Here’s what both he and Romney didn’t bother to mention: The black unemployment rate is 14.1 percent, nearly twice the national rate of 8.1 percent. Black homeowners are almost twice as likely to have buyers’ remorse than their white counterparts — 35 percent to 20 percent. More than a third — 36.5 percent — of the nation’s African-American students don’t graduate from high school on time. And in Chicago, the president’s hometown, the Chicago Tribune reported that “while blacks make up about 33 percent of the city’s population, they accounted for nearly 78 percent of the homicide victims through the first six months of 2012.”
None of these alarming realities were Topic A in either Tampa or Charlotte. Nor were they Topic B or C. None of these depressing realities was presented even as Plan D, Plan E or Plan F.
Mitt Romney’s lack of interest in African Americans is understandable. His constituency is different from you and me. A recent poll reported that zero percent of African Americans supported the super-rich Republican. The liberal-to-moderate-to-conservative Romney, depending on his political opportunities at the moment, is still trying to pacify his Tea Party-infested rank and file. His conservative supporters don’t love him nearly as much as they hate President Obama, which may explain why Romney’s acceptance speech had the lowest TV viewership since 1996, when Bob Dole took to the podium.
Obama should be different. And, to some extent, he has been. Although African-American concerns were off the agenda in Charlotte, there has been some modest progress during his first term. He signed the Fair Sentencing Act, legislation that narrowed the gap between time served for possession of white powder and crack cocaine. By executive order he expanded the funding of Historically Black Colleges and Universities to $850 million over a 10-year period. And, through Obamacare, the 19 percent of African Americans without health care insurance is bound to decrease.
That’s about it — because America’s first black president is America’s president, not the president of black America. And, years ago, Chicago Mayor Harold Washington explained to me the double standard black politicians were forced to endure. Like Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans or Italian-Americans, African Americans are a national ethnic group. But because black politicians are so often defined by their color, if they advocate for their own ethnic group it becomes a racial issue.
Barack Obama is no exception. So our first black president is expected to be race neutral. It’s just that black and white. But maybe in his second term, President Obama can steer away from the “rising tide lifts all boats” philosophy, and make sure that poor blacks finally get their break.
Cyber columnist Monroe Anderson is a veteran Chicago journalist who has written signed op-ed-page columns for both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times and executive-produced and hosted his own local CBS TV show. He was also the editor of Savoy Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.