Author, First Officer of Accountability Tavis Smiley and Professor Cornel West are taking their Obama Doesn't Care About (Black) People Tour on the road. (FOX News adorably called them "Black Leaders," as if there was ever such a thing. I used to joke that if we have leaders, who elected these people? And can we hold them responsible in some kind of way because they're doing a really shitty job.) Smiley and West will be visiting 15-cities as apart of an "anti-poverty" tour, visiting a Native American reservation, soup kitchens, shelters, housing projects and other places where the destitute reside. I hope they'll be bringing medical services, food and some jobs with them, as the complaint regarding Obama is that he has not done enough of these things.
Or, I'm sure West and Smiley will bring speeches. Speeches are nice ... if they spread awareness which leads to medical services, food and jobs. But if they're speeches for the sake of Obama didn't call me to say thank you, I dunno, guys. That might not be helping. But if it brings attention to how so many people are struggling in America and gets politicians to actually use the word "poor" to describe people (not just middle class or "working families"), that might be nice.
Smiley and West state their goal is to get poverty to be part of the 2012 agenda. In a story by Jesse Washington of The Associated Press, there's a lot of chatter about the mixture of pride and frustration African Americans have when it comes to both the economy and our President. People want him to succeed, but people also want things to get better. The recession has been a depression for most African Americans, where our jobless rate has always been higher than the national average and frustratingly in double-digits.
But a quote from radio host Warren Ballentine really sums up the Obama Criticism Paradox most African Americans (myself included at times) are trapped in:
"Black folks expected him to fix the problem," he said. "The problem is lack of jobs and opportunity in poor communities in this country. They're blaming the president for not having jobs, but they don't want Tavis or Cornel or anyone else to attack the president because they didn't have jobs before the president came into office." (Emphasis mine.)
That's really the key here. It's not that the President isn't deserving of a critical eye, but to expect one man in less than three years to fix something that has been persistent and systematic in this country for centuries is a tall order. He can't do what he never promised in the first place. "Deliverance" was not on the agenda. And compared to past presidents, both Democratic and Republican, I feel that he's actually done quite a bit more to acknowledge and find solutions to the problems that plague our poor.
But he's fighting a problem that is decades in the making with a Congress who thinks not raising the debt ceiling is some chaos theory fairytale. This doesn't mean that the President can't and shouldn't do more, or can't and shouldn't be criticized, but you have to acknowledge that because of his race, expectations were a lot higher for Obama over past presidents. He's been relatively scandal-free and despite opposition, made more progress in his campaign promises than past Democratic Presidents, which is more than you could say for Bill Clinton's first controversial two years in office before the economic boom and relative peace made him indestructible.
I still have high expectations for Obama, but I don't necessarily expect him to start popping Eric Cantor in the mouth with a rolled-up newspaper while handing out reparations checks anytime soon. Fixing No Child Left Behind might be nice though, since tying teachers jobs to test scores has only lead to widespread incidents of teachers rigging the test scores. Also, the way we prosecute our drug laws leaves a lot to be desired. Sending a user to prison doesn't do much for taxpayers or stopping crime since it would be a lot cheaper to make low-level offenders pay a fine and do some basic community service than our current system of mandatory sentencing and saddling them with prison records that keep them from getting employment once they are released.
As for the poors, though, West and Smiley are coming to a depressed area near you to show you some love. According to the AP, they will visit, "Hayward, Eau Claire and Madison, Wis.; Milwaukee; Chicago's South Side; Joliet and Pembroke, Ill.; Lima, Ohio; Charleston, West Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Columbus and Clarksdale, Miss.; and finish in Memphis."
So, poors, plan your daily schedules of job search and food foraging around the bus tour accordingly.
Side note: Seriously, Tavis and Cornel, I may not agree with you two all the time, but you have to take my honest opinion and fix this web site. I can recommend some folks. Or you can find your own folks. Or you can download some nice free Wordpress layouts on the web then get some young cousin of yours to hook it up, but this site is just unacceptable. When bloggers with zero-out-of-zero dollars with sites via blogspot domains have better layouts and designs than you, you have a problem.
Side note #2: Someone's got "Bieber Fever."