By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Noted author Michael Eric Dyson and Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. Saturday discussed President Barack Obama’s legacy in the Black community during a sit down session at the Rainbow PUSH headquarters. Here, they answered questions from Chicago Reporter editor and publisher Susan Smith.
Dyson said, “For the broader American culture, I would give him an A. For African American people, I give him a C-. He has been extraordinarily gifted in terms of dealing with broader issues in American culture, but he has been racially hesitant and a procrastinator when it comes to engaging the issues of race in a timely fashion. He has led from behind as he has done on foreign policy, and unfortunately he got behind the curb and not in front of it.”
Rev. Jackson said “Let’s look at the ups and downs…. The upside he came into office and we lost 800,000 jobs that month. There has not been a net loss of jobs a single month since that time,” Jackson said.
He said 20 million Americans have health insurance “that they did not have before.”
Jackson was critical of some governors who turned down $14 billion in health care money. “They don’t want federal money for the health care but they want it for the highways.
“We need a White House conference on violence and urban development,” he stated. Jackson said with education and jobs “you can break the cycle of pain.
“We bailed out the banks. We left out the homeowner and until we include those who lost their homes, we will not do better. We lost them disproportionately based on race. Lawsuits found that the banks are guilty of targeting by race blacks and browns; yet we’ve been targeted for pain but there has been no target for relief,” said Jackson.
Rev. Gregory Livingston, president of The Coalition for a New Chicago said. “Dr. Dyson is always insightful…. His analysis of the president and the things he has had to deal with as a Black president in this country, Dr. Dyson was really spot on. He has given us a way to talk about Obama’s presidency to let us understand that this is what he has done which has been absolutely incredible with all that he had to work through.”
Asked if he agreed with Dyson’s assessment, Livingston said, “not entirely. There is so much more that needs to be done in our major cities for the minority population, and I think in some ways Barack is trying to prove that he was the president of all the people in effect missed some of the people…. We need an urban agenda…. We need things in our cities so like times in Chicago when it gets warm instead of the kids going out and shooting up, they can go to parks and additional learning centers…. I wish there could have been more of that during his presidency.”
Asked if we should think of Obama as the Black president, Livingston said, “No. I think in an effort to show he wasn’t playing favorites, I think he went a little bit too far. Singing some Al Green cuts is not enough.”
Livingston said Obama has had to endure insults that no other president experienced. He mentioned South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson, who called Obama a “liar” during his State of the Union address. “ I was embarrassed” at Wilson’s remarks.”