Courtland Milloy
Courtland Milloy
Local Columnist

President Obama courting black people again

Yippee! It’s our turn.

Now that the presidential campaign season has begun, it’s okay for President Obama to openly court black people again. He even used the b-word recently.

Courtland Milloy

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President Barack Obama says the best way to put Americans back to work is by passing the jobs bill he sent to Congress two weeks ago. Obama spoke Saturday night at the annual awards banquet of the Congressional Black Caucus. (Sept. 24)

President Barack Obama says the best way to put Americans back to work is by passing the jobs bill he sent to Congress two weeks ago. Obama spoke Saturday night at the annual awards banquet of the Congressional Black Caucus. (Sept. 24)

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“Pass this jobs bill,” Obama said at the Congressional Black Caucus annual awards dinner Saturday, “and every small-business owner in America, including 100,000 black-owned businesses, will get a tax cut.”

An electrified audience bolted to its feet in applause. The nation’s first black president had actually said “black.”

For most of his term, Obama has studiously avoided any public mention of race. He’s even been hard-pressed to acknowledge the disparate impact that the recession is having on black people. To show his concern for the nation’s suffering, Obama will take a helicopter from the White House and swoop right over depressed black neighborhoods in the District. Then he’ll catch a jet out of Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George’s County and roar away from the tens of thousands of foreclosed properties that pockmark the predominately black Washington suburb.

A couple of hours later, he’ll land in some swing state to comfort a largely white crowd whose votes he dare not take for granted.

But, oh, happy day, it’s our turn.

“I need your help,” Obama said at the CBC dinner, referring to his proposed American Jobs Act, which everybody knows is not really a jobs bill but one heck of a political manifesto.

With his job approval rating tanking — especially among white independents — Obama needs a bigger black voter turnout in 2012 than he got in the 2008 election. His reelection team recently announced “Operation Vote,” a program to woo what it calls “ethnic minorities.” (Hint: That’s us.)

Plus, Obama will be spending more time schmoozing with black journalists (not all, of course) and has scheduled a one-on-one interview with Black Entertainment Television, giving BET the kind of special treatment that he usually reserves for, say, “60 Minutes.”

Still, it’s likely that Obama will have to do much more to win the black vote this time. He’s been trying to curry favor with white voters for so long — not to mention extreme right-wing tea party Republicans in Congress — that he appears to have forgotten how to sweet-talk black folks.

“Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying,” Obama preached during his dinner speech. “We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC.”

Funny, isn’t it, how Obama always gets the nerve to say shut up when he’s addressing a friendly audience?

The unemployment rate among blacks stands at 16.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 11.5 percent when Obama took office. By some accounts, black people have lost more wealth since the recession began than at any time since slavery. And Obama gets to lecture us?

During a series of town hall meetings on jobs recently, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and other CBC members expressed the exasperation of their constituencies.

“African Americans are very proud that there is an African American man who is the most powerful man in the world, and they hold on to that with everything they possibly can,” Waters said. “But it’s starting to slip because of the pain of the African American community.”

Why would Obama show up at a CBC dinner and take Waters and the others to task? Was this his Sista Souljah moment? In 1992, then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton criticized the black female rapper to score points with white conservatives by showing that he could be tough on blacks. Now comes Obama, telling blacks to stop whining so much. Actually, he sounded more like a wannabe Herman Cain, the conservative black Republican who just won the presidential straw poll in Florida.

The difference is, we know where Cain is coming from. He’s the type of black man that livens up black barbershops across the country with halfway sensible economic talk heaped on outrageously reactionary social talk — a cross between Booker T. Washington and Attila the Hun.

It’s hard to see how the plight of black people could get any worse, even under a President Cain.

For now, though, all we’ve got is Obama.

“Pass this jobs bill,” he said (read: Help me get reelected), “and every worker in America, including nearly 20 million African American workers, will get a tax cut.”

Hallelujah, it’s our turn.

 
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