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Mitchell: Will President Obama do more for African Americans?

Updated: December 8, 2012 6:16AM



President Barack Obama didn’t have to convince Afri­can Americans to vote for him.

Contrary to popular thought, black people didn’t vote for Obama because he is black. They voted for him because they were scared to death of the alternative.

Frankly, Mitt Romney’s threats to rescind Obamacare were enough to get black people to the polls.

But four years ago, black people flocked to voting booths out of a sense of pride and gave Obama the votes he needed to become the nation’s first black president.

This time around, black voters were more subdued. They still voted overwhelmingly — 95 percent — to keep Obama in the White House, according to CNN exit interviews, but that margin was not as easy to come by as most people might think.

Obviously, black voters were far more willing to give the Obama administration credit for digging the nation out from the Bush era’s failed policies. After all, unemployment has been in the double digits in the African-American community no matter who was in the White House.

But in many African-American homes, debates around the dinner table often centered on the president’s failure to treat the urban crisis with same sense of urgency he showed when dealing with the challenges faced by other groups.

For instance, when Obama supported the Dream Act, black people had to grin and bear it, knowing that he needed to solidify the Latino vote if he had a real shot at another four years.

The strategy worked.

According to an early CNN exit poll, Obama got 69 percent of the Latino vote, boosting his votes by 2 percentage points from last election in a race that was razor close.

But the question has to be asked: At what point will black people be rewarded for keeping the faith?

It was gratifying to see first lady Michelle Obama and the Obama daughters in the White House representing black people with such dignity and class, especially because they are Chicagoans.

Yet in urban areas, too many children are still getting killed. Too many fathers are still trying to make a living selling drugs on the corner. Too many mothers still worry more about their kids walking down the street safely than about eating fresh vegetables.

Frankly, black people have paid a hefty price for their loyalty.

For instance, Tavis Smiley, once viewed as a powerful advocate on behalf of black America, saw his career and popularity sink when he suggested Obama was not doing enough to earn the black vote.

Ironically, the black community found itself in a quandary. The ascension of Obama seemed to trigger a quick descent of historic civil rights leaders who often lobbied the White House on critical issues affecting black America.

Those voices have been sorely missed.

This was Obama’s last campaign. The hard-fought victory is well-deserved.

Now, I hope he will do more for the group that helped him get elected in the first place.



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