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John Conyers vs. Barack Obama

So President Barack Obama now thinks that Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.) is "demeaning" him by calling him out on issues such as health care and job creation, particularly as they impact the black community?


After the 2008 elections, I wondered how progressive black pols from majority black districts would deal with the President when time came for them to stand up for the interests of their constituents, and I think Conyers is doing a pretty good job of remaining true to what he considers to be the biggest concerns of poor and working-class Detroiters. And in truth, he's not being demeaning at all -- just brutally frank.

No, I wasn't crazy about Conyers' apparent move away from supporting single-payer health care, but he's definitely won me back over by going at Obama with both guns blazing as he has urged the President to pay closer attention to the struggles in cities like Detroit.

Now, on the flip side, I also get where Obama is coming from. He may be (part) black, but he's the President of the entire US, not just of black America. I voted for the man, and I no more expect him to harp on only "black" concerns anymore than I'd have expected Bill Clinton to just focus only on issues relevant to Irish-Americans.

Conyers, however, is in DC to represent Detroit and Detroiters--and all the issues they care about, "black" or otherwise.

But the truth is, these "black" issues -- from massive unemployment to the need for an economic bailout of "Main Street" — are, in fact, American issues. And as Americans, black folks have as much right to make demands of the President as anyone else.

What's also just as true is that the Democrats rode a huge black turnout back into the White House and to the majority of the seats in Congress. Given this, I expect black people's issues to be addressed not because Obama is black, but because blacks have been the most loyal part of his base. I don't expect -- or want -- him to pander to black voters. But I don't expect him to ignore us or give us short shrift either.

Feels good to know that, whatever else Barack Obama may say about Conyers, the Congressman from Detroit at least has the President's attention.

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  • 1

    GO Conyers All Happy Negro Presidents should be called out!!!!!!!!

  • 2

    Please point out to me where in that article you referenced where Conyers criticized the prez about issues that as you say "particularly as they impact the black community?" The only mention of race related topics are about his (obviously) flawed attempts to secure reparations. That and it mentions Martin Luther King... Every other criticism is about Obama not leaning a far Left as he hoped or taking stronger action about military matters etc. Why is everything a race issue? The president doesn't share his political ideology - move along, nothing to see here. Can't we write about Kwame or something fun?

  • 3

    Don't disagree with your premise at all. But I'd like to fine-tune the point that John Conyers is supposed to represent MICHIGAN, not just Detroit. Not saying he doesn't...just wanted to be sure that was clarified somewhere. (And it gives me one more chance to call out the value of good editorial support in journalism. :) )

  • 4


    I did not get the "Black" Issues either, but by what Darrell is getting out of it seems to be that inner cities being predominately black and issues that effect those demographics are being fought for in a manner that would be beneficial.

    The presidents approval rating is low with many people as of late, a lot of his "promises" have been watered down by congress and he has not stayed true to his vision.

    I feel that his lack of action on a majority of issues is what will bring his demise about. I had high hopes that he would bring about the "CHANGE" that he spoke of, but it seems that the "CHANGE" he was taking about was from our pockets to bail out corporate america. Not real political change, not change for the people.

    Time will tell if his lame duck presidency will turn around.

  • 5

    Obama is the ultimate hypocrite having the audacity to accept a Nobel Prize while being the Commander in Chief in 2 Global Wars!!

    Obama refuses to acknowledge Black issues he has no problem lecturing Black folks on thier shortcomings but will never go into white venues of religious venues and lecture to whites, arabs, jews, asians, and others about thier moral shortcomings and failures..

    Obama still thinks he is on campaigning for white votes by not acknowledging Black issues which BTW are American ISSUES!!!..Obama always panders to whites at the expense of Black voters..

    It is insane to observe given our nation's ugly nasty racial legacy from slavery, segregation, separate but equal, disparate treatment, digitial divide all manner of racist contempt towards Black Americans that to finally get a person of color into the white house and have him ignore, discount Black issues is tragic and offensive,..

    A black paleface in the white house is an insult to the souls of Black folks who died in our nation simply because of the hue of thier skin

  • 7


    I respect your posture but of course I have my own and clearly Obama from my vantage point is not only a hypocrite with regard to accepting the Nobel Peace Prize while having our counry in 2 Global Wars but with regard to his deliberate disconnect from Black issues in our country which as I posted are American issues..

    I will continue to call him a Happy Negro President who panders and appeases white folks at the expense of Black Americans..

    I will stop referring to him as a Happy Negro President whe I see him give a lecture/sermon in front of white, jewish, arab, asian, etc venues and lectures them on absent fatherhood, morality and other related cultural shortcomings...

    I wonder should I hold my breath while I wait for this 'teaching moment" from our Happy Negro President????

    • 7.2

      Gthrasher -

      just trying to understand the definition of a 'Happy Negro' - and they are differentiated from a Black Man..

      Happy Negro as in 'Bojangles' or 'Uncle Ben'.... or Happy Negro as in a person of mixed race of whom you do not want to confer 'Full Blackhood' upon.....?

  • 8


    I am not a god nor part of the white race that use to confer citizenship rights on Black Folks at one time in our nation's history. I employ this shorthand name about Obama rather than go provide a long detailed narrative on how Black folks like him market themselves to white voters by negating thier Black personhood etc..

    I refer to Obama aka Happy Negro in the Bojangles vain ..I also depending on the venue refer to him as a Magic Negro via the Hollywood movies which made certain Black male actors always in such a fictional profile..i.e The Blue Mile, etc

  • 9


    I acknowledge your talking points of course Obama could have rejected the Nobel Prize..but that requires grit and substance something hypocrites often lack..

    The jury is still out for me with comparing Obama to other presidents his tenure is still quite new....We will be witnesses

  • 10

    Darrell - as a journalist aka "blogger" you should know that when presenting an argument you should follow it with the appropriate reference. In the first paragraph of your commentary you said that John Conyers was calling out the President regarding "issues" in the black community. No where in that paragraph did you quote the appropriate article. If it was the third reference, include it there and not some fluff about Conyers' leftist discontent. As for my obvious joke regarding Kwame's latest disgrace to the city- if you can't recognize a sarcastic statement then internet journalism is not for you and you should "it".

  • 11

    aahhhh "STOP it"

    copy - paste is the devil

  • 12


    You certainly are entitled to your own opinion, but I think you are being too hard on the brother . . . . . .

    President Obama was elected to represent all people. Too many people expected him to focus on urban issues, but the problem is people in the inner cities don't vote. If they did, you would see a much better representation in Congress.

    As far as Obama "talking down" to black people, don't forget for YEARS he worked in the inner city of Chicago. Think about it, this smooth brother who could have talked himself into a six figure salary at a top law firm years ago. Yet he passed that up to work in inner city Chicago for relatively little money. He does not talk to black people any differently than Jesse Jackson. The difference is that whe Jesse talks that way, the white mainstream media ignores him and focuses on what they view are his cries of "victimization".

    Now, you got a brother in the White House, you somehow expect him to be like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton instead of closer to Bill Clinton. You have got to be dreaming . . . . . . . . .

    And everyone seems to forget we have twice as many conservatives than liberals. Liberals need moderates more than moderates need liberals. Obama, who has always been a liberal with a cautious has always proposed governing from the middle . . . . . . . . . .

    Have I always been happy with Obama? No way. I can't stand the fact he has extended parts of the Patriot Act and has been very slow on closing down Guantanamo. But overall I think he is doing the best job he can.

    • Fantastic comments...even the ones I don't fully agree with. Let's see if we can't further this exchange...

    • I agree that Obama must be the representative for all people, not just blacks. However, I'm not sure who you really mean when you say "people in the inner cities." Places like Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago had historic turnouts for Obama, so I'm inclined to disagree with that part of what you're saying, but I'd appreciate a bit more clarification.
    • I also think that gthrasher's on point in that the President does sometimes "talk down," not because he's critical of black voters, but because I'm hard-pressed to see the same level of engagement on the concrete issues with black voters that he has with others. But I completely agree that people like Rev. Jackson and Louis Farrakhan are also tough on black folks, but that that part gets ignored in favor of their more "sensational" remarks. Unlike Obama, though, they do indeed engage vigorously on the issues, too. All of 'em, however, are high priests in the cult of personality.

    • Twice as many conservatives as liberals? Hmm, that's a disheartening thought to consider...Do you (or anyone else) have numbers on that?

    • Good criticisms re: the Patriot Act and Guantanamo, too. I add to that "cramdown" legislation, the Fairness Doctrine, maintaining Bush's "faith-based bribery," single-payer health care and the escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

    • I don't know if I'd say he's doing the best he can, but I think we owe it to him to let his presidency play out before we abandon the man. Criticism is one thing, but I sure as heck won't jettison him after less than a year.
    • Again, thanks for chiming in without polluting the topic with bizarre non sequiturs. Please keep reading. And please keep commenting.

  • 13

    kioti: What're your thoughts about the Conyers/Obama rift? You and gthrasher are more than welcome to have it out here, but I'd like to hear your opinions on the topic.

    gthrasher: I don't think history will judge his first few months all that well, but that's my speculation. I worry that he may have squandered too much critical time to get certain thing done. But he's got a long way to go, and I'm rolling with him for now.

    Oh, and I think the movie was "The Green Mile."

    danfromdetroit: "Stop it" was definitely not a serious reply. Your joke was weak, but I got it. As for your thoughts on what a journalist "should know," I think you're better off hyperventilating about Conyers' political bent.

  • Darrell Dawsey
    December 10, 2009
    at 6:42 pm
  • 14

    I would liken President Obama to a tug of war game, He is bitterly being torn. The first "Black" President. (I say it like that because we all forget that his mother was white.)

    The whole aspect of his "Blackness" should never be of any concern to the public. I should hope that the voters did not vote him into office because of it, nor should he be called out for either being "too black" or not "black enough", as if there could ever be such a thing.

    Even sadder is that we would even bring it up. I also find it odd that the media often refers to The President by his last name more often the President Obama.

    That to me is honestly a little disrespectful to his service to our great nation. The up play of the media to bring to front the "opposition" of Conyers vs. Obama, (read black on black) and not the other difficulties with other members of congress that are White is really just petty on the part of journalism to be honest.

    There are a lot of hurdles for the first "Black" President to overcome, and even more people to please during his term. He promised great change, but change of an old system of government takes time. I think we all owe it to him to take the time to make it happen.

    There are a lot of problems in this country that the president cannot solve, the big one being racism. Did any one really think that it would just disappear when President Obama was sworn into office.

    I know that I, being White, was told by more then a few Black people to "watch out, we got a brother in the White House". What does that say to me, nothing really. It means more to the Black community then it does to I. Does that make me a racist or a realist.

    I would like to think that the Black community that wants a better life would work for it like President Obama has, not by putting their hand out and saying or even thinking "Hey help a brother get ahead". Or even to be pressured by other black politicians to be "Blacker" so to speak.

    For Conyers to act as he has by calling out the President, he will muster people to his cause, and I hope he does so in a manner that is respectful to himself as well as every one that he represents, both Black and White, Hispanic and Asian, and every one in between. To long have we all tried to live separate little lives locked into our own communities. I would like to Believe that President Obama knows this as well and will be both honest with the problems of our country , and firm in what he expects from the citizens he helps.

    We have punished the President for not ending war, but to end tyranny you have to combat it, Sometimes that takes military power, and sometimes it takes education. Both work just in different ways.

    When I see President Obama speak, and he address the Black community He does seem to talk down to his listeners, why might that be? That is a question that only he can answer, we can hypothesize all we like on that topic at great length, we can take all manner of statistics to reach an answer. The real question is do we really want the answer to it. Do we want to admit to society at large what the problem is and has been for a long time.

    Are White people the DEVIL, evil racists, each and every one of us, keeping the Black man down out of fear? Or is the Black man a convict in the making, having babies and leaving them to fend for them selves with women with no courage to stand up and say hey this is your child, stop killing and going to prison?

    I think that if we all stand back from what we all "think" and help each other out we will solve all the problems a lot sooner then our government will.

  • 15


    Yes you are right the movie was Green Mile..With regard to Obama it is pretty apparent to me now that he clearly has little regard for Black/American issues unlike they are weaved into the collective..Now I would not have a problem with that mental paradigm if our nation did not have the lethal legacy of raw contempt for anything Black on this soil.. The contempt of course is so deep that even the conture of our lips and texture of our hair became foils for whites to discount and demonize our very being..

    Today's cowardly speech by Obama revealed to me yet again how principle and the core value of truth means nothing to Obama whereas icons like MLK, Mandela and Malcom, Parks were never willing to betray thier essence. Obama today instead of rejecting the Nobel Peace Prize actually made an twisted excuse for war and the rightous reason for a so called "just" war. Instead having a core value against WAR and willing to taken all the critics that would come his way Obama just caved in and became yet another scripted American slug president contaminated by power and mite..War between nations no diffferent than war in the hood..Obama blew it today

    Obama is never going to value the very essence of Black life under the streams of white privledge and the pathologies of white supremacy we have had to endure here on this soil..Obama it is clear to me is amoral being,concerned not with core truth but the safe soil of compromise and passiveness..

    With regard to group think Kioti your reading of me from my vantage point is pure white group think a script that I have heard and read before..Unlike many Black Obamrobots I am not nor have ever been his cheerleader..I do not recall ever defining 'Black Thought" in here or anywhere that I have deposited my body of work..You really misread me I exist to remove the margins on the paper not to crave out the usual figures..


  • 16


    I am resign to the reality that Obama is at best a margainal figure a superior opportunist who leveraged the historical racial guilt andangst of the bulk of whites and all the dreams of the black electorate..

    Obama is like Jackie Robinson he was not the best Black player in the hood but the selected and designated one that MLB could wrap themselves around and make history with..

    Really at the end of this saga Obama is again a margainal talent and a door opener . I look forward now that the threshold was open to observe superior people of color and Black folks than the entry level type like Obama is..

    Obama it is obvious now is not a game breaker, nor an icon , he is a novelty at a carnival no more no less..He does not have the core cultural dna to really elevate and soar with the giants like Mandela, MLK and company..

    I know as a Black person living in a nation with such a wicked and vile legacy to finally get a person of color in the white house and to realize he is a teaser and a mixed drink when I wanted it straight with no chaser is what I will have to live with for now...

  • 17

    Maybe the congressional black caucus should start criticizing its own self

    December 10, 4:15 PMPublic
    by Alton Drew

    It seems that the Congressional Black Caucus has decided to stop being "on the down low", and show their player-hater colors. The Associated Press reported this morning that the CBC, a group of senators and house representatives that advocate for issues impacting blacks, are growing frustrated with what they perceive to be President Obama's lack of attention to the impact that the recession is having on blacks.

    The CBC is particularly concerned with the unemployment rate among blacks as compared with the general population. While the nation's overall unemployment rate is at 10%, unemployment amongst blacks stands at 15.6%. The unemployment rate for whites, on the other hand, is 9.3%. Hispanic unemployment also exceeds the national rate at 12.7% while unemployment among Asians comes in at 7.3%. The CBC is also reportedly frustrated that blacks are apparently greater impacted by the onslaught of foreclosure versus the general population.

    The cries of "kumbaya" is not surprising given the philosophical make-up of the CBC. It is 100% Democrat. More importantly, the group appears to espouse the messianic view regarding expectations from a president; that somehow the person that sits in the big chair in the Oval Office has some magic wand that can make all our problems go away. Given that Mr. Obama is the country's first black president, the expectations of deliverance are even greater.

    The black electorate has bought into this nonsense for too long and Democrats in particular have been selling the "rely on government" snake-oil with the expectation that this president should start pouring out and rubbing the oil all over us. Fortunately Mr. Obama is too pragmatic a politician to go out on that limb and pull that Elmer Gantry stunt.

    Maybe our so-called leaders in the congress should exercise a little more policy initiative themselves as opposed to letting us know that they have successfully memorized the lyrics to "We Shall Overcome." In short, their records on economic development and wealth creation (the lack thereof which is the primary cause for our economic malaise and immobility) is, in a word, trifling.

    Take, for example, Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat from California. Ms. Waters is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services and has sponsored 21 bills so far in the 111th Congress. Her only legislative success this Congress has been getting the House to pass a resolution congratulating the Los Angeles Lakers for winning last season's championship. Wow. That should go a long way to putting in place the infrastructure needed to create wealth.

    Another critic of Mr. Obama, Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat from California, has sponsored 46 bills so far in the 111th Congress. Like Ms. Waters, she has sponsored no bills that reduce taxes, encourage Americans to diversify portfolios, and build the assets that would have helped us avoid the ravages of foreclosure and job loss.

    Bottomline, congressional black Democrats have done no better. Arguably, being that they directly represent the very constituents that are suffering from the economic downturn, they have done worse.

  • 18

    Alton Drew's spin is classic right wing republican babble..One of the main shortcomings I have with Black Republicans and conservative themes in general is that they go in circles offering the same dogma..Especially Black talking heads for the GOP..Give me some value if you want some reaction.

    Nothing ever changes..No movement just the same adverserial BS...

  • 19

    [...] I'm not saying don't criticize the man. I certainly have. But really, do so many of these criticism from what many regard as respected perches have to be [...]

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