Obama to Black People: I’m Showing You the Money

From support for HBCUs to efforts to reduce disparities in juvenile justice, the White House is making the case that the president used his 2015 budget to make African-American families a priority.

Posted:
 
476646579-marcus-wesby-sits-on-the-lap-of-us-president-barack
President Barack Obama with Marcus Wesby as he tours a classroom at Powell Elementary School, in Washington, D.C., March 4, 2014

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama released his fiscal year 2015 budget this week, telling reporters that the document "is about choices, it's about our values." And the White House is making the case that those values have everything to do with creating a better life for black people in America.

Of course, you'll find little of the controversial race-specific "black and Latino" language that characterized the recent launch of the My Brother's Keeper initiative in the budget. But a related fact sheet released by the White House, titled "Opportunity for All: Supporting African American Families" (pdf), encourages Americans to read between the lines with an eye to where the president is looking out for black people.

While the document largely reflects Obama's long-held "the most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period … " stance—trumpeting general, national priorities from "Supporting the implementation of the Affordable Care Act" to "Spurring Economic Growth and Job Creation by Providing Access to Capital"—it does get more specific at times when it comes to fostering racial equality.

Some budget highlights from the fact sheet:

On support for minority businesses (pdf): "The budget includes $28 million for the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to provide counseling, training, and technical assistance to minority business owners."

On protecting Civil Rights (pdf): "The budget supports activities at the Department of Justice to ensure the protection of civil rights, including enforcing Federal prohibitions against racial and ethnic discrimination. In addition, the Budget provides resources to prevent and remedy discrimination in the workplace by maintaining strong support for the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs."

On reducing racial disparities (pdf) in juvenile justice: "The budget, through the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, includes a new youth investment initiative that will incentivize state efforts to increase the availability of alternatives to incarceration, reenroll youth back into school after confinement, and reduce ethnic and racial disparities in the juvenile justice system ... "

On supporting HBCUs (pdf) and access to college: "The budget provides $75 million for College Success Grants to support sustainable strategies to reduce costs and improve student outcomes at Minority Serving Institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions. The cudget also sustains funding for GEAR UP and TRIO to help provide support services for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to prepare for, enroll, and complete postsecondary education."

Of course, the chances of the budget passing in Congress, where Republicans control the House of Representatives, are slim to none. But its articulation of Obama's policy priorities earned praise from organizations that make equality for African Americans and other racial minority groups a top priority.

"The proposed budget released today by the president shows a clear and unequivocal commitment to expanding the middle class and providing educational, economic and employment opportunities for all Americans. We applaud the commitment made in this budget to reduce educational disparities for all children, regardless of their race, class, disability or zip code," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.