Are you listening, black people? The first black president is speaking to you. Some of you said he wasn't paying enough attention. Well, he paid plenty of attention Monday night on ... Black Entertainment Television.
(Pause to let that sink in.)
BET titled the interview "The President Answers Black America." It aired at 7:30 pm Eastern, pre-empting the regularly scheduled hip-hop video show "106 & Park," BET's "flagship" program, which is a favorite of the eighth-grade set.
The actual interview offered some important insights. My favorite is below; by all means read the full transcript here. (You know, just in case you weren't watching BET on Monday night.)
Why not target the African-American community? Why not say then, “This is for you. This is for African-Americans?” If there was a banking crisis, then you’d target money for the banks. If there was a national disaster, you’d target your money for the National Disaster Relief.
No. That’s not how America works. America works when all of us are pulling together and everybody is focused on making sure that every single person has opportunity. And so when we put forward a program like, for example, the Health Care Bill, our focus is people who don’t have health care. Now it turns out that the majority of folks who don’t have health care are also working families, and are disproportionately African-American and Latino, but that doesn’t mean that it’s only for them. There are a whole bunch of folks all across the country who need help. And we are going to help every single person who needs help. And if there are communities that are especially hard-hit, we will focus on making sure that those communities get extra help. But it doesn’t mean that we go around saying that we’re going to have a special program for whites, or we’re going to have a special program for Hispanics, or we’re going to have a special program for blacks. We’re going to make sure that we have a program that helps to raise everybody’s prospects...
This quote highlights the difference between Obama and almost every other black Democrat in Washington. Last weekend, Obama spoke at the convention of the Congressional Black Caucus--which has been screaming for Obama to "do something" for black folks. Obama told the CBC to work with him to make things better. But the CBC's ideas on how to make things better are fundamentally different that Obama's. The CBC wants things like job training and money going straight from the federal government to paying salaries for new jobs. Obama believes that a rising tide lifts all boats. And he doesn't say this, but he appears to believe that advocating for one specific group is "bad politics"--which means, as I understand it, that it would cost votes.
I wonder if the average white independent voter--the ones who Obama does not want to alienate with overtly racial rhetoric or policies--knows Obama's opinion on "how America works" when it comes to helping his fellow black Americans.
Jesse Washington is a Senior Writer for ESPN's TheUndefeated.com