Many say the first Black president didn’t do enough to improve the lives of African Americans.
Written By Nigel Roberts
President Barack Obama
Many African-Americans have expressed disappointment in President Barack Obama, even those who voted whole-heartedly for him twice.
In an October interview, Sean “Diddy” Combs, in an interview on Politics Nation with Al Sharpton, said the Black community “got a little bit shortchanged.”
He explained it this way: “I feel like we put President Obama in the White House, and when I look back I just wanted more done for my people. Because, that’s the name of the game, this is politics.”
Here are a few gauges in evaluating how African-Americans fared under the Obama presidency.
Sense of well-being
First, are African-Americans really disappointed in the performance of the first Black president? Gallup and Healthways asked Americans to rate their current and future lives throughout his presidency. Researchers found that Americans of all races who say they are thriving have increased. African-Americans’ life evaluations improved nearly 13 points from 2008 to 2010. However, it declined during Obama’s second term, now registering below other races.
“These results dovetail with Blacks’ collective sentiment that Obama has not done enough to improve Black Americans’ standard of living,” the researchers concluded.
Wages remained stagnant for nearly all Americans during the economic recovery. CNN Money reported that income dropped to $33,926 in the period of 2009 to 2011, but then rebounded to $35,398 by 2014. African-Americans were hit particularly hard during the Great Recession, with many falling into poverty. By 2011, the poverty rate within the Black community reached 27.6 percent, which was almost 2 percent higher than when Obama took office. In recent years, it has fallen to 26.2 percent.
Meanwhile, the wealth gap grew between Black and White Americans during the Obama presidency. The Pew Research Center, based on an analysis of Federal Reserve data, found that family wealth was eight times higher for Whites than Blacks in 2010 and ballooned to 13 times greater in 2013.
The academic achievement gap between Black and White students remains stubbornly high. In fact, for many decades Black students have lagged significantly behind their White counterparts on just about all academic measures. However, in October the White House announced that the high school graduation rate reached a record level for all students in the 2014-2015 school year. African-American students made strides toward on-time graduation, increasing by 8 percent since the 2010-2011 school year.
The high unemployment rate among Black youths was shuffled around like a political tennis ball, some would say exploited, during the 2016 campaign season. However, CNN Money reported that the unemployment rate in two categories—teens and those 16 to 24—declined more than half during the Obama administration.
For Black teens, the unemployment rate reached a high of 48.9 percent in Sept. 2010. For job seekers 16 to 24, the unemployment rate spiked to 32.5 percent in Jan. 2010. While still high, the jobless rates dropped this year to 23.3 percent and 14.5 percent, respectively.
Access to health care improved significantly for African-Americans, thanks of course to President Obama’s signature policy, the Affordable Care Act. According to White House.gov, since open enrollment in 2013, more than 3 million uninsured African-Americans obtained coverage, reducing the percentage of Blacks who lack health care by more than half during the Obama presidency.