Dr. Boyce: President Obama Set to Meet with Marc Morial and Ben Jealous, But Why?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins.

I received an email today from the White House stating that President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with NAACP President Ben Jealous and Urban League President Marc Morial.   President Obama’s schedule (which can be seen here) shows that the meeting will be roughly 25 minutes, giving these three important black men a little less than half an hour to discuss whatever lies on their collective agenda.

The White House didn’t state the purpose of the meeting, but I’ll make a point to reach out to Ben and Marc to see if they have anything to say.  Without knowing the purpose of the conversation, one might be able to guess which issue will be on the table first.

Black unemployment in America is at approximately the same level it was for all Americans toward the end of the Great Depression.  At that time, when one out of every six Americans was out of work, the government felt a sense of urgency and public pressure to do something to help alleviate the suffering.  In contrast, the current federal government has not (to my knowledge) mentioned any plan to engage in targeted policy to manage vast racial inequality that continues to plague our society.  If we’d had the same level of inactivity on racial inequality in the past, slavery never would have come to an end.

This lack of action has both a cause and a consequence.  One cause of the complacency is that the Obama Administration seems to believe that it has nothing to prove to African Americans.  Unlike Bill Clinton, a man who had to continuously reiterate his loyalty to African Americans via progressive action, President Obama wears his “Black Loyalty Card” on his skin.  I am not sure if any other president in recent history could get away with saying that he would not address racial inequality and instead expect that a “rising tide will lift all boats.”  In other words, the Obama Administration has been allowed to use a racialized version of trickle down economics, presuming that helping the entire economy would somehow help black people too.

The consequence of economic negligence of the black community has been staggering.  Black wealth at the start of the recession was a measly 1/10 that of white Americans.  Since that time, it has dropped to a shocking 1/50th, implying that nearly everything that black people have worked for over the last 30 years has disappeared into the wind.  Secondly, white unemployment has dropped during the recession (9.4% to 9.1%), while black unemployment has climbed dramatically (14.7% to 16.2%).  No matter what one thinks about Congress, The Obama Administration or anyone else, you can’t possibly argue that black people are better off now than they were three years ago – one must sadly say that a Republican president would have a tough time creating a worse economic situation.

President Obama can’t be blamed entirely for the political storm around him.  He must, however, be held accountable for how his administration has responded to the storm, for one must be careful about giving in to ignorance.  Fighting racial inequality requires courage and self-sacrifice, two attributes that are rarely present in the psyches of successful politicians.   At this point,  the black folks most likely to overlook the inactivity of the Obama Administration are likely the people who still have their jobs.   Of the remainder, there are those who’ve lost hope in the political process and have no interest in turning to the Republican party.  So, any resentment toward the Obama Administration is primarily a reflection of frustration with our broken political system itself – both lovers and haters of Obama are unified in their disappointment with the grim reality of elitist American politics.

I respect both Ben Jealous and Marc Morial immensely.  I sat on panels with them at the last two “Measuring the Movement” forums, hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton.  While Ben and I have bumped heads over the NAACP’s decision to take money from accused predatory lender Wells Fargo, I strongly suspect that his heart is in the right place.  Morial, being a seasoned political figure, has done a wonderful job of making calculated and intelligent decisions as he learns what it means for our nation to have its first black president.  Rather than positioning himself as an unconditional Obama cheerleader (or relentless critic), he has focused his energy on courageous advocacy for working class Americans.  Rev. Jesse Jackson has also done a good job of keeping a level head (although some still criticize him for the Fox News mixup back in 2008) – personally, I believe Rev. Jackson should be invited to the White House as well, along with Al Sharpton – no one should be frozen out or tempted to jockey for power; this divide-and-conquer tactic used by Washington politicians comes at a huge price for the African American community.

As Jealous and Morial stand with another black man in the nation’s most powerful office, I fully expect that all three of these men understand the gravity of the task which lies before them.  While President Obama’s astute political gamesmanship against reckless, myopic Republicans is certainly admirable, African Americans are still waiting for his administration to help them understand why he gave them a reason to show up to the polls in 2008.  He made extraordinary promises, so he received extraordinary support.   It’s nonsense to think that we have no right to ask for his time.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.



  • Dhicks1962

    They really can’t address much of anything in 25 minutes…What really can they do to address black unemployment?  Corporate America has not reached the status where they are going to hire black people especially the ones with no formal education…I work in corporate america and for the life in me, I don’t see it ever being equal…We have 120 employees where I work and you can count the black people on one hand…I always wonder, do we not apply or do they not hire us?? Oh well I am sure in 25 minutes they won’t talk about much, may they have a great visit together…OBAMA 2012!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Iris-Boyd/611306703 Iris Boyd

    Morial and Jealous have been to the White House MANY MANY times and you didn’t know it, along with Al Sharpton.  Anyways, President Obama have given us many reasons why blacks should go to the polls in 2012, they problem you all are having is that he is not saying blackty, black, BLACK

    • Yele66

      The right to vote is just that, the right to vote.  Withholding your vote is just as effective if not more so than just voting for who is on the ballot.

      • Renea Henry

        Are you serious? How does ‘not voting’ actually work as a political lever/

        • S’DAD

          Renea, as we used to say back in the day, “don’t woke him, let him slept”! All of these self righteous “brothers” will be up shit creek if the rethugs gain control! They think it’s hard now, you better have a wife, woman, paramour that has the experience to put on those survival pots, beans, streak-o-lean and biscuits, greens and rice because your stomach will think your mouth went on strike!! Keep the faith Renea, I’m with you!

      • S’DAD

        What have you been drinkin’? Do you think any of the whites are witholding their votes from the rethugs? Obama could have his last year to tell all of the rethugs and teabags to KMA!! And do what’s necessary for the poor. He’d have nothing to lose!

  • Toni

    Dr. Boyce, Question? Why havent you run for any office? It seem to me that you have the drive and the ambition. You are very knowledgable on the issues that affect us all. We need people like you to to represent. There are no more Martins and Malcoms so far most of our Black politicians has shamed us in scandles or looked the other way. Money being the motivating factor.We need a man of integrity, honesty, and devoted to helping  others creating a future for our children and not just them selves.

    • S’DAD

      Yeah Dr. Boyce, quit yapping and yapping about what President Obama isn’t doing, no one’s holding you back, jump in and do something for black people instead of mouth service!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TK6BLIZ5GECAAXLJCR2VNW7BNQ Mau-ee

    Why not?  They definitely do not have anything to lose.  Dealing w/them could not be any worse for him than dealing w/the repubs. Did you want the invitation extended to you too? If they can solve some of the economic issues & unemployment-so be it!  I wish them all well…….

  • Dangeruss

    Please!  They are meeting with the president to collect a check for his new campaign.  Its just the DNC recruiting the same old folks to do their dirty work for 2012. 

  • Garbdhifi

    Well as was stated in the sixth or seventh paragraph it requires a certain type of courage and self sacrifice to do what needs to be done to serve all when it comes to racial inequality. I am not saying that president Obama does not possess these qualities, what I am saying is that he seems to be allowing everyone else in D.C. to keep him distracted with issues that can easily be excused and explained away as issues that effect everyone, when this also is clearly not the case. For instance we as people are not and have not been able to receive medical care on the same scale as whites  and others yet there we were politicing away a year and a half ago for the presidents medical legislation, when dr. have said themselves that it will not make one bit of difference, and we can go on with the issues that have been addressed that will not help blacks. I agree with “Dangeruss” this is the money drop with business as usual we need to do what was said three years ago, that is start your own grass root programs in your neighborhood and do for self.

  • Amir of Afrka

    These handerchief head negros are in it for the money, regardless of what they say. I have seen & heard this over and over again. I did note for the liar and have no intentions of of waisting my time on a vote. They are all liars and crooks, Sharpton, Jackson and many others. The condition of blacks is beyond a vote. The people are down right ignorant, selfish and brainwashed to the core in European mythology. The children are  in a dire situations being led by coward corrupt individuals with ego’s. No goood is coming out of neither party for Blacks, negros,colored, Afrkian American,Christian, Muslim, Gay,Atheist etc….regardless what you call yourself. It’s to  much hate,deceit and ignorance

    • S’DAD

      Brother Amir, Amir….You’ve said all of that with the name calling, finger pointing. You don’t have to vote and certainly no one is going to try to persuade you against your beliefs.But sir, you’re carrying a lot of hatred and anger, eventually it will destroy you.Try to make a difference for/with our people and the youths, you’ll feel much better if you do, makes no difference what you call yourself, we’re human beings and not as evil and hateful as those Nabisco’s Rethugs! My brother, you sound like a newly released con, surely none of these beautiful sisters would have any parts of you for fearing for their lives, you sound abusive, about to explode! I will impart this with you, where ignorance is tolerated, intelligence cannot prevail.