During a BBC radio address titled, “The Russian Enigma,” on Oct.1, 1939, Winston Churchill, then the British First Lord of the Admiralty, said: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”
Churchill’s statement sums up quite concisely, the relationship that blacks have with President Obama — enigmatic.
In the 2008 presidential election, blacks were the largest voting block for Obama (as a percentage) — 96 percent. But, yet, the first black president has fewer blacks serving in his administration than President George W. Bush had. The first black president thinks so little of black women that he refused to even interview any black female lawyers or judges for the two Supreme Court picks he has put on the bench. Even if he knew he would not choose them, at least interview them for the optics!
Last year, in a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the first black president said, “Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC.”
But a week earlier, Obama spoke at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. He highlighted two specific pieces of legislation that he was actively trying to pass that would overwhelmingly be to the primary benefit of the Hispanic community — the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform. Not one time did he tell them to stop complaining.
A month later, Obama spoke before the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. Again, Obama talked about how he repealed, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and mandated hospital visitation rights for same sex couples. Again, not one time did he tell them to stop complaining?
Now, juxtapose that with what went on in Africa.
By tradition, the head of the World Bank is always an American male and the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is always a European male (until last year when the French fought for a woman to be chosen — Christine Lagarde). But Africa challenged this arrangement very publicly.
Africa’s actions was a direct challenge to Obama’s choice of Jim Yong Kim and the brazenly unfair process the World Bank used to choose the successor of the former president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick.
Oddly enough, Kim’s strongest challenger was the finance minister of Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a female from a developing country. She was universally considered the best candidate in the field, even by those who supported Kim.
Russia, China and Mexico supported Kim. Ngozi was nominated by South Africa and was endorsed by all of the African members of the bank’s board, the African Union, Brazil, the Economist, Colombia, the New York Times, the Financial Times, and 39 former senior officials at the World Bank.
This is the first time in the history of the bank that the U.S. has been challenged by developing and emerging countries. South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan went so far as to say, “the bank’s selection process falls short and is not transparent or merit based.”
Wow! The first black president, with African roots, is being criticized by Africans for not supporting the best qualified candidate for the job. Obama promised to make his administration the most ethical, transparent administration in history. But, like in many of his actions, when he had the chance to turn his rhetoric into action, he became like sounding brass or the tingling cymbal; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
As a result of Jesse Jackson’s unsuccessful presidential bids in 1984 and 1988, he made it possible to believe that a black could one day become president of the U.S; so has Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s bid to become president of the World Bank. She did not win, but now other countries can envision a time in the not too distant future, that the head of the World Bank will be a non-American.
Black Democrats in America refuse to challenge the first black president when he has gone out of his way to ignore them when it comes to legislation of particular interest to them. They continue to make excuses for his lack of action — he needs more time, the president can’t undo in four years what took Bush eight years to create or he will pay attention to us in his second term.
The black community’s behavior is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
Raynard Jackson is president and CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C. public-relations/government-affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine , Freedom’s Journal Magazine and U.S. Africa Magazine .
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