Waters Asks: Do Blacks Matter Less than Iowans?

by Andrew Stiles

Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), the Congressional Black Caucus member who recently advised the Tea Party to “go straight to Hell,” had released a statement ahead of President Obama’s jobs speech to Congress this evening, accusing the White House of essentially ignoring the plight of the black community. The unemployment rate for black Americans hit 16.7 percent in August, its highest level in nearly 30 years. Waters wonders if the president’s campaign team would rather pander to the citizens of Iowa, an important (and predominately white) battleground state, than seriously address the economic travails of the black community. An excerpt:

The President is in fact, the President to “everyone,” not just African Americans. However, “everyone” is not an amorphous concept. In fact, “everyone” is made up of all Americans and includes Blacks, Whites, Asians and Latinos. “Everyone” is the young and the old. “Everyone” is urban and rural. “Everyone” is men and women, rich and poor. All of these communities are different and at times require help in different and targeted ways, in part, because of these differences. These differences are what make our American “everyone” special and no one part of that “everyone,” including African Americans, should be sacrificed for polls, prejudice or political correctness.

Then there are those, who believe that the President, because he is black, cannot talk specifically about issues directly impacting the black community, like high unemployment. They suggest that doing so would endanger the President’s chances of being re-elected. I share the desire to re-elect the first black President. But, I would offer a slightly different analysis.

If the unemployment rates in the African American Community continue to climb, like they did in August by almost a full percentage point, those African American voters who came out to the polls for the first time in 2008 but who have since lost their home and/or their job, may not return to the polls. Therefore, targeting public policy to a community who accounted for 13 percent of the electorate in ‘08, and who is now experiencing  the culmination of a decade of economic crisis, is not just good policy, but good politics.

The first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In short, targeted public policy aimed at creating equal pay for women. Since being elected, the President has signed bills and exercised executive prerogative to target resources to specific communities.  Not just good policy, good politics.

There are roughly three million African Americans out of work today, a number nearly equal to the entire population of Iowa. I would suggest that if the entire population of Iowa, a key state on the electoral map and a place that served as a stop on the Presidents jobs bus tour were unemployed, they would be mentioned in the President’s speech and be the beneficiary of targeted public policy. So, one question to be answered this evening is, are the unemployed in the African American community, including almost 45 percent of its youth, as important as the people of Iowa?

Read the full statement here.