First 100 Days: Key Civil Rights Leaders Give Obama 'A', With 'Incompletes' on Grassroots Economics

Hazel Trice Edney | 4/29/2009, 11:42 a.m.
  • His immediate confrontation to the nation€s failing economy amidst which he now sees €glimmers of hope€;
  • The reversal of a string of anti-union executive orders issued by the Bush Administration;
  • The establishment of the Middle Class Working Families Task Force;
  • The closing of the controversial Guantanamo Bay lockup for alleged terrorists;
  • His tour of Europe with First Lady Michelle Obama, which raised good will for America abroad during the G-20 economic conference;
  • His trip to Mexico with hopes of stopping violent drug cartels and preventing them from entering the U. S.
  • His reaching out to Cuba for the renewed relationship, supported by the Congressional Black Caucus.
  • A new commitment to pour millions of dollars into the prevention and awareness of HIV/AIDS in America.
But, specifically, how is the new president doing on issues pertaining to African-Americans from a civil rights perspective? Pointing out that 100 days is simply not enough time to tell, some civil rights leaders give him an A so far; most also noting an 'incomplete' on the grassroots economy.

€There are some A€s and a couple of incompletes,€ says the Rev. Jesse Jackson in a phone interview from Thailand. €I think the position against torture, an A; the G-20 conference, putting a credible face on America€s foreign policy where he has trust capital and Bush had trust deficit disorder.€

Jackson also listed Obama€s reaching out to Cuba, Venezuela and the overture toward Iran as all A€s along with his dealing with the student loan industry, which Jackson described as a €$95 billion a year rip off.€

But, the incompletes €" mainly in the area of economics - are clear, he says.

€There€s an incomplete on the stimulus because it must be more targeted to get to the bottom. As the states get it, they€re using the term shovel ready. But, shovel-ready for those who don€t have a shovel because of the lack of capital and lack of credit means they may not be ready. That could be seen as boot straps without the boots.€

To be fair, Jackson conceded that the President could only demand that the money gets out of Washington.

€But, we must demand that the states get it down to where the people are,€ he said.

€We have to be certain that it gets down to the most unemployed the most in need of training, the most in need of business development. That€s an ongoing struggle there.€

As Black unemployment surges toward 14 percent, National Urban League President Marc Morial agrees.

On a scale of 1-10, Morial gave the President a 9 for his first 100 days. In the Black community Morial cited a need for greater civil rights enforcement and the need for help with job development.

€The creation of an agency taskforce to assist African-Americans in securing construction jobs and green jobs; and the hiring of African-Americans in subcabinet positions at Education, HUD, Labor and Health & Human Services,€ Morial says. Like Jackson, he says African-Americans must press local and state government to do right by stimulus money.