In the 2012 campaign, critics of President Obama attempted to dent his minority support by blaming him for high unemployment rates among women and racial minority groups. Now, as Obama’s newly announced “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative seeks to take aim at the challenges facing boys and men of color, conservative writers are attacking him as “divisive.”
In a National Review Online column, Roger Clegg wrote Thursday that the White House plan was “government sponsored discrimination.” Despite the nation’s lengthy history of discrimination against racial minorities and the ongoing challenges facing their communities, Clegg lamented that taking steps to combat barriers to opportunity would actually be discouraging to these groups:
Constitutionality aside, it is divisive and unfair to have racially exclusive programs. And what kind of message is given to blacks and Latinos when they are told that their young men are so problematic that they have to be singled out for special help to ensure that they don’t screw up?
In a approving column, Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin reposted much of Clegg’s piece and added her own criticism of the idea:
The problem with hyping gender and racial differences is not simply the increased resentment and divisiveness it creates but also that it uses victimhood as a political weapon. Pretty soon words like “discrimination” lose meaning. It seems you are either for an inclusive society – devoted to diminishing racial, ethnic, religious and other distinctions — or you’re not.
But voices on the right have been “hyping gender and racial differences” as a weapon against President Obama for years, blaming him for unemployment rates among these groups. They include:
- Mitt Romney: In a July 2012 speech to the NAACP, he claimed that the economy was “worse for African Americans in almost every way,” including the “unemployment rate, the duration of unemployment, average income, and median family wealth.”
- Allen West: In an op-ed, then-Rep. Allen West (R-FL) wrote that Black Americans should support Mitt Romney because of the “dire” situation for their community: “Black unemployment hovers around 14 percent, compared to 8 percent unemployment overall. For black teenagers, the number more than doubles, as 38 percent of black teens are unemployed.”
- Tim Scott: In a press release touting Romney’s Black Leadership Council, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), then a U.S. Representative, wrote, “Black Americans are falling into poverty at an alarming rate, and unemployment rates are rising.”
Perhaps most amusingly, a Washington Post “Right Turn” column in 2011, titled “Can’t we do better than the Obama economy?,” noted that between January 2009 and February 2011, African American unemployment had gone “from 12.6 percent to 15.3 percent, while Hispanic unemployment has gone from 9.7% to 11.6%.” The author of that column was Jennifer Rubin.