Monday, April 19, 2010

Did Black Folks Miss The Boat With Obama?!?

Much was debated about whether or not there needed to be a "Black Agenda" presented to President Obama before he took office. The Black Intelligentsia convened for what would be one of the final editions of Tavis Smiley's Annual Negro Soundbyte Olympics©, which turned into a hot mess when candidate Obama decided to focus on Super Tuesday instead. And thus, Black folks (mostly by virtue of Obama being a Democrat) threw their votes behind him blindly, without getting any negligible promises in return.

Some say the notion of Black folks having a collective agenda is stoopid, given how diverse a race of people we are in many ways. I'm still not so sure where I stand, but as I watch other "interest groups" get theirs in return for what they delivered in 08', I can't help but wonder if we just mighta missed the boat.

"Young voters"[1] got clemency from ObamaCare (staying on their parents' policies till age 27), as well as a redone student loan system which will eliminate the middleman and make college more affordable. While it's unlikely any level of immigration reform will happen this year, Hispanic voters got the lifetime gift of a Wise Latina on the Supreme Court. And LGBT voters[2] just received equal hospital visitation rights[3], hate crimes legislation, and sooner or later, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will be a thing of the past.
President Obama mandated Thursday that nearly all hospitals extend visitation rights to the partners of gay men and lesbians and respect patients' choices about who may make critical health-care decisions for them, perhaps the most significant step so far in his efforts to expand the rights of gay Americans.

Administration officials and gay activists, who have been quietly working together on the issue, said the new rule will affect any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding, a move that covers the vast majority of the nation's health-care institutions. Obama's order will start a rule-making process at HHS that could take several months, officials said.

Hospitals often bar visitors who are not related to an incapacitated patient by blood or marriage, and gay rights activists say many do not respect same-sex couples' efforts to designate a partner to make medical decisions for them if they are seriously ill or injured. Obama's mandate is the latest attempt by his administration to advance the agenda of a constituency that strongly supported his presidential campaign.

In his first 15 months in office, he has hailed the passage of hate crime legislation and held the first Gay Pride Day celebration at the White House. Last month, Obama's top military and defense officials testified before Congress in favor of repealing of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the armed forces. But the moves have been too slow for some gay rights activists, who have urged the president to be more vocal and active in championing their causes.
That, my friends, is how you get sh*t done. They had an agenda, they supported their candidate of choice, and they held his feet to the fire until he rewarded their support.

So what exactly did Black folks get for all our grunt work and hours standing in line for early voting? A public squabble between Obama and the CBC that resulted in a measly $1B for greening housing projects, jobs which prolly use illegal labor from outside the very communities they're supposed to benefit. And a year after having HBCU funding dramatically reduced, we got a dog and pony show in the East Wing trumpeting a restoration of funds. And, well, that's about it, unless I'm missing something.[4]

Some say it's unfair for Black folks to expect anything special of Obama, "just cause he Black", being that he's The President Of The Entire United States, not The Kaing Of North Memphis. I'm still not so sure how to feel about that one either, but something tells me that the first LGBT President would have done a bit more for his community than Obama has for his. And I can't help but think that much like a girl who gives it up on the first date for some Boone's Farm Scrawburry, a warm couch, and a few Blockbuster movies[5], maybe we Black folks collectively sold ourselves a bit short.

Of course, without "leaders" and a "vision", it's impossible to even have an "agenda", let alone have it delivered upon. I can't tell you who the leaders of the LGBT movement are, but they were sure as hell effective in scaring Obama into pushing their agenda, as were college students and other young voters who took to Facebook and other forms of social media complaining about the ObamaCare coverage mandate. Obama made promises on the campaign trail and in the name of re-election, he's taken action. Good for them. As for what Obama could do, considering a bro/sista for SCOTUS would be a good start. But I can't help but feel like Leah Ward Sears and Deval Patrick are only on that short list of nominees for window dressing. We shall see.

In the grand scheme of things, Black people's problems are so complex that passing a couple of laws isn't going to fix us. I'm not sure what, short of Jesus, can make a Negro get off the corner, and get a young black woman off the pole.[6] For now, I suppose I too will buy into the "rising tide lifts all boats theory", and just hope Obama continues to do a great job for all Americans.

Question: Not to beat an already dead horse, but should Black America have had some sort of agenda to hold President Obama to in return for the record number of votes we delivered? How are other "interest groups" able to push their agendas, and what could "Black leadership" learn from their examples?

Obama extends hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners of gays [WashPost]

[1] Yes, I know, many young voters are Black.

[2] Yes, I know, many who will benefit from this legislation are also Black.

[3] This is smart, and fair legislation, BTW. However, I do wonder if a similar step will be taken to allow opposite sex partners equal visitation rights. Namely, what if someone's just your Girlfriend, "Boo", Wifey, or Slow Weekend JumpOff? These folks don't qualify as life partners or common law marriage partners either, but shouldn't they too be allowed in the room? Note: I'm not talking about power-of-attorney, just visitation.

[4] If I'm missing something, tell me you-know-where.

[5] Don't front, ladies. It happens.

[6] I should note: I'm very happy with the White House's youth mentoring initiative, and think this sort of "do it yourself" activism is going to improve Black communities far more than any beaurocrat on the Hill ever could.

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