It is hot as hell in DC. It is even hotter under the collars of some African American women who are asking: Are we not civil rights leaders?
The women were set off by the news that President Obama was scheduled to meet with the leaders of two civil rights organizations – National Urban League President Marc Morial and NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. A readout of the meeting said "the President discussed the continued efforts his administration is making to spur job creation and economic growth."
The readout noted:
The President also reiterated that reducing unemployment, which disproportionately burdens the African-American community at 16.2%, remains a top priority for him and his Administration. The President also spoke with the two civil rights leaders about dramatic efforts his Administration has already made to address urban economic development through initiatives such as Strong Cities, Strong Communities, a program that acts to spur economic growth in urban centers while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely and efficiently; the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions fund; and the Minority Business Development Agency at the Department of Commerce.
This is the second time in two years that Obama has held a meeting with civil rights leaders and no black woman had a seat at the table.
In February 2010, the late Dr. Dorothy I. Height was the only black woman invited to the Urban Economy Summit. The then-97-year-old could not attend because of the extreme snow conditions.
There was extreme heat yesterday, but black women leaders felt a cold chill when they realized history was repeating itself. While they're not ready to go on the record, they told me they won't be silent much longer. They have earned a seat at the table. More important, they want to ensure issues of importance to black women and black families are addressed.
And lest the knee-jerk “hater” is bandied about, these are women who year-after-year -- election-after-election -- make things happen. All they're asking for is a little respect.
The dismal June unemployment report is a reminder that when white America catches a cold, black America catches pneumonia. Truth be told, race is the subtext to the jobless recovery.
The Associated Press reports that black economic gains have been wiped out by the recession:
Millions of Americans endured similar financial calamities in the recession. But for Goldring and many others in the black community, where unemployment is still rising, job loss has knocked them out of the middle class and back into poverty. Some even see a historic reversal of hard-won economic gains that took black people decades to achieve.
Since the end of the recession, the overall unemployment rate has fallen from 9.4 to 9.1 percent, while the black unemployment rate has risen from 14.7 to 16.2 percent, according to the Department of Labor.
But the disappearing black middle class is not on policymakers’ agenda. Instead, the White House is convening a Hispanic Policy Conference:
On Monday July 11th and Tuesday July 12th, the White House will host a Hispanic Policy Conference, bringing community leaders from across the country together with a broad range of White House and Cabinet officials for an in-depth series of interactive workshops and substantive conversations on the Administration’s efforts as they relate to the Hispanic community.
Participants, including community leaders and local elected officials, will have the opportunity to interact with federal policy makers on the issues that matter most to Hispanics and all Americans, including creating jobs and strengthening the economy, expanding access to affordable and quality health care, reforming our nation’s education system, protecting civil rights, and fixing the broken immigration system so that it meets our nation’s 21st century economic and security needs.
Meanwhile, black leaders are engaged in a “family feud.” Philadelphia Tribune columnist Linn Washington Jr. recently wrote:
So, some black folks are bashing Princeton Professor Cornel 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 addressing issues specific to African-American would be inappropriate.
The Hispanic Policy Conference is merely the latest outreach event to address issues important to a specific group.
The goal of the Initiative is “to highlight both the tremendous unmet needs in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities as well as the dynamic community assets that can be leveraged to meet many of those needs.”
Will the White House’s cold shoulder to the unmet needs of African Americans erode black support for President Obama?
The Gallup survey says Obama’s job approval among African Americans is 85 percent.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the June jobs report on Friday. Andy Kroll of Mother Jones magazine wrote about the story behind the jobless crisis in African American communities:
D.C.’s divide is America’s writ large. Nationwide, the unemployment rate for black workers at 16.2% is almost double the 9.1% rate for the rest of the population. And it’s twice the 8% white jobless rate.
The size of those numbers can, in part, be chalked up to the current jobs crisis in which black workers are being decimated. According to Duke University public policy expert William Darity, that means blacks are “the last to be hired in a good economy, and when there’s a downturn, they’re the first to be released.”
That may account for the soaring numbers of unemployed African Americans, but not the yawning chasm between the black and white employment rates, which is no artifact of the present moment. It’s a problem that spans generations, goes remarkably unnoticed, and condemns millions of black Americans to a life of scraping by. That unerring, unchanging gap between white and black employment figures goes back at least 60 years. It should be a scandal, but whether on Capitol Hill or in the media it gets remarkably little attention. Ever.
The NAACP has refused to disclose the financial terms of its “partnership” with Wells Fargo. But as a 501(c)(3), what it does in the dark eventually will be made public. So I made a mental note to check the civil rights organization’s IRS Form 990 to see how much it had been paid to hook up with the predatory lender.
It’s clear what the NAACP has become; now they’re just negotiating the price. So frankly, I put the issue on the backburner. That is until Saturday.
Americans know that banks have mistreated borrowers in many ways in foreclosure cases. Among other things, they habitually filed false court documents. There were investigations. We’ve been waiting for federal and state regulators to crack down.
Prepare for a disappointment. As early as this week, federal bank regulators and the nation’s big banks are expected to close a deal that is supposed to address and correct the scandalous abuses. If these agreements are anything like the draft agreement recently published by the American Banker — and we believe they will be — they will be a wrist slap, at best. At worst, they are an attempt to preclude other efforts to hold banks accountable. They are unlikely to ease the foreclosure crisis.
The NAACP’s hookup with Wells Fargo is more than a disappointment. It’s a measure of the extent to which the nation’s oldest civil rights organization has lost its way.