The imminent passage of health care in the Senate comes at the same time that black Americans in Congress and elsewhere have expressed disappointment that President Obama has not been addressing the needs of communities of color. Black neighborhoods have been hit particularly hard by the foreclosure crisis and the ongoing job and credit crunch. While the White House has tried to maintain a delicate, noncommittal stance with respect to the president’s race and political agenda, Congressional Black Caucus members including Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and John Conyers (D-MI), plus actor Danny Glover, have been vocal critics of administration policies on war, job creation and other kitchen-table concerns for black Americans. “The Obama administration has followed the same playbook…as the Bush administration. I don’t see anything different,” Glover said this week.
Obama brushed these critiques off in a recent radio interview. “Of course there’s grumbling,” he said, including himself in the pool of black Americans worried about the future. “There’s a long history of us being the last fired and the first fired. As I said on health care, we’re the ones who are in the worst position to absorb companies deciding to drop their health plans. So should people be satisfied? Absolutely not. But let’s take a look at what I’ve done.”
Senator Roland Burris, the lone African-American member of the upper house of Congress, has been wrestling with the same issues as Obama. The Root has reported on the leadership he has shown during the health care debate. On the eve of the Senate vote, he spoke with The Root about critiques of the president, relief for black America and a very special poem he wrote in support of health care reform.
The Root: Will we have health care by Christmas Day?
Roland Burris: That’s the plan.
TR: What does this bill offer to the black Americans who are worried that the first African-American president isn’t looking out for them?