President Obama will present his jobs plan before a joint session of Congress on Thursday.
In a piece headlined “Black and Bleak,” Robert Kuttner wrote:
In the Labor Department's August jobs report, released Friday, overall unemployment was unchanged at a dismal 9.1 percent and the economy created no net new jobs -- but black unemployment soared to catastrophic 16.7 percent. For black men the rate jumped a whole percentage point to 18 percent, and for black youth the rate rose from 39.2 percent to 45.5 percent. Blacks now comprise 12 percent of the labor market, but 22 percent of the unemployed.
President Obama has famously avoided emphasizing race. One can fairly debate how much of the higher black joblessness today is the result of persistent racial discrimination, and how much reflects gaps in education and the fact that blacks tend to be concentrated in vulnerable sectors of the economy.
But either way, it is calamitous for the black community and what matters is that Obama has let all this fester.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told MSNBC's Chuck Todd:
We do need to acknowledge that it is more difficult for this president because of the historical nature of his presidency to have the kind of conversation that many in our community would like to have focused solely on African-American people.
But I hope that that’s a political trap the president won’t walk into.
If the president were to start speaking directly to African-Americans about what he’s doing for them, what he has done for them, as the first African-American president, that during a general election campaign, that could have very adverse results. And I believe that black people understand that.
In 1955, jazz icon Louis Armstrong recorded “Black and Blue” whose lyrics capture the dilemma facing black Americans:
My only sin is in my skin.
What did I do to be so black and blue?
What did black folks do? In 2008, they turned out in record numbers and gave 96 percent of their vote to Candidate Barack Obama. But President Obama cannot target policies to assist them because as we are told ad nauseum, he is “not the president of black America.”