Mon | Nov 19, 2018

Letter of the Day: Bleached Obama has let down blacks

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I wish to congratulate Ronald Mason ('Barack is not a black American, Sunday Gleaner, January 17, 2016) for daring to face the 'opprobrium of the sycophants' in questioning the 'lived ethnicity' of United States President Barack Obama. Other public commentators, including Dr Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, have steadfastly faced being branded as haters for daring to expose unassailable empirical evidence that black America has had little or no material benefit from the tenure of their country's first black president.

While Mason's assessment attributes Mr Obama's failure to his divorce from the lived experience of the majority of African-Americans, I would suggest that it is his whole-scale adoption of traditional white liberal ideology that has been the prime cause of his undoing. White liberal ideology has never been comfortable in confronting the issue of race and, as Joan Walsh critiques, writing in Salon on June 1, 2015, has sought elusive intellectual comfort behind the faÁade of racial colour-blindness, which asserts that a rising tide lifts all boats.

Lacking the courage of his predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, in recognising the need for strategic affirmative action, Mr Obama has presided over the following:

n An increase in black poverty from 25.8 per cent when he took office in 2009 to 27.25 in 2013 (Pew Research Center, December 12, 2014).

-  Median income for non-whites falling by nine per cent for non-whites compared to an average decline of one per cent for white Americans (CNN Money, December 12, 2014);

- A substantial decline in the wealth stock of African-Americans, who have seen a 33 per cent fall in net worth to US$13,700, between 2010 and 2013, compared to a 2.4 per cent increase for whites to $141,900 (Pew Research Center, December 12, 2014).

The glaring economic inequality in the US has spawned a level of social dysfunction not unlike that experienced in Jamaica, where the issue not only of economic inequality, but social inequity, has proved beyond the capacity of our political system.

Ronald Mason's analysis reprises the Billy Paul classic, 'Am I black enough for you', in which those marking time are repeatedly admonished with the lines:

Get in line

Stop marching in time (stop marking time - my insert)

You better make up your mind

We're gonna leave you behind

At the risk of being crucified alongside Mr Mason, I wholeheartedly support his assessment of Mr Obama's legacy and wish further to commend Billy Paul's classic rendition of Gamble and Huff's lyrics to our own political elites, who have continued to mark time in the search for sustainable solutions to Jamaica's glaring dysfunctionalities.