If Obama Had a Black Agenda, Would It Help Blacks?

Atlantic magazine blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates examines Obama's claim that targeting policies to specific groups is "not how America works."

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President Barack Obama (Getty Images)

Atlantic magazine blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates weighs in on President Obama's argument against focusing on the black community's economic struggles. Coates agrees that a black agenda wouldn't necessarily help the most vulnerable African Americans, but he also says it's worth reviewing how interest groups influence policy in America.

...I think it's worth noting, in point of fact, how America has worked throughout history, and how it works now. Interest groups trade their votes (or their cash) because they think you're going to pursue policy that's favorable to them. I highly doubt that health insurance companies, for instance, make political donations because they improved their self-esteem. I doubt that Obama's stance in Israel is wholly divorced from interested domestic constituencies. That's America.

But America is also this: a long history of using policy -- not just name-calling and thuggish law enforcement -- but actual policy to disadvantage African-Americans. It isn't just that it "turns out" that African-Americans are disproportionately uninsured. It's the result of a virtually unbroken run of policy decisions stretching back to the Virginia black codes of the 1650s, through the Illinois black laws of the 1850s, through the redlining of the 1950s ...

It's true that it would be unwise for Obama to offer up a black agenda. It's also true that America, to the detriment of blacks, has long had one.  

Read Ta-Nehisi Coates' entire blog entry at the Atlantic.

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