The election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president was touted by many commentators as being an important step towards helping to heal racial divisions in the US, and improving the overall economic conditions of black Americans.
As Barack Obama’s tenure in office comes to an end, what is so striking is the ongoing absence of hope in black communities in deprived inner city areas.
The Black Lives Matter movement, which formed as a result of fatal police shootings of black youth, is symbolic of the lack of hope and sense of grievance.
The movement has divided opinion sharply with many critics accusing it of failing to tackle the high rates of black-on-black murders, high levels of fatherlessness in black communities. The movement’s rhetoric about the police is being blamed for the shockingly high spike in black-on-black murders in cities like Chicago, where some police officers have started taking a less hard line approach to law and order.
The issue of fatherlessness is pertinent and Obama has done little to promote marriage.
The US census bureau publishes a yearly report on the living arrangements of US Children, and the 2014 results show that black American children constitute the highest majority of children being bought up in single parent female-headed households. The highest percentage of children living with married parents is Asian-American.
The report shows that around 58 per cent of children live with their birth mother and biological father in a traditional married couple family. However, when grouped by race, the authors point out that “strikingly different pictures emerge”. The report shows that: “eight in ten Asian-American kids live with married birth parents, compared with about seven in ten European-American kids, five in ten Hispanic-American kids, and only about three in ten African-American kids. Half of black children live with their mothers only, compared to three in ten Hispanic children, less than two in ten white children and less than one in ten Asian children.”
The NCF (National Centre for Fathering) is a US-based not for profit organisation, which works to highlight the important role that fathers play in children’s lives and the consequences of fatherlessness. Some of the key negative effects of fatherlessness highlighted on its website include poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, poor physical and emotional health, and crime.
On poverty, the NCF highlights research by the US Department of Health and Human Sciences which shows that, “children living in female-headed families with no spouse present had a poverty rate of 47.6 per cent, over 4 times the rate in married couples”.
It also highlights data from the “National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health” which shows that a “one per cent increase in the proportion of single parent families in a neighbourhood is associated with a three per cent increase in an adolescent’s level of violence. In other words, adolescents who live in neighbourhoods with lower proportions of single parent families and who report higher levels of family integration commit less violence”.
Despite extensive research, which shows the benefits of marriage for children, Obama has done little to promote traditional marriage.
Also, the big government and corporatist economic policies favoured by Obama have not helped struggling inner city areas. Whilst presenting the 2015 State of Black America report Marc Morial, President of the Urban League, complained that “Black America remains in a recession and remains in crisis when it comes to jobs and the economy.”
Writing in a blog called “The American Thinker” Hispanic-American Silvio Canto Jr says, President Obama will be remembered for two things:
a) The articulate president who could not articulate a message to bring us together. In other words, the man can speak but has little of consequence to say.
b) The first black president who did not understand the real problems in black communities.
Obama gave many eloquent speeches during the campaign trail and his rhetoric about hope and change uplifted many people. However, it appears that his supposed progressive policies have done little to revive black communities in inner city areas.
(Image: Daniel Borman)