OBAMA DODGES BLACK UNEMPLOYMENT Question
By Robert “Rob” Redding Jr.
ATLANTA, June 23, 2009, 2:45 p.m. – President Obama today dodged a question about escalating black unemployment, while taking only one question from the black-owned press during his news conference.
The nation’s first black president dodged American Urban Radio’s April Ryan’s question about what he will do to stop black unemployment from hitting 20 percent. The unemployment rate for blacks is at 14.9 percent, compared to 9.4 percent for all Americans.
“We know that the African American unemployment rate, the Latino unemployment rate are consistently higher than the national average,” Obama said. “If the economy as a whole is doing poorly then you know that the African American community is doing poorly and they are going to be hit even harder … The best thing that I can do for the African American community, or the Latino community, or the Asian community – whatever community – is to get the economy as a whole moving. If I don’t do that then I am not going to be able to help anybody.”
During his answer, Obama told her to “hold on” but never came back to her.
In March, Obama also sidestepped a question about race during his second news conference, when he was asked if “race has come up” in “any of the policy debates that you’ve had within the White House.”
“I think that the last 64 days has been dominated by me trying to figure out how we’re going to fix the economy, and that affects black, brown and white,” Obama said. “And, you know, obviously, at the inauguration, I think that there was justifiable pride on the part of the country that we had taken a step to move us beyond some of the searing legacies of racial discrimination in this country, but that lasted about a day.”
Obama called on Ebony magazine and Univision during the March news conference. He was assailed for overlooking the black press at his first news conference.
In March, he also distanced himself from his newly appointed Attorney General Eric Holder, who said that America is “a nation of cowards” on matters of race.
“I think it’s fair to say that if I had been advising my attorney general, we would have used different language,” the Democrat said. “I’m not somebody who believes that constantly talking about race somehow solves racial tensions. I think what solves racial tensions is fixing the economy, putting people to work, making sure that people have health care, ensuring that every kid is learning out there. I think if we do that, then we’ll probably have more fruitful conversations.”
What’s more, his answers on the issue of race have also mirrored remarks he made to the “State of the Black Union” in April.
“These are [economic] policies that will make a big difference in the African American community,” he told the group via video. “You know that tough times for America often mean tougher times for African Americans. This recession has been no exception. The unemployment rate among black Americans is a full five points higher than the rate among Americans as a whole.”
HERE IS THE ENTIRE TRANSCRIPT OF THE QUESTION AND ANSWER FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE
Okay. I’ve got time for two more questions. April. Where’s April?
Q Right here. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: There you are. How are you?
Q I’m fine. Back on the economy, Mr. President, people are criticizing this road to recovery plan. Specifically, there are reports in The Washington Post that say that the African America unemployment rate will go to 20 percent by the end of this year. And then you had your Chairman of Economic Advisers say the target intervention may come next year if nothing changes. Why not target intervention now to stop the bloodletting in the black unemployment rate?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, first of all, we know that the African American unemployment rate, the Latino unemployment rate, are consistently higher than the national average. And so, if the economy as a whole is doing poorly, then you know that the African American community is going to be doing poorly, and they’re going to be hit even harder. And the best thing that I can do for the African American community or the Latino community or the Asian community, whatever community, is to get the economy as a whole moving. If I don’t — hold on one second, let me answer the question — if I don’t do that, then I’m not going to be able to help anybody. So that’s priority number one.
It is true that in certain inner-city communities, the unemployment rate is — was already sky high even before this recession. The ladders available for people to enter into the job market are even worse. And so we are interested in looking at proven programs that help people on a pathway to jobs.
There was a reason why right before Father’s Day I went to a program here locally in Washington called Year Up, which has a proven track record of taking young, mostly minority people, some of whom have graduated from high school, some maybe who’ve just gotten their GED, and trained them on computers and provide them other technical skills, but also train them on how to carry themselves in an office, how to write an e-mail — some of the social skills that will allow them to be more employable. They’ve got a terrific placement rate after this one-year program. If there are ways that we can potentially duplicate some of those programs, then we’re going to do so.
So part of what we want to do is to find tools that will give people more opportunity, but the most important thing I can do is to lift the economy overall. And that’s what my strategy is focused on.