During the election of 2008, the McCain campaign portrayed Barack Obama as a celebrity with very little substance. The liberal left fought against this stereotype. Now that he has been elected, the various groups that threw their support directly behind him have arrived at the White House door, hat in hand, demanding that the debt be repaid.
When Obama was sworn in he was charged to rectify the worst Depression since the Great Depression. Banks and entire industries were and are failing. The infrastructure is in need of a complete overhaul and American children are increasingly falling behind in education. No national health care plan exists, causing many Americans to die an early death. Proving that no lessons were learned from Katrina, racism and violence continues to escalate. Obama inherited a country that’s a shadow of its former self, due to the efforts of the Bush administration.
In the words of Tavis Smiley, members of the Black Intelligentsia have become quick to hold Barack Obama “accountable.” Dr. Michael Eric Dyson has already been vocal about not being invited to the White House despite being one of the first to publicly support Barack in the election. Dr. Cornel West has stated emphatically that he would rather “visit a crack house than the White House.” According to the self-appointed leaders of the Black community, Barack is failing in his efforts to advance the issues of African Americans.
The GLBT community has been very vocal about the fact that Obama has failed to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Iraq war vet LT. Dan Choi was dismissed from the military after coming out on the Rachel Maddow show. He, along with several other members of the GLBT community have taken the step of publicly declaring their sexuality as a means of challenging Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. At a time when troop levels are a state of concern, the military can scarcely afford to lose experienced and educated members due to homophobia. The continuation of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is also the legalization of overt homophobia, as it clearly positions GLBT members as less valuable. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell literally forces them to live a lie.
The Defense of Marriage Act has also come into play. Same sex marriage has been a rallying point for the GLBT community for some time now and the promise to repeal DOMA helped turn many Clinton supporters to Obama supporters. Not only has Obama not repealed DOMA, he has only offered limited benefits to GLB Tfederal employees.
In less than six months, Barack Obama has not moved quickly enough to alter the hierarchal imbalance that exists in the US and minority groups seem intent on holding his feet to the fire. Their requests for Obama to keep his election promises are reasonable; however the time period in which they have asked is not. Unlike his predecessor, he has not knowingly lied to the populace, he simply has been focusing on matters that will most broadly benefit all of society.
Single-payer health care is an African American issue, and an issue for the GLBT community – it’s essentially an issue for all of us. If single-payer health care were passed it would effectively end the issue of benefits for same sex couples because everyone would be entitled to care. Many in the African American community are either under-insured or have no health insurance whatsoever. Blacks also die sooner than Whites from a lack of care, as well as the stress of living in a White supremacist state. It cannot be argued that this policy will not have the greatest impact upon bodies that are marginalized.
The other major focus of Obama’s first five months has been reinvigorating the slumping American economy. Blacks have an unemployment rate of 13%, which is higher than the national average. The GLBT community has faced and continues to face discrimination in employment. However, both of these marginalized groups have yet to publicly recognize the importance of ensuring that there are good paying jobs available. They want programs directly aimed at them, rather than focusing on achieving the greatest good for the largest number of people.
Not all of the members of the GLBT communities live in the Castro and are leading an affluent lifestyle despite the media depiction of this as an absolute truth. Many are struggling with poverty.
Meanwhile, despite the vocal complaints from Smiley et al, the Black Intelligentsia are not standing at soup kitchens or awaiting food stamps to feed their families. They are not out in the trenches feeding the hungry or housing the poor, though the rhetoric of “accountability” would lead one to think differently. In fact, the State of the Black Union was funded by none other than Wells Fargo, the bank that made the news for issuing what where termed “ghetto loans” to Blacks. How is that for “accountability”?
Obama’s first six months are not the reflection of a fear of wasting political capital on marginalized bodies as much as it is a reflection of the need to help as many segments of the population as possible. While fighting for socialized health care and fixing the economy may not immediately seem like issues affecting African Americans and the GLBT community, resolution of these problems will vastly increase the life chances of both parties.
Problem is – we have rather narrowly defined what a GLBT issue is and what an African American issue is.