When Barack Obama was first elected President, he did more than set a precedent as the first African-American President, but he inspired a generation of Americans that lost hope in an America that had failed them so many times before. Black Americans saw this as an opportunity to finally have their voice heard in the house that their ancestors built. Although they knew they weren’t automatically going to enter a post-racial society, there was an undeniable optimistic desire that things could potentially get better for them. President Obama gave them home hope that they would stop seeing so many of their young, brown men behind bars, that they would finally get the health care they deserved, that more resources would be directed towards helping urban areas and not just the affluent ones. During his presidency, they saw that he didn’t forget about them when he closed those White doors. Yes, it’s definitely arguable if he did enough to help the community, but under a divided and more partisan Congress than ever, his efforts are commendable. It is clear that he understood that he derived his power from the people who elected him and even though he was elected President of The United States, he still served Black America and did not leave them behind.
Below are 7 things that President Obama did that benefited Black Americans tremendously.
- Decreased Black Unemployment
Under his Jumpstart our Business (JOBS) Act, President Obama increased capital for minority and women-owned businesses. According to a report by Black Enterprises, “more minorities and lower net worth individuals were able to get in on investments that can drive more wealth generation to their communities.” This initiative was necessary and arguably owed to the Black community considering the decades of systemic oppression designed to keep people of color down economically, socially and politically.
2. Restored Economic Security
President Obama started his term with the country in a recession and ended it with the unemployment rate at a 9 year low. According to the White House, American businesses have added over 14 million jobs. This job growth has helped cut the African American unemployment rate in half – from 16.8% in March 2010 to 8.3% in December 2015, its lowest level since September 2007.
3. Provided Comprehensive Health Care
A man from Chicago started off his campaign by reminding America that health care is an unalienable right and after 14 months of arduously working with Congress he finally passed his initiative- the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare”. Under the Affordable Care Act 20 million more Americans now have health care coverage. 2.3 million Black Americans gained insurance coverage through Obamacare-500,000 of which are young Black Americans who would have been kicked off of their parent’s healthcare plan otherwise.
4. College Is More Affordable
President Obama took many steps to reduce student loans and other burdens that many students know all too well. Black Enterprise reported that “President Obama signed legislation increasing the maximum Pell Grant by more than $1,000 and total Pell Grant funding by 70%, helping millions of low- and moderate-income students afford college every year.”
5. Criminal Justice Reform
Under his presidency, we saw for the first time that the President of the United States can relate to the unjustly killing of a brown boy or girl by the police beyond just a civic duty. The deaths of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and countless others inspired “Black Lives Matters Activist” to hold the President accountable. In a study by Black Enterprise, it showed that “ President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010. This narrowed the penalty between crack and powder cocaine from 1:10 to 1:18.” In addition to this, in 2015 he started a task force initiative that included prominent members of the Black Lives Matter group to bridge the gap between law enforcement and activist and ultimately producing a productive conversation for positive change within the Black community.
6. Helped Americans Keep Their Homes
Black Americans have had trouble keeping their homes since they were allowed to own them, Primarily because of the systemic oppression they faced. Black Americans particularly were hit hard by the housing crisis so President Obama took action by expanding access to financing. His action led to “more than 1.5 million borrowers having received permanent modifications through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP)”, as reported by Black Enterprise.
7. Stronger Neighborhoods and Communities
President Obama has taken several steps to improve strengthen neighborhoods and communities particularly by investing in inner cities. The White House stated in their annual report that “In 2011, the Choice Neighborhoods program provided $126 million to 22 communities to plan and implement the transformation of high-poverty areas where distressed HUD-assisted housing is located into sustainable, mixed-income neighborhoods by linking housing improvements with services, schools, transportation, and access to jobs.” In addition to this, President Obama created “My Brother’s Keeper” targeted at young Black men to improve their lives. Specifically, “The initiative is encouraging nonprofits to raise $200 million in five years for programs focused on young men of color. Though My Brother’s Keeper is not a federally-funded government program, no such effort has existed before under any American president,” reported Black Enterprise.
Many of us are sad to see our President go not because we are scared of what’s to come but because we know there will never be a President or First Family like the Obama’s again. A President that embraced Black Culture by Swag Surfing in the White House, Mic Dropping during Speeches, and inviting our favorite artist to balls. Nevertheless, we as a society owe it to him to not let his legacy die. He reminded us in his Farewell Address that it wasn’t just the president’s job to bring about change, but it was the responsibility of all of us. He reminded us that a Black man in the White house doesn’t end racial inequality and that the fight for justice continues. He reminded us that he ran so that we could have a place to fly, prosper and succeed.
I’m not sure what the future holds for Black America, so I just want to say one last time… my president is Black.