From HuffPo:

QUESTION: “In the face of the numerous attacks that are made against the African community or the black community, by the same U.S. government that you aspire to lead. We are talking about attacks like the sub-prime mortgage… that was a phenomenon that started in the African American and Latino community, attacks like the killing of Sean Bell… and the Jena Six… and on and on… in the face of all these attacks, why is it that you have not one time had the ability to speak to the interest and the behalf of the oppressed and exploited African-American community in this country?”

Clip one of the heckling

Clip two of the hecklers actually asking their question during the Q&A

Woowee! Things got a little fired up down there in St. Pete huh?

First observation: for the scared white folks who think Obama is going to lead the return of the Nubian Empire, the visual of him getting heckled by young black men for not addressing the problems of black America enough, should do much to settle those fears. Ludacris reminded them he was black. These brothers push him the other way! It might actually help him with those voters.

Next. I’m used to, and have respect for, those who informedly criticize Obama because they think he’s not progressive enought (see: Black Agenda Report.) But the dudes in the video showed an incredible lack of knowledge when they said Obama’s not talking about these issues, “not once.” As his answer began to prove, he has been speaking and acting out on issues that face black Americans, but he’s not running for president of black America alone. To actually frame these issues in a way that will result in positive change, you need to have more than just angry black America. You need a coalition that sees all our our problems and solutions bound together.

I doubt that large numbers of black voters feel the need to put this pressure on Obama, but I get worried when I see it crop up. Often, I think folks get into an either-or situation when it comes to solving any sort of problem really. Either we do it Martin’s way, or we do it early-Malcolm’s way. Either we do it Booker T’s way, or we do it W.E.B.’s way. Either we do it Jesse’s way, or we do it Barack’s way. That’s not how things work. What we need is a more complex way of understanding how to actually get things done.

We need the grassroots activism. We need protests and civil disobedience. We need media! We need policy wonks in think tanks. We need ambassadors and coalition-builders. We need money and hope and spit and fire. What worries me is seeing people with a very specific tactic or perspective who then project that expectation onto Obama. He’s not some brotha in the street yelling outside the halls of justice with a picket sign. He’s the Democratic nominee for President of the USA. His toolset is different. He can set the agenda by which many halls of justice are run! That is a different type of power, but you don’t get that power by running around and only talking about the concerns of one group, whether that group is black people or Jews or hard-working white people. You get that power by demonstrating that you can listen to, understand and represent the interests of the entire nation.

Francis Holland hit the nail on the head:

I believe that some Black people are simply Googling Obama’s speeches for the word “Black”, and if he hasn’t said the word then they conclude that he is not addressing issues that would improve the lives of Black consumers, workers and members of the public.

Instead, they should assume that all proposals he makes for “the public”, “the citizens” and “Americans” also include Black Americans, and we, ourselves, should review how each of these proposals will effect Black America, regardless of whether he frames them as “proposals to help Black America.” When he says”everyone”, that obviously includes Black people as well as white people.

So, what Blacks are lacking is a determination to review each of his proposals “for America” to see how it would effect Black people if implemented.

The final statement on the question from Obama reinforces this: “The only way we’re going to solve our problems in this country is if all of us come together… that, I think, has got to be our agenda.”

I don’t think Obama’s above reproach or criticism, and I think he should be called to answer any question any citizen of the country he aspires to lead has. So, by all means, lay into him if you think he’s off base or plain wrong. However, anybody who can say with a straight face that Obama is somehow ignoring the problems of black America, is a liar or incredibly, shamefully, willfully lazy and simple-minded. Check out his Urban Policy Plan, his Poverty Plan, his Civil Rights Plan or any of his plans, and there can be no doubt that they offer solutions to the problems of black Americas specifically as well as all Americans generally.

This topic was discussed a bit in today’s open thread at JJP as well.

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