By Andre Showell
I was reading the Washington Post when I stumbled on an article that caught my attention: “Still waiting for our first Black president.” The writer, Fredrick Harris, highlighted an issue that has been picking up steam ever since American voters made history, electing Barack Obama as the first Black president of the U.S.
It emphasizes the “one America” strategy the Obama White House has adopted in an effort to brand him as the “President of All People,” not just the first Black president. He pointed out the time I asked President Obama during a prime-time press conference in 2009 whether he had any plans of pushing targeted efforts to specifically address the Black unemployment rate, which, at that time, was double the national rate. The writer took issue with the president’s “rising tide lifts all boats” approach, asking, “But what of those who have no boats to begin with?”
When the president answered that question, I remembered thinking the metaphor was a bit ill-conceived since my premise had already indicated that Black people were already underwater from an employment standpoint. Simply making the tide rise would do nothing to stop the drowning. I remembered thinking he’d probably not win any additional Black support with such a tentative response.
In covering the president, I now know his answer was classically Obama: measured and methodical, some would say, to a fault. His approach is cautious and insightful considering the legions of detractors who are waiting to point him out as a “Black” president who serves “Black” voters.
While he hasn’t given those naysayers the obvious ammunition they’ve been waiting for, it could and should be argued that many of the president’s policies have a direct impact on African-Americans. But the dilemma before him is a delicate one. Would targeting policies directly at African-Americans mean he’d have to lose his title as the “President of All People?”