned that many of your key economic advisors are unable or unwilling to process and empathize with the depths of black economic misery in America. Many of them are not trained in issues that relate to economic inequality and seem to have little or no desire to make this issue a priority for the administration. In fact, I have yet to hear the words "black man" or "black woman" come out of your mouth in the year 2010.
Most of us are appreciative of the difficulties of being the first black president. We know that America is not ready to put race on the table for discussion, unless it is a case of the Right Wing attacking you for being too black. But there must be some way to show loyalty to the political interests of those who enthusiastically supported you during the 2008 presidential campaign. Many members of this base have either become too disillusioned to vote in the mid-term elections, or are quietly struggling to ensure that they do not undermine your political power by asking your administration to address matters of race. Many black Americans feel abandoned in their suffering and are only comforted by the symbolism of having a black president in the Oval Office.
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I, for one, am glad that I supported you for president. While some members of your cabinet might believe that black political support can be taken for granted, I am not sure if that's the case. Energizing your base is an important part of generating political participation, so while many black Americans may not jump ship to the Republican party, there are many millions who may not be inspired to vote. Most of us supported the Obama Presidency on the promise of hope and change. Right now, hope has nearly diminished and not very much has changed in our households. We know you can't do it all on your own, but I'd love to at least see you try a little bit harder.
If we do not find a way to directly confront economic inequality in America, our nation will remain divided. I am hopeful that in the near future, we will see the creation of White House initiatives which provide a much-needed national conversation on race. I also ask that there be targeted economic policies created to deal with the consistent problem of chronic unemployment among black teens and the rest of the African American community. The passage of stronger urban jobs bills, along with opening the door for additional government contracts for African American companies can go a long way toward helping to alleviate the pressure being felt right now. The disease of black unemployment is one that must be treated and cannot be ignored, for it undermines community safety and deteriorates the core of the African American family. By failing to administer the proper institutional medicine, we risk allowing that disease to fester and eventually kill a segment of our society. The election of our first black president should be a step forward for our community, but at this point, it appears to be a political trade off. I am hopeful we can do better than that.