Tue | Dec 11, 2018

Glenn Tucker | Don’t ‘blacken’ Obama’s legacy

Published:Wednesday | December 5, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Gerry Grindley is a successful and respected Jamaican businessman who is spending his retirement years in Florida. While there, he decided that the Republican Party's principles were closest to his own and joined that party.

Recently, Mr Grindley - a staunch Trump supporter - received the highest honour awarded by the Republican Party. One section of a letter informing him of his nomination mentioned Grindley's "... dedication to the continued success of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party".

Not surprisingly, Mr Grindley claims that Obama has failed black people who saw "minimal gains" under his presidency.

Permit me to share some facts with Mr Grindley:

The United States' population is 77.7 per cent white and just 12.3 per cent black. Whites control the commanding heights of the economy, with the richest one per cent controlling more wealth than the next 90 per cent of the population.

 

OBAMA'S ACCOMPLISHMENTS

 

Some accomplishments of Obama that had a positive effect on blacks include the following:

1. Rescued the country from the Great Recession created by Mr Grindley's party and cutting unemployment from 10 per cent to 4.7 per cent.

2. Signed the Affordable Care Act providing health insurance for more than 20 million uninsured Americans. This number could be much higher, but state governors of Mr Grindley's party blocked Medicaid expansion under Obama.

3. Passed the US$787 billion America Recovery and Reinvestment Act to spur economic growth during the Great Recession.

4. Repealed unjust and outdated prison sentences and commuting the sentences of more inmates than the previous 11 presidents combined.

5. Signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allowing as many as five million people living in the US illegally to avoid deportation and receive work permits.

6. Signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to regulate the financial sector.

7. Dropped the veteran homeless rate by 50 per cent.

8. Improved school nutrition with the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

9. Signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

10. Launched My Brother's Keeper, a White House initiative to help young minorities achieve their full potential.

11. Revived the Department of Justice's Civil Rights activities.

12. Reduced discrimination against former prisoners in federal hiring.

13. Won major victories against housing and mortgage discrimination.

14. Appointed women and people of colour to fill more than half the appointments to policy positions requiring Senate confirmations, including 17 of 31 Cabinet positions.

Barack Obama was elected to be president of the United States - not black America. The fact that many of his initiatives did not have Negro spiritual subtitles does not mean that blacks were not targeted. His legacy was stymied by racist Republican obstruction. But it would have been really helpful if blacks took more responsibility for their communities.

By almost any measure, his policies were a resounding success. For middle-income families, tax cuts and higher government benefits erased almost 90 per cent of the market income losses caused by the recession. For poor and moderate-income families, wage and capital income losses caused by the recession were largely or wholly offset by tax cuts and benefit increases.

 

CONTINUED MOMENTUM

 

The "continued success of President Trump" mentioned in Mr Grindley's letter is just the continued momentum from the Obama years.

History depends on who tells the story, Mr Grindley. Trump supporters cannot deny that he is the first president since Eisenhower to go through eight years without a personal or political scandal. He is acknowledged as one of the most transformative presidents of the past 100 years.

Communities systematically marginalised for generations don't just hop into the middle class. But black enrolment in colleges and universities has skyrocketed. Unemployment is down, wages are up. All the vital signs are positive.

Your party made a royal mess of things. Obama cleaned up the mess, and defied the gravitational forces of discrimination and corruption to generate a protracted high tide of prosperity and promise.

And, when the tide is high, sir, it lifts all ships - black and white.

- Glenn Tucker, MBA, is an educator and sociologist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and glenntucker2011@gmail.com.