Sharpton, Jealous and Morial Make Small Talk at the Big House

 Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The three civil rights leaders attempted a tricky maneuver with last week's visit to the White House.  How could they appear to pressure President Obama to finally act on Depression-level Black unemployment, while making no such demand? It was a fool's errand, for which they were well suited.

 


Sharpton, Jealous and Morial Make Small Talk at the Big House

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“They left the meeting babbling about helping the president with Republicans, but with no larger commitment in hand from Obama.”

When NAACP chief Ben Jealous emerged from a White House meeting with Barack Obama, last week, Jealous told the media:"What's clear is that we have a president who gets it." Barack Obama “gets it,” alright. He gets it, that organized Black leadership is grateful just to be allowed into the presidential presence. Obama gets it, that so-called civil rights leadership is terrified of even the appearance of exerting pressure on or, heaven forbid, making demands of the first Black president. Obama gets it, as he always has, that he can treat the civil rights establishment like fools, and they will dutifully oblige him by acting the part.

By their own accounts, Ben Jealous, National Urban League president Marc Morial, and Rev. Al Sharpton, spent much of their hour with President Obama discussing ways they can help Obama garner Republican support for his programs. This is deep, deep farce. The three Black civil rights figures have virtually no influence on Republican Party politics. That’s not their constituency and not their job. The expectation was that Sharpton, Jealous and Morial went to the White House on behalf of Black people, among whom they theoretically have some influence, to pressure Obama to take stronger action on Depression-level Black unemployment. Instead, they left the meeting babbling about helping the president with Republicans, but with no larger commitment in hand from Obama.

The president himself declined to make any statement concerning the meeting – an indication of its relative unimportance in the White House scheme of things.

“Obama still hasn't come forward with a serious jobs plan for the cities.”

In fact, the three civil rights figures have been spinning their wheels and wasting everybody’s time. They seem most giddy about having clarified to the White House what Black people mean when they cry out for action on reducing Black unemployment. "This is about place. It's not about race," rhymed the NAACP’s Ben Jealous. Government jobs programs targeted on the cities would effectively bring down Black unemployment, since Black people reside disproportionately in the cities. Nobody is demanding that jobs be created specifically for Black people, said Jealous.

But that's always been the case. There has never been a serious legislative proposal to create “Black” jobs. That's a red herring created by Barack Obama, himself. It was Obama who replied to every question on Black unemployment by saying he would never support any specifically Black jobs program – even though no one was asking for one! Obama was setting up a straw man – a Black demand that did not exist – in order to knock it down.  His purpose was to impress white people by appearing to be standing up to Black folks.

Through this dishonest and despicable ploy, Obama succeeded in deflecting criticism on Black unemployment for over a year. Now Ben Jealous says the president “gets it.” But Obama still hasn't come forward with a serious jobs plan for the cities. Black people have been demanding a “Marshal Plan for the Cities” in every election in the past 40 years – except for the election of 2008, when Blacks made no demands at all on candidate Obama. And the NAACP, the Urban League, and Al Sharpton still cannot fix their mouths in the shape of a demand. A pitiful excuse for leadership.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.