“Colorblindness”: The Trouble with President Barack Obama’s Boilerplate Response to Concerns from Black Elected Officials

I continue to be dismayed with President Barack Obama’s position on questions from Black United States citizens. He seems to believe that any request for attention for issues of concern to the Black community (writ large) is exclusively race based. Hence, he developed a flawed boilerplate response that not only diminished legitimate issues but also makes Black citizen functionally second class. The President’s attitude must change. The President is indeed the Chief Executive of the nation; he should therefore act appropriately to his office’s responsibilities.

My concern began with the President’s response to concerns of the Congressional Black Caucus about the high level of unemployment among Black people. The President said,

I will tell you that I think the most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again,” the president told Richard Wolf of USA TODAY and Justin Hyde of the Detroit Free Press in an exclusive joint interview.

[…]

I think it’s a mistake to start thinking in terms of particular ethnic segments of the United States rather than to think that we are all in this together and we are all going to get out of this together, he said.

I wrote a response to this statement in a previous post. The President’s “colorblind” approach is intrinsically unfair to those who are not part of the majority. Because non-majority group members will never be the majority–at least in the short term of the President’s first term–their issues necessarily will not get any attention at all using his rationale.

In response to a question from April Ryan, the President reiterated his boilerplate response.

The only thing I cannot do is, by law I can’t pass laws that say I’m just helping black folks,” Obama said. “I’m the president of the entire United States. What I can do is make sure that I am passing laws that help all people, particularly those who are most vulnerable and most in need. That, in turn, is going to help lift up the African-American community.

I realize that the President is the Chief Executive for the whole nation, but Black people are also equal citizens under the law who have the right to bring their concerns to elected officials and to expect that all necessary action will be taken. That does not mean that merely seeking redress from the elected representatives of the people requires the President to prepare race-based legislation. I do not know where the President got that idea from.

I figure that the President should not focus on the identity of the person seeking redress, but rather he should focus on the issues presented. For example, poverty. The President should be able to consult his Ivy League educated staff to develop policy, legislation or both that would be able to help many citizens, including Black people.

Why does the President have expansive and fast action for Wall Street (despite their regression to avaricious behavior that led to the crisis), corporations (particularly in the unsavory health care “reform” Bill), and those with wealth, while being slow footed and slack jawed for everybody else? This is not a proper footing for a President, and he should correct it immediately.

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