Empathy Doesn’t Solve Employment Crisis, by Derryck Green

green_smBlack lawmakers have such a “sense of identification and empathy” with President Barack Obama that they are allowing him to get away with pretty much anything.

It was reported in The Hill, one of Washington’s top political newspapers, that such empathy was evident following Obama’s alleged impromptu remarks about the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), who has represented Harlem in Congress since Obama was five years old, said: “I don’t see how a person not-of-color could possibly do the job that he’s doing.”

This reaction, shocking to no one, is nonetheless troubling because Obama’s economic performance — particularly in black communities — is sub-par at best.

The Hill listed several economic indicators — including declining income, declining home ownership rates and the high unemployment rate — to demonstrate just how poorly black Americans have fared under the nation’s first black president.

Remember how bad George W. Bush’s presidency apparently was for blacks? At the same point in Bush’s presidency, blacks were earning an average of more than $800 more (adjusted for inflation) annually than they are now under Obama. Black unemployment has risen under Obama’s watch.

Yet, for the black politicians, it appears racial identification takes precedence over prosperity.

Black politicians are also reluctant to criticize Obama — constructively or otherwise — for fear of emboldening his critics. So often, it seems, black politicians and the black intelligentsia prefer a salve of racial identification over the hard and responsible task of leadership. These racial tribal chieftains are again publicly — and foolishly — embracing race and passivity rather than fighting for improved economic opportunity for black America.

It’s not the first time members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), for instance, have chosen commonality with the President over improving black economic opportunity. Last summer, Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) noted: “With [such high] unemployment, if we had a white president we’d be marching around the White House.” Cleaver added: “The President knows we are going to act in deference to him in a way we wouldn’t to someone white.”

So racial empathy means Obama’s blackness trumps his failure on black employment?

To be trivial regarding the economic plight of so many Americans is disrespectful and shameful. It’s worse when that same group idolizes Obama and wills itself to believe he is virtually infallible.

Since Obama became president, the unemployment rate for blacks fell below 13 percent only once — in his first month in office, in January of 2009 — and has risen above 16 percent 11 times during his presidency. Furthermore, the unemployment rate for black teens has yet to drop below 30 percent and has risen above 40 percent 29 times.

CBC members are apparently not too concerned with the unemployment rates in their representative districts, even though their constituents have fared quite poorly during President Obama’s “recovery.”

Keep in mind that the national unemployment rate last June was 7.6 percent overall, and 13.7 percent for blacks. According to the data service ProximityOne.com, here is the overall unemployment rate for each CBC member district:

Karen Bass (D-CA) – 11.9 percent
Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX8) – 11.6 percent
Joyce Beatty (D-OH) – 12.1 percent
Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) – 15.2 percent
Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA) – 14.6 percent
Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) – 11.7 percent
Corrine Brown (D-FL) – 17.4 percent
Hank Johnson (D-GA) – 15.6 percent
G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) – 15.5 percent
Robin Kelly (D-IL) – 17.9 percent
Andre Carson (D-IN) – 13.9 percent
Barbara Lee (D-CA) – 11 percent
Donna M. Christensen (D-VI) – N/A;
John Lewis (D-GA) – 15.5 percent
Yvette Clarke (D-NY) – 12.7 percent
Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) – 8.7 percent
William Lacy Clay Jr. (D-MO) -14.7 percent
Gwendolynne Moore (D-WI) – 14.4 percent
Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO) – 10.7 percent
Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC) – 11.4 percent
James E. Clyburn (D-SC) – 16.4 percent
Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-NJ) – 15.7 percent
John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) – 24.7 percent
Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) – 14.9 percent
Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) – 13.4 percent
Cedric Richmond (D-LA) – 12.5 percent
Danny K. Davis (D-IL) – 16.5 percent
Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) – 16.8 percent
Donna Edwards (D-MD) – 9.5 percent
David Scott (D-GA) – 15.1 percent
Keith Ellison (D-MN) – 9.5 percent
Robert C. Scott (D-VA) – 13.1 percent
Chaka Fattah (D-PA) – 16 percent
Terri Sewell (D-AL)-16.1 percent
Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH) – 17.7 percent
Bennie Thompson (D-MS) – 14.4 percent
Al Green (D-TX) – 10.7 percent
Marc Veasey (D-TX) – 13.3 percent
Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) -17.1 percent
Maxine Waters (D-CA) -11.3 percent
Steven Horsford (D-NV) – 12.9 percent
Melvin L. Watt (D-NC) – 15.3 percent
Frederica Wilson (D-FL) – 16.0 percent

The average unemployment rate for the districts represented by a CBC member is 13.8 percent.

Furthermore, CBC members represent many of the districts suffering the altogether highest unemployment rates. Yet these so-called leaders seem to choose to embrace racial empathy over showing leadership and pressuring the President to reduce regulation or implement other policies that could diminish the absurd levels of unemployment among their constituents.

Perhaps it is Obama who instead should be empathetic of the CBC membership.

But the CBC has chosen to become a national embarrassment — not only to their constituents, but to Congress as a whole. And that’s saying something.

Black Americans who continue to support political charlatans are unfortunately complicit in their own socio-economic asphyxiation.

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s unforgettable “I Have a Dream” speech, blacks must rethink their reflexive and emotional embrace of race and racial empathy. Refusal to do so in favor of the continued idolization and commodification of race will inevitably send black America into moral and political irrelevancy.

Those who facilitate incompetence through an empathetic allegiance with poor leadership will have no one to blame but themselves.

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Derryck Green, a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network, received a M.A. in Theological Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing his doctorate in ministry at Azusa Pacific University. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

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