In less than a month, Barack Obama will finish his two terms as president of the United States, and a man-boy, with troubling ties to Russia, and an inability to spell simple words will take over as the leader of the free world. Faced with the reality of a human Cheetos poised to run our country, it’s reasonable to start romanticizing everything Obama did for us, but don’t let nostalgia get you. This was a president with flaws.
Make no mistake, Barack Obama, America’s first black president, should go down as one of the greatest leaders this country has ever had. Think about it, Obama entered the White House as a one-term senator with no experience in the private sector, a crumbling housing market, and an economy that was losing 700,000 jobs a month. The last time an incoming president had inherited a financial situation this poor was almost 100 years ago when Franklin Roosevelt took over during The Great Depression. Despite all odds, he got us through one of the darkest times this country has ever faced, all while being attacked by petty white people and the Republican Party.
However, in acknowledging the job he did as commander in chief, we must also discuss his failures. And on Jan. 20, two of the president’s biggest failures will come back to bite him—and this country—in the butt: immigration and criminal justice reform.
Obama Failed Undocumented Workers
President Obama’s record on immigration has been a disaster. On the campaign trail in 2008, he promised to pass immigration reform within his first 100 days in office. That didn’t happen. Instead, he spent his first term deporting more undocumented workers than anyone before him.
In the year 2013 alone, his administration deported over 400,000 undocumented people. This took place while Democrats had huge majorities in the House and Senate. Sure, the president made an effort in 2010 to pass the Dream Act, but after losing out on the bill by five votes, he never put in a serious effort around immigration reform again. Consequently, 11 million undocumented residents are going into 2017 unsure of how long they will be able to remain in the country.
Obama’s effort on immigration was a complete failure; he didn’t even try with criminal justice reform. His indifference to substantial policy around criminal justice reform may go down as the biggest failures of his administration.
What Happened to Criminal Justice Reform, Obama?
The “War on Drugs” destroyed the black community, and when Obama came into office, many thought that criminal justice reform would be on the top of his list of things to do. Instead, he and his administration sat by idly while reform bills floated along with no support. Instead, they focused on initiatives like “My Brother’s Keeper,” a program that promotes respectability politics. And yes, the president commuted the sentences of more non-violent criminal drug offenders in one year than any other president, but this effort was literally a drop in the bucket compared to the kind of change he could have made if he would have made it a serious priority in his administration.
I don’t want to take anything away from the president. No one has had to deal with more opposition than him, no other president was forced to balance their policy goals and their race the way he has. But when we look back at his time in the office, it is imperative that we do so with clear minds. By failing to pass The Dream Act, he let down 11 million Dreamers, and by never putting a real effort behind criminal justice reform, he sentenced another generation of black boys and girls to the prison industrial complex. We can’t celebrate his victories while ignoring the ugly truth.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. They do not represent the views of Black Enterprise.
Stanley Fritz is the Communications Associate at Citizen Action of New York, and the Engineer/Co-Host of “Let Your Voice Be Heard! Radio.”