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Obama Refers to Black Concerns as “Grumbling”

December 22, 2009

From the Politico:

President Barack Obama deflected criticism Monday that he has not been attentive enough to the African-American community, telling American Urban Radio Networks that he was unconcerned to see that kind of message coming from former supporters such as actor Danny Glover.

“If you want me to line up all the black actors, for example, who support me and put them on one side of the room and a couple who are grumbling on the other, I’m happy to have that,” Obama said, adding that polls show African-Americans express “overwhelming support for what we’ve tried to do.”

In an interview with reporter April Ryan, one of the few black reporters in the White House press corps, Obama argued that the fact of his sitting with her for an interview in the Oval Office was significant on its own.

“Is there grumbling?” he asked rhetorically. “Of course, there’s grumbling, because we just went through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

“We were some of the folks who were most affected by predatory lending. There’s a long history of us being the last hired and the first fired. As I said on health care, we’re the ones who are in the worst position to absorb companies deciding to drop their health care plans,” Obama said. “So, should people be satisfied? Absolutely not. But let’s take a look at what I’ve done.”

Obama repeatedly used the pronoun “we” in discussing America’s black community, but insisted that he shouldn’t be expected to target policies exclusively to African-Americans.

“The only thing I cannot do is, by law I can’t pass laws that say I’m just helping black folks,” Obama said. “I’m the president of the entire United States. What I can do is make sure that I am passing laws that help all people, particularly those who are most vulnerable and most in need. That, in turn, is going to help lift up the African-American community.”

The president pointed to his push for health care reform as one part of his agenda that would benefit African-Americans, along with the rest of the country.

“We’ve got 30 million people who are going to get health insurance because of this bill and disproportionately they will be African-American as well as Latino,” Obama said. “Whether there’s a public option in there or not, if you don’t have health insurance, you are going to have now the option of getting it at a reasonable cost. That’s the most important thing, and as I said, nobody has a bigger stake than the African-American community in this because disproportionately we’re the ones without health insurance.”

As for the state of black America, Obama said it’s a mixed picture.

“I’m optimistic about the long-term future of the African-American community, but it’s going to take work,” Obama said. “It was never going to be done just because we elected me.”

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