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‘Rising tide’ theory will no longer work for Obama 

By Hazel Trice Edney
Trice Edney News Wire

Benjamin Jealous

Benjamin Jealous

NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, a leader of the movement largely credited for the Black voter turnout in last week’s election, says the presidents’ “rising tide lifts all boats” theory will not be acceptable the next four years and that President Obama will be pressed for policies to specifically forge Black progress.

“Four years ago, the entire nation was finding themselves in a situation that Black Americans had found themselves in for generations. We were wise to say, ‘We’re all in the same boat now. Let’s figure out how to make this tide rise for everybody,” Jealous recounted in an interview. “Now that it has risen for some faster than for others, we owe it to our nation as a whole to figure out how to actually get those boats that are stuck unstuck and to get the tide to rise for every community.”

During a White House Press Conference in January 2010, President Obama answered that “a rising tide lifts all boats” when asked what he would do about the high level of Black unemployment. This year, months before re-election, he told Black Enterprise Magazine that he is the president of all of America, not just Black America.

Looking at the consistent Black vote for President Obama, Jealous is clear:

“This is a mandate for Black leadership and for Black communities to assert the value of our vote and to say, ‘We didn’t just make this moment possible once. We did it twice. And we need all hands on deck to overcome this deficit of job creation in our communities, to overcome this high tide of discrimination against our communities, and to turn the ship of state around — not just for America overall, but for Black communities specifically.’”

Black leaders realize that President Obama was elected to be President of all of America. But some also believe Black America and its specific pains have largely been neglected by his administration while other minority groups have received benefits based on their specific problems.

This includes:

n Women with the Lilly Ledbetter Act for equal pay.

n Gays with the ending of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy for the U. S. military and President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage earlier this year.

n Latinos with Obama’s change in deportation policies to stop the deportation of illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. at a young age, and who meet certain other criteria.

n Veterans by President Obama’s open appeal for Americans to hire veterans and his push for a Veterans Jobs bill.

Many African Americans have waited patiently while arguing that President Obama needed to get to his second term before taking on specifics pertaining to the Black community. Meanwhile, unemployment in the Black community has in fact gone down from its highest peak of 16.7 percent where it was when he made the “rising tide” statement to a current 14.2 percent. But it remains nearly twice that of whites, which currently stands at 7 percent and was at 8.8 percent when President Obama spoke of the rising tides. The white unemployment rate has never soared above the national average and has never reached double digits.

Because of the economic crisis, African Americans have also disparately suffered in housing foreclosures, in healthcare statistics and educationally.

Like Ben Jealous, the Rev. Jesse Jackson also says it’s time for Blacks to receive a greater return on their vote.

“Blacks should expect equal protection under the law and protections from patterns of racial discrimination,” Jackson says. “The foreclosures that disproportionately target Blacks, our healthcare is at the bottom, our businesses were targeted and of course poverty and education … The most prevailing issue going forward is growing poverty, race disparities and violence.”

African Americans have benefitted generally from President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, his increase in Pell Grants and other economic initiatives, such as Obama’s saving the auto workers industry. But in order to receive the impactful benefits, leaders say there must be specific initiatives like those for veterans, Latinos, gays and women.

“What we’ll see going forward is a very frank and, frankly, more public conversation about the need for all of us — from the front line community organizer in the smallest community to the most powerful person in the world himself, President Obama,” says Jealous. “We ought to do everything we can to ensure that his legacy is one of definitive improvement in the financial situation for the Black middle class and the Black working class that makes up for all that we have lost in our recent years.”

The initial strategy will be to talk it out, says Jealous.

“It means that we have to be willing to have very hard conversations about what it’s going to take to turn things around for the long-term unemployed, not just the recently jobless. And it means that we’re going to have to have a strategy not just on how to incorporate college graduates into our economy, but how we actually create an economy like the economy this country had for centuries where unskilled laborers can still support their families.”

Jackson agrees: “The last time around, we chose pride and fear over policy — pride that we finally got a Black guy elected president and fear. We tried to bargain … In the mean time we sacrificed some pressing issues and policies. We must objectively address our worsening condition. We must have some policy, the urban reconstruction.”

Jackson predicts a growing moving in the months and years to come: “I think scholars and journalists will grow freer to express themselves. That doesn’t necessarily mean negatively. It’s just that we are the third rail. We’re the voice of conscience. The third rail must come alive.”

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