In the middle of a blizzard last February, Reverend Al Sharpton, Marc Morial and Benjamin Jealous huddled at a bank of microphones outside of the White House following their visit with President Barack Obama. The visit fueled a minor controversy when the trio were chastened for their unwillingness to utter the words "black unemployment." They used the euphemism "urban communities," but we all knew they meant "black."
Back then we were told by NAACP President Ben Jealous that a "rising tide lifts all boats": "When you try to focus on how to lift all those boats, what you come back to are places -- geographic areas, urban and rural, where assistance should be located," Jealous said. "That approach can work if Congress lets it work... This is about place. It's not about race." In other words, by focusing on the overall economy, black folks would benefit as well.
If the central theme of the White House economic policy is "a rising tide lifts all boats," then black folks are struggling mightily aboard the U.S.S. Blackfolk.
It's true. If the overall economy improves, so do the fortunes of black people. The tiny little problem with the "rising tide" theory is that not all boats are equally sea worthy. Yes, a rising tide lifts all boats, but if some of the boats have massive holes in the hulls and the people on board are drowning, logic tells us that perhaps these listing boats might need some targeted emergency assistance.The U.S.S. Blackfolk got sent to sea with no life boats and fewer life vests. If we land in the water we just have to struggle to tread water. In addition to taking on water due to barriers in access to education, capital and employment, subprime lenders specifically target the passengers of the U.S.S. Blackfolk for high interest mortgage loans. Now in addition to being set adrift by the Obama administration to survive an economic tsunami while we're listing to one side, the U.S.S. Blackfolk is expected to carry the weight of the Democratic party to victory during the midterm elections?
Jobs Before They Were Famous
In the waning days of the campaign season, the Democrats have touted the extraordinary measures they are taking to engage black voters in a targeted manner. The Democratic National Committee invested $3 million in radio, print, and online advertising focusing on the black community. They've enlisted celebrities John Legend, Jaime Foxx and Russell Simmons in radio ads, conference calls and at political rallies. In 2006, they only spent $260,000.
If a rising tide lifts all boats, why don't the Democrats catch a ride on some of the other boats? After all, the unemployment rate on the U.S.S Blackfolk is 16.1 percent -- almost twice that of the general population. Sure we're floating in the same turbulent economic storm as everyone else, but it appears we're taking on water faster than everyone else as well.
On Tuesday, in a conference call organized by the Democratic National Committee for black online media, White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett argued that despite the fact that the administration does not appear to have any targeted job creation programs on its agenda for blacks, the passengers of the U.S.S. Blackfolk must turn out in large numbers to vote for Obama's Democratic allies in order to insure that his agenda moves forward.
When I asked her to explain how black unemployment would look any different if the Republicans retook control of the house, she cited the President's plan for new infrastructure and community college programs for job retraining, neither of which would address black unemployment in the immediate future.
Why is it when other boats ask for specific help, they get a targeted response, but when the U.S.S. Blackfolk sends out a distress call, we get told to wait until the tide comes in? When the U.S.S BigBank was drowning, they didn't get told to tread water until the storm passes, they got targeted help to ride out the storm. Some boats get bailed out, while the U.S.S Blackfolk keeps bobbing along taking on water. Even Latinos have been given a specific education bill created just for them, which will help that community stay afloat. Now the U.S.S. Blackfolk is being asked to carry the load for a party that didn't even want to utter the words "black unemployment." Yes, B-L-A-C-K unemployment.
+Open Letter to Obama: Black Unemployment Must Be Addressed
+Fighting for Jobs, Fighting for You: A Message From Rep. Barbara Lee
Let me say it again. Black unemployment. Black-i-ty black black black unemployment. Black unemployment! It's not a small, inconsequential matter. It's worthy of its own agenda. Longtime unemployment changes destinies. It's not just a downturn for us. This is an utter and complete devastation whose impact will last for generations.
Irrespective of the outcome on November 2, whatever political capital the Obama administration is left with on Wednesday morning should be expended on engaging in combating the black unemployment that's a gaping hole in the hull of the U.S.S. Blackfolk. If not, the U.S.S Blackfolk will be so far underwater by 2012 no one will be able to ride us ashore to victory.
Gina McCauley is the CEO of the Blogging While Brown Conferenceand the blogsMichelle Obama Watch and What About Our Daughters. She is currently completing her first book, 'Michelle Obama Watch.'