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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/9/11

Family Feud: Blacks Battle Blacks over Criticism of Obama

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Message Linn Washington

So, some black folks are bashing Princeton Professor Cornell West for his sharply phrased critiques of President Barack Obama's failure to specifically address crisis- proportion problems in a long-suffering segment of American society: the black community.

Black supporters of the first African-American president echo the rationale advanced by Obama himself that he is the president of all Americans so his addressing issues specific to African-American would be inappropriate.

However, that view side-steps the critical issue of the very American right to criticize a U.S. President.

Compounding the First Amendment criticism issue is the reality that Obama has addressed issues important to specific groups, including gays and women.

Obama's even repeatedly addressed issues important to his political adversaries, the Republicans. Currently Obama's embracing Republican demands for deficit reducing austerity by slashing services to the most needy. Obama's embrace of the GOP's favored but failed practices chagrin many beyond black communities already enduring disproportionate pain from the GOP's ruthless onslaught against the middle and working classes.

"Are African Americans expected to shut up and suffer?" asked Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr., chair of Princeton University's Center for African American Studies, in a commentary about the controversy over criticism of Obama by blacks. "That's just not democratic."

Black-owned businesses, historically marginalized in federal contracting, have received a paltry 3.5% of federal contracts funded through Obama's stimulus between February 2009 and November 2010 compared to white-owned businesses receiving 81.3% of stimulus-funded contracts during that period, according to Ohio State University's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

All American presidents have a duty to address obviously discriminatory contracting adversely impacting Americans. The failure of the Obama Administration to deal with such discrimination causes black critics like Cornell West to conclude that this president -- like his white predecessors -- treats blacks differently.

Black bashers of Dr. West, like civil rights leader Rev Al Sharpton, professor/media commentator Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry and syndicated radio personality Tom Joyner, are particularly incensed with barbs from West like his tagging Obama a "mascot" of Wall Street.

Setting aside the tone of West's "mascot" tag, facts do document that Obama received huge financial contributions from mega-financial/corporate entities during his 2008 presidential campaign, with ten of Obama's top twenty contributors coming from that sector, including Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs and corporate titan General Electric.

And facts also document that the Obama Administration bailed out Wall Street without extracting tough (and overdue) reforms in return. That lack of thorough reform was an unseemly break for Wall Street, particularly its financial fraudsters, whether or not it was pay-back for those campaign contributions.

Facts further document that the Obama Administration has been more aggressive in cracking down on "street crimes' than on much more serious crimes committed by the corporate-financial elite.

During 2010, the second year of Obama's presidency, federal prosecutors secured the convictions of 3,838 blacks for crack cocaine law violations, producing prison sentences averaging nearly 10 years.

However, that same year the feds continued wrist-slap enforcement on corporations facing criminal charges for far-reaching crimes including fraud and environmental pollution. None of the corporate culprits responsible for those crimes received prison terms, according to U.S. Sentencing Commission data.

Yes, corporate offenders in 2010 paid fines averaging $16.3-million, but some black drug law offenders last year received fines of over $1-million, plus long prison sentences.

Quibbling with the words Cornell West uses in his critiques does not erase the Obama Administration's substantive failure to seriously tackle the onerous scourge of high unemployment, particularly among blacks.

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Linn Washington is a co-founder of This Can't Be Washington writes frequently on inequities in the criminal justice system, ills in society and problems in the news media. He teaches multi-media urban journalism at Temple (more...)

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