Contributing Author Dickson Igwe

Two part series on why a President Romney may be better for the Virgin Islands and West Indies

Barack Obama’s Inauguration at the Capitol in Washington D.C. on January 20, 2009 was a profoundly historic day for modern America. Beginning with freedom from slavery 150 years ago, the election of a coloured US President was a crucial page in the story of the American Negro. Freedom for blacks in the US was an incremental process that started at the time of fratricidal Civil War in the 1860s. But true freedom came with the end of Jim Crow a century later.

Jim Crow was a pseudonym for state and local laws that mandated racial segregation in the Southern States. This legacy of slavery ended with the signing of the Civil Rights Bill into the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. The establishment of a new Civil Rights Law was a profoundly historic and momentous event. It came after years of struggle by a Civil Rights Movement that led to the beatings, jailing, and ultimately murders and deaths of activists and protestors, tragically culminating in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

The second day of July 1964 was the start of a new chapter in US race relations and social history.  It was also a powerful moment in a White House occupied by one President Lyndon B Johnson. Johnson was successor to the late John F Kennedy, the first Roman Catholic US President.

Sadly, Kennedy, a friend of the Negro, was tragically gunned down in Dallas, Texas, on the 22nd of November 1963. Kennedy’s younger brother and US Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, also considered a fighter for civil rights was shot dead on the 8thof June 1968. Conspiracy theorists believe the connection to the Civil Rights Movement was a reason for the killings of these two very powerful brothers.

Mitt Romney. Photo courtesy

In any event, racial hatred did not end with a modus Vivendi of segregation against blacks being made illegal and unconstitutional. Jim Crow was still entrenched in hearts and minds. Race hate simply became intangible and invisible, going under the radar. Racism remains a sad feature of the American subculture, a horrible idiosyncrasy and anachronism, driven by cold, hard hearted and intolerant attitudes and beliefs.

Barack Obama, a mixed race American, was born on US soil in the Pacific. His ascension to the free world’s highest office was at the time of his election a song to Black America. Martin Luther King’s I have a Dream epiphany had finally become a reality. Politically, some degree of equality for blacks in the USA is de jure, but socially and economically, true racial equality with whites remains elusive, even in August 2012. The quality of life of the white American eclipses that of African Americans and Latinos by far.

Barack Hussein Obama was a historic first, however. And if his name did not signal powerful change, the fact is here was a mixed race US President, and constitutional law professor, with a black Kenyan father. His minority credentials further buttressed by his African American wife, whose origins were in the Old South, a law graduate of Princeton, born in Chicago. But even more interestingly was the fact that Obama’s late white mother was progeny of John Punch, the first documented slave who lived in the early 1600s in York Town, Virginia. This was an enormous paradox and a very American story. It appears that relations between slaves and their white owners were more than servitude.

Obama’s election was truly seismic, and a testimony to the power of US history, constitutionality, law, society, and democratic freedom. And all of this taking place in a country still haunted by decades of racial inequality, race hate, and segregation.

President Barack Obama

Ironically, from the start of his historic Presidency in 2009, to just before another US Presidential General Election in November, 2012, the standard of living and quality of life of both the African American, and Latino American is today much worse than before Barack took office. Blame this on a crushing recession that went on well into the Obama Presidency, after Barack set up shop in the Oval Office over three years ago. This was a recession that hit the Black and Latino minority in the USA hard.

A long and painful recession sourced in banking and financial imprudence which began during the presidency of Barack’s predecessor, George Walker Bush. Financial infamy on the banking high street, fueled by a culture of spend and easy credit, led to a steep decline in the housing market and wider commercial environment that went on for 2 years. This further resulted in anemic economic growth after the recession ended in 2009, and stubborn jobless numbers that continue to persist to this day.

A Pew Research Publication of July 16, 2011, an analysis titled, ‘’ WEALTH GAPS RISE TO RECORD HIGHS BETWEEN WHITES, BLACKS, AND HISPANICS,’’ described how, ‘’ the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of Black households, the largest since government began publishing such data a quarter century ago.’’

The study showed that, ‘’in percentage terms, the bursting of the housing market bubble in 2006 and the recession that followed from late 2007 to mid 2009 took a far greater toll on the wealth of minorities than whites. From 2005 to 2009 median wealth fell by 66% among Hispanic households and 53% among black households, compared with just 16% among white households.’’ Interestingly, since 2011, the wealth gap has actually increased. Whites in the US are 22 times wealthier than blacks today: putting this in simple terms; for every dollar a black consumer possesses, a white possesses 22, a huge inequality.

Barack cannot be blamed for this economic inequity, but he can be blamed for taking the black vote in the USA for granted. And he is way out of line on one matter. Blacks in the USA are supporters of traditional marriage, and see the President’s support for gay marriage as a moral issue on which the President is on the wrong side. Then, his not appearing at the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People on a campaign stop in July, 2012, was seen as a snub to his core constituency. Black pastors, a very powerful social group, are already questioning the President’s moral stances.

One thing is clear; Barack will not win a second term without the black vote. The white liberal vote will not win him the election in a very tight race. Republican Mitt Romney has locked in the blue collar and white male middle class voter. This is the reason the race remains neck and neck, despite Romney’s lack of charisma and ‘rich boy credentials,’ in a race becoming a war between the rich and the rest.

Now, one cannot blame President Obama for a recession that started under the watch of the previous President. However a politician who takes his or her natural constituency for granted is making a serious political misjudgment. And know this, in a weak economy; voters have very short memories.

To be continued