Monday, June 15, 2009

Dr Chris Richardson on Obama: The first 100 Days

It seems somewhat odd to think about President Obama's first 100 days with regard to race because he and his administration spent that time (prior to his Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sotomayor) being decidedly nonracial. The first priority was to save the US—and by extension the world—economy from utter destruction, a task he appears to have succeeded in with Will Smith-like coolness and efficiency. Let's face it: high-minded discourses on racial matters don't play very well to folks in the dead of winter when they're unemployed, their 401k's (if they're fortunate enough to have one) are up in smoke, and they can't pay their mortgage on time. And President Obama, being the savvy, tactful politician he is, has not explicitly addressed the racial and ethnic inequities inherent in the ballooning of the ranks of the unemployed. Nor has he pointed to the racial disparities in health insurance coverage as an argument for universal health care. He is everyone's president, including you, me, and the unemployed militant malcontent down the street with no health insurance. His policies reflect the needs of the entire country without regard to race (though with apparent regard to whether or not one attended an Ivy-League school).

Can a non-racial policy strategy work for minorities? Perhaps for issues like health care, where the government can wield a great deal of top-down influence on providers. But for issues like unemployment and wealth inequalities, more precision may be needed to ensure that the people who need help are actually helped, while those that don't need help don't drain taxpayers. (Think of how many real jobs could have been created with the AIG bailout money.) It appears that the President's nomination of the first Hispanic American to the Supreme Court is a nod toward the need for more surgical precision with respect to some issues that may have a racial component. But for the time being he is letting other folks work the knife.

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