What’s Obama Done for Black People? Nothing

And that's the way it should be. Save the criticism for his policies that affect all Americans.

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Black unemployment remains staggeringly high. But for a decade, black unemployment has exceeded the national average by anywhere from 3.7 to 6.9 percent. So if Obama has failed on employment, then call it a failure on employment — not a failure on black employment.

It’s not about not criticizing Obama — when he’s wrong, he’s wrong. But he should be held accountable as a leader, not as a black leader. And voters, black or otherwise, have the chance a few months from now to hold him accountable by going with the alternative.

For those who don’t like the war on terror, it’s fair game to contest Obama’s foreign policy. If you liked the “public option,” you’d have grounds to reject Obama’s Affordable Care Act. And if you favor a flat tax and want to slash social spending, you’ve got a definite beef with Obama’s big-government conservatism.

And there’s nothing wrong with observing that before, during and after the Obama administration, African Americans still fall behind in wealth, education and health outcomes. What’s questionable is the premise that Obama was elected to disaggregate and prioritize those concerns over those of the American people as a whole.

What’s Obama done for black people? Nothing — except affirm the Americanness of black Americans, from slavery, to fighting and dying for this country, to leading the country and the free world during difficult times.

Not to mention that African Americans aren’t the only people proud of their first black president. There’s a definite pride that Americans have in reaching that milestone. But in the end, Obama has more in common with JFK than MLK. He’s not a preacher; he’s a politician. And he has set the precedent for all future presidents.

Because when we elect our first Latino president, our first Asian-American president, our first woman president or our first Mormon president, the bar will have been set — high — by the first black president: The job of president of the United States is to be president.

President of all the people of the United States.

David Swerdlick is a contributing editor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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