The Congressional Black Caucus Is Right

Shani Hilton on Obama's speech to the CBC:


President Obama used his time to address the CBC, perhaps unsurprisingly, as an opportunity to sell his jobs bill, The American Jobs Act. "Pass this jobs bill, and every worker in America, including nearly 20 million African American workers, will get a tax cut." 

He also used it to criticize--without naming--CBC members like Maxine Waters and Jesse Jackson, Jr, who have said that they're "getting tired" of Obama's inaction on black unemployment: "Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We've got work to do, CBC." 

It was a strange rallying cry, considering that the CBC, out of frustration, launched its own jobs initiative this summer that included a series of jobs fairs across the country. And the conference itself was host to multiple panels and information sessions on jobs, job creation, and the black wealth gap that has been exacerbated by the recession.

More than 70 forums and panels ran over the course of the four days, including one of the CBC's first issue forums on LGBT rights, featuring anti-bullying advocate Sirdeaner Walker, whose son killed himself after taunts about being gay; Cheryl Kilodavis, author of "My Princess Boy" (and Colorlines Daily Love subject); Valerie Spencer, a transgender activist and founder of the Transcend Empowerment Institute; and Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute.

I've been pretty disgruntled with the West/Smiley contigent, but, like Shani, I think the CBC has been dead-on. Far from merely "complaining" they've been doing exactly what they should be doing -- pressing the president from the left, and then organizing actual programs to help their constituents. I don't really know how, in any fair sense, you can criticize them for merely grumbling and crying.

For my money, this really is about the kind of disdain that Obama's White House holds toward activism independent of them. I don't know if it's rooted in Obama's own activist days, or what. But the notion that people who, say, aren't praising the seriousness of John Boehner, or banking on the good faith Chuck Grassley to pass health care, aren't doing anything is bizarre. 

Read the rest of Shani's piece to get a sense of exactly what the CBC has been doing. I hope they stay after him.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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