African American Enigma: Constructive Criticism Always Helps

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[Comment: National]
During a BBC radio address titled, “The Russian Enigma,” on October 1, 1939, former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill said, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia.  It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.  That key is Russian national interest.”

The simple meaning behind Churchill’s statement is--something that is a puzzle or something difficult to solve. Churchill’s statement sums up quite concisely, the relationship that many Black folk have with President Obama—an enigma.

In the 2008 presidential election, Black folk were the largest voting block for candidate Obama as a percentage—96%. But, yet, the first Black president has fewer Blacks serving in his administration than former President, George W. Bush. No Black female lawyers or judges were interviewed for the two Supreme Court picks the president has put on the bench. Even if he knew he would not choose them, at least interview them for the optics. Last year, in a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), President Obama said, “Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC.”

A week earlier, President Obama spoke at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. He highlighted two specific pieces of legislation that he was actively trying to pass that would overwhelmingly be to the primary benefit of the Hispanic community—the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform. Not one time did he tell them to stop complaining.

A month later President Obama spoke before The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. Again, the president talked about how he repealed, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and mandated hospital visitation rights for same sex couples. Again, not one time did he tell them to stop complaining.
Now, juxtapose that with what went on recently with respect to an eminently qualified African for a top global post.

By tradition, the head of the World Bank is always an American male and the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had always been a European male; until last year when the French fought for a woman to be chosen—Christine Lagarde. Recently President Obama nominated Dr. Jim Yong Kim, an American, to head the World Bank. But African countries challenged this arrangement very publically; they opposed the brazenly unfair process the World Bank used to choose Dr. Kim as the successor of the former president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick.

Kim’s strongest challenger was the Finance Minister of Nigeria, and a former Managing Director at The World Bank, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a female from a developing country. She was universally considered the best candidate in the field, even by those who supported Kim.

Russia, China and Mexico supported Kim. Ngozi was nominated by South Africa and was endorsed by all of the African members of the bank’s board, The African Union, Brazil, The Economist, Colombia, The New York Times, The Financial Times, and 39 former senior officials at the World Bank.

This is the first time in the history of the bank that the U.S. has been challenged by developing and emerging countries. South African Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, went so far as to say, “the bank’s selection process falls short and is not transparent or merit-based."
President Obama promised to make his administration the most ethical, transparent administration in history. But, like in many of his actions, when he had the chance to turn his rhetoric into action, he became like sounding brass or the tingling cymbal; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

As a result of Jesse Jackson’s unsuccessful presidential bids in 1984 and 1988, he made it possible to believe that a Black person could one day become president of the United States; so has Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's bid to become president of the World Bank. She did not win, but now other countries can envision a time in the not too distant future, that the head of the World Bank will be a non-American.
An African woman challenged Obama’s choice to lead the bank; she was universally considered the best qualified for the job. Yet Black Democrats in America refuse to challenge the first African American president even when warranted. They continue to make excuses for his lack of action—he needs more time; the President can’t undo in four years what took Bush eight years to create; or, he will pay attention to us in his second term.
This is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. 

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