(But has he turned back?)
He's in hot water now. For a moment, on national television, the President of the United States turned black!
Last week, when his buddy "Skip" Gates got busted for being Black in Boston, Barack Obama forgot his official role: to soothe America's conscience with the happy fairy tale that his election marked the end of racism in the USA.
I'm reminded that it was not so long ago that we watched the vicious gang-beating by Los Angeles cops of a defenseless, handcuffed, Rodney King, an African-American. King's beating was unusual only in that it was caught on videotape.
Yeah, I know: we've come a hell of a long way. Obama won, Jessie cried, Beyonce' has her own line of perfume and Tiger Woods plays where 30 years ago he couldn't eat lunch.
But what about Robert Pratt, Mr. President?
Pratt, a United Auto Workers member, has five kids and a mortgage payment of $1,100 a month on a house in Detroit worth no more than $40,000. The payment's astronomical because he pays 11% on his mortgage balance, double the national average interest rate. Now, on those crazy terms, he's sure to lose his house.
How did that happen? Pratt, whose story we've been tracking, was "steered" into a sub-prime loan by Countrywide Financial. "Steering" is the polite term for forcing folk into crappy loan terms. And not just any folk: Black folk, like Pratt. Over 60% of African-American mortgage applicants were (and ARE) steered into "sub-prime" predatory loans.
According to exhaustive studies by the Federal Reserve Board and the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), African Americans are 250% more likely to get a loan with an "exploding interest" clause than white borrowers - and notably, the higher the income and the better the credit rating of a Black borrower, the more likely the discrimination.
As an economist, I can tell you it's not a stretch to say that Obama's failure to deal with endemic racism in the finance system is killing off hope of the nation's economic recovery. The "exploding rate" attack centered on Black and Hispanic communities has, according to the CLR, caused 40.2 million homes to lose value due to their proximity to foreclosed properties.
Instead, Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is the honored guest of the Board of Directors of JP Morgan, owner of one of the most outrageous of the financial predators, Washington Mutual. Morgan/WaMu, with its racially-poisoned mortgage trickery, makes the Cambridge Police Department look like the NAACP.
(Indeed, Emanuel's host JP Morgan was sued last week by the NAACP for "systematic, institutionalized racism in making home mortgage loans.")