Recently, President Obama sat down for an interview with Black Enterprise. During the conversation, the president was asked about the criticism from some Black folks who assert he hasn’t done enough for African Americans.
While the President has often shied away from speaking specifically on race, he has said that his policies would help all Americans, including blacks. But in the Black Enterprise interview he took it a step further.
How do you respond to criticism that your administration hasn’t done enough to support black businesses?
My general view has been consistent throughout, which is that I want all businesses to succeed. I want all Americans to have opportunity. I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of the United States of America, but the programs that we have put in place have been directed at those folks who are least able to get financing through conventional means, who have been in the past locked out of opportunities that were available to everybody. So, I’ll put my track record up against anybody in terms of us putting in place broad-based programs that ultimately had a huge benefit for African American businesses.
The resurrected financial services industry hasn’t stepped up in terms of providing adequate capital to small- and minority-owned businesses.
There is no doubt that American taxpayers stepped in and pulled the banking industry out of the fire. It was controversial. It was messy. Ultimately it was the right thing to do for the economy. But it is true that once banks got back on their feet they haven’t been as aggressive in lending to small and medium-sized businesses as we would like. And I’ve had conversations with the major banks about this issue. What they will say is that some of the additional regulations have impeded some of their capacity to lend. We don’t see major evidence of that.
President Obama has had to walk a tight rope. As the first African American president folks on the left and the right have been watching to see if he gives preferential treatment to minority groups, but he’s consistently tried to frame his policies to affect all Americans.
But is it enough?
Do black folks want President Obama to be the president of black America or of all America?
Speak on it!
*Photo via Luke Sharrett/The New York Times