President Barack Obama said recently that African Americans were better off now than when he took office six years ago, but many black conservatives disputed that to Newsmax — citing such widespread ills a high unemployment, poor education levels and spiraling gun violence in the nation's inner cities.
"Here we are again with our president clearly demonstrating his severe disconnect with blacks in America, as he has ginned up racial hatred and … completely ignoring the fact that he's the first black president and holds a historic role that is intended to mend and rebuild America's fractured racial history," said Stacy Washington, a radio talk-show host in St. Louis.
She noted Obama's "dereliction of duty" in ignoring such statistics as high black unemployment and "the lack of educational resources for children who are trapped in failed inner-city schools and his refusal to even acknowledge that voucher programs and school choice play a large role in African-American children escaping poverty and escaping inner cities."
In November, the black unemployment rate stood at 27.6 percent, compared with 14.5 percent for whites, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"Not only is he disconnected, but he's actually being facetious," Washington concluded. "I dare say he's even lying about the state of blacks in America."
Dave Chadwick, a software-sales entrepreneur in North Carolina, noted how more African Americans are stuck at the bottom of the nation's economic ladder because of the many government entitlement programs that have exploded on Obama's watch.
"But we're on a leash, for crying out loud, when you're down there like that," Chadwick told Newsmax. "When you're the recipient of these programs, you're really on a leash."
At his final news conference for the year, Obama said on Dec. 19 that that he believed African Americans were better off now than when he took office in 2009, though the income gap between blacks and whites persist.
"Like the rest of America, black America, in the aggregate, is better off now than it was when I came into office," he said in response to a reporter's question at the White House.
"The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists, and we've got more work to do on that front," Obama said.
He said that such initiatives as Obamacare and early childhood education programs, as well as an improving economy and better housing conditions, have benefited blacks.
"I’ve been consistent in saying that this is a legacy of a troubled racial past of Jim Crow and slavery," Obama said. "That’s not an excuse for black folks. And I think the overwhelming majority of black people understand it’s not an excuse.
"They’re working hard," the president added. "They’re out there hustling and trying to get an education, trying to send their kids to college. But they’re starting behind, oftentimes, in the race."
However, African-American conservatives told Newsmax that blacks are, indeed, starting from behind — and it's because of such Obama moves as his executive orders deferring deportation and granting work permits to as many as 6 million illegal immigrants and his administration's heavy regulations on business that stifle development and creativity.
"Instead of growing the economy and encouraging entrepreneurship, he's depressing it," Chadwick said. "So, all I've got to look forward to are these handouts that I get from the government programs.
"That's why he thinks we're better off. That's why he can say that with the kind of confidence he does."
Chadwick cited, for instance, Obama's delay in approving the Keystone XL Pipeline. The $8 billion project would carry oil sands from Canada to refineries in Texas.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, has promised swift approval of the project next year. The GOP will control both houses of Congress come January.
"I know a lot of black folks who can cook like mad," Chadwick told Newsmax. "What if I had that Keystone Pipeline up and running or under construction? You don't think those guys out there on the pipeline who are working on it don't eat? They get hungry.
"So how many of these new companies that could pop up — food trucks and things like that — that could go out there and sell food to those guys?" he asked. "How many of those companies could have been the idea of an African American?"
But the Rev. Joseph Green, author and pastor of Antioch Assembly in Harrisburg, Pa.,
said the conditions facing African Americans do not rest with Obama.
"I don't blame President Obama for those things, but by the same token, we can't give him credit for something that's obviously not the case," he said.
"There are a large number of African Americans now that continually look to the government as their source and put more emphasis on the government and the government's help than probably they would have in the past," Green told Newsmax. "It's kind of a mentality that now we're going to be OK because the president is black."
President Obama also referenced the shootings of Eric Garner in New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in his response. He said the cases had "colored" race relations in America.
Brown, 18, was shot to death on Aug. 9 by a white police officer, while Garner, 43, died on July 17 from a chokehold by a white officer on Staten Island. Both men were unarmed.
Neither officer was indicted by grand juries. The decisions sparked widespread unrest in both communities.
On Dec. 20, two New York City officers were gunned down, execution style, by a man who claimed to be avenging the deaths. That man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, who had an extensive criminal history, later killed himself as city officers cornered him in a Brooklyn subway station.
"I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we’ve had," as a result of the protests, Obama said. "These are not new phenomenon.
"The fact that they’re now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been, in the past, stories passed on around a kitchen table, allows people to make their own assessments and evaluations," he added. "And, you’re not going to solve a problem if it’s not being talked about."
Black conservatives slammed the remarks, charging the Obama administration with fostering a hostile environment among protesters instead of working on the underlying issues facing African Americans in this country.
Washington noted how Attorney General Eric Holder — "who just happens to be black and the first black man to hold that office — came to Ferguson in August and said, 'I'm one of you,' instead of saying, 'We have a bunch of really systemic problems that are in the black community that we should address.'"
She is a member of the Project 21 Leadership Network of Black Conservatives.
"Yes, it's horrible whenever someone dies at the hands of a police officer-involved shooting, but we have to be responsible for our own actions," Washington said.
She noted Brown's background with the local juvenile justice system and how he had allegedly robbed a convenience store before he was fatally shot by Officer Darren Wilson, who resigned after the grand jury's decision last month.
"When asked to move out of the street, had he simply moved out of the street, we would be discussing another major news story instead of constantly referring back to the false 'hands-up, don't shoot' narrative that has taken over huge segments of the black population to our detriment," Washington said.
"He's right that race relations have been set back among blacks and whites, but not because of actual behavior that people need to be repenting for," she said of President Obama's remarks.
Green, however, laid the blame with both police and African Americans.
"A lot of times, the police officers may come with some preconceived notion: 'Some young black men are standing around with their pants sagging, so they must be up to no good.'
"Then on the other side, we have a generation of young, rebellious black men who, if the police come and approach them, they automatically have an aggressive posture towards the police.
"There definitely has to be some conversation and some dialogue for both sides so we don't repeat those types of issues," Green said.
The conservatives noted, moreover, that African Americans must take the lead in improving their communities instead of relying on the federal government and President Obama to do it.
"There's an epidemic of young black men being murdered in the country, but the vast majority of those young black men are being murdered by other black men," Green said. "That's the larger conversation we need to have: Why is that?
"Those issues aren't getting any better just because the president is black. Those issues haven't been resolved — and in certain instances, they've gotten worse" because blacks "are not holding the government accountable, because we tend to want to defend him even if criticism is valid."
"It's almost like you're a sellout if you're black," Green added. "How dare you disagree with him? I don't care, I voice my opinion anyway, but I would say more so that the criticism becomes a racial thing when people politically oppose the president."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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