Is Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett the One Who Keeps Barack from Dealing with Black Issues?


by Dr. Boyce Watkins

We can no longer live in a world where anyone who asks President Obama to do something is defined to be an enemy of the administration.” Yet, it appears the president’s top advisor, Valerie Jarrett, believes her job is to silence Black critics. “It’s as if we’re being told to ‘stop snitching’ on the White House, while Obama Administration officials sit back and laugh at how stupid we are.”


Is Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett the One Who Keeps Barack from Dealing with Black Issues?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

This article previously appeared in

Valerie seems more hell-bent on killing a critique than actually addressing it with constructive effort.”

Some have said that the Republican Party has been the primary obstructionist that keeps President Barack Obama from dealing with African American issues. Even those who acknowledge that the president hasn’t said a word about black suffering are quick to find whatever excuse they can for inaction on the part of the White House. Rather than earning the black vote by presenting a healthy track record of effort on behalf of the black community, black people are simply being told to “keep the faith” (note the religious reference) and to “have Barack’s back,” (note the hood slang reference). It’s as if we’re being told to “stop snitching” on the White House, while Obama Administration officials sit back and laugh at how stupid we are for not asking for anything in return for unprecedented political loyalty.

We get one speech after another with Obama Administration officials reminding us of how many civil rights leaders died to give us the right to vote, and why they all wanted us to take the best political option they choose to give us. But what they don’t tell us is that when you vote for a politician and ask him for nothing, you are worse off than if you’d abstained and held your vote for ransom. A woman choosing between a man who beats her and a man who neglects her can always say “I’m not dating either one of you fools until you learn to act right.” That woman will ALWAYS get more respect than the desperate woman with low self-esteem who takes whatever she can get.

Some say that Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett has done all she can to keep the president from dealing with African Americans directly.”

Unfortunately, style and symbolism don’t pay the bills: Black Americans have seen their economic condition worsen, while whites have watched their conditions improve. When the recession is over, black unemployment will probably not even get down to the levels that whites are complaining about right now. Almost nothing has been done to alleviate the mass incarceration epidemic and the President has hardly addressed all of the dead black teenagers in the killing fields of his home city of Chicago. If those were white gay kids in the suburbs, billions of dollars would have already been allocated to help resolve the problem.

A recent New York Times article seems to imply that the bottleneck on getting to the heart of African American issues is not the Republican Party or the president himself. Instead, some say that Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett has done all she can to keep the president from dealing with African Americans directly, and instead has been working through Al Sharpton, an unwavering Obama surrogate, who admitted in a 60 Minutes interview that he would never criticize the president, even if he isn’t doing his job effectively. Sharpton’s political motto may as well be, “Yes, things are horrible for black people, and the Democrats aren’t going to do a damn thing about it, but I really need you to keep voting for my boss.”

Jarrett has been called an elitist by some, and doesn’t have a strong track record on fighting for poor blacks. For example, many noted that the president and Valerie came home for the expensive wedding of Valerie’s Harvard-educated daughter and said nothing about the black boys being killed right down the street on the South Side of Chicago. Shortly thereafter, however, the president hopped on a jet to console the victims of the Batman shooting in Colorado….after all, their lives are more important.

They are getting unprecedented support from black Americans and they cannot treat this support as a political welfare check that doesn’t have to be repaid.”

Part of the massive disagreement I had with Rev. Sharpton (we no longer speak and I don’t expect that to change any time soon) had to do with Valerie, who seems more hell-bent on killing a critique than actually addressing it with constructive effort. My goal was to get to the bottom of the reason that the president was not meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, which is apparently a question that black people are not allowed to ask. Before May 2011, President Obama had only met with the CBC two times in two years, which is inexcusable, especially during the worst black economic crisis in 30 years. But then again, why should he do anything for black people? They’ve got over 90% of the black vote, and many African Americans will support the Obama Administration on faith and not much else.

The “inconvenient truth” for both Jarrett and Obama is that they are getting unprecedented support from black Americans and they cannot treat this support as a political welfare check that doesn’t have to be repaid. It is nothing less than their complete obligation to return this support with effort of their own. If they took half the energy they spend begging us to vote in November and actually applied this to solving problems, our community would be much better off. (Notice how they love to fight for voting rights to get black people to the polls, but seem to forget that we exist after they’ve been elected).

Those who feel that President Obama is being held to a higher standard than President Bush are absolutely correct: Bush didn’t get 90% of our vote, so he didn’t owe us much of anything. Barack Obama DOES owe us something, the same way he owed (and paid) a debt to his gay and Hispanic constituents, who threatened to withdraw their support if the administration didn’t get in line with their agenda (please take notes: Politicians only respond to credible threats, not political groupies).

When advocating for African American issues defines a person to be inherently anti-Obama, we’ve got a serious problem in which our observations may not be consistent with reality. We can no longer live in a world where anyone who asks President Obama to do something is defined to be an enemy of the administration, and Valerie Jarrett knows this. Any effort by Valerie Jarrett, Al Sharpton or anyone else to suppress black voices who request action from the White House is as unAmerican as the oppressive regimes that they seek to dismantle around the world. We too have the right to speak freely about the issues that matter to our community and no one has a right to sleep on the job.

The Obama Administration seemed to only clean up the mess in white neighborhoods.”

An excerpt of the New York Times article (below) features a back-and-forth between Jarrett and Prof. Cornel West. Dr. West seems to feel that Valerie was the one who started the whole nonsense of invalidating the entire poverty critique by reducing Cornel to a bitter man who was mad that he didn’t get inauguration tickets. Even if that were the case, it doesn’t change one fundamental fact: Black poverty and unemployment are worse than they have been in decades, in large part because Valerie and Barack were busy fighting for gay rights instead of embracing any form of targeted economic policy. Bush did create the economic mess we’re in, but the Obama Administration seemed to only clean up the mess in white neighborhoods.

It’s hard to show up and ask for support for work you didn’t do. Anyone who disagrees is encouraged to tell me where I am wrong.

Here’s a snippet from the New York Times:

Ms. Jarrett was similarly ‘livid,’ one former White House official said, with members of the Congressional Black Caucus who accused the president of paying insufficient attention to the particular economic woes of blacks. When the writer and academic Cornel West joined in, calling Mr. Obama the ‘black mascot of Wall Street,’ Ms. Jarrett’s response was ‘ruthless,’ Dr. West said.

He recalled a phone call in which she dismissed his criticism as sour grapes for not receiving a ticket to the inauguration, and said he later heard from friends that she was putting out the word that ‘one, I was crazy, and two, I was un-American.’

“’It was a matter of letting me know that I was, in her view, way out of line and that I needed to get in line,’ he said in an interview. ‘I conveyed to her: ‘I’m not that kind of Negro. I’m a Jesus-loving black man who tells the truth, in the White House, in the crack house or in any other house.’ She got real quiet. It was clear that she was not used to being spoken to that way.’”

By going after West, you are trading in an authentic leader who loves you for a more popular and powerful leader who has ignored you.“

Those who feel compelled to attack Cornel West, a scholar who has been one of the most consistent and relentless fighters for the black community over the last 25 years, might want to think about what they are doing. By going after West for asking Obama to address the statistically-documented issues of extreme (and worsening) poverty and mass incarceration, you are trading in an authentic leader who loves you for a more popular and powerful leader who has ignored you. This is nothing less than the slave mentality, which leans on validation from white Americans as symbolic evidence of our own self-worth. Black people don’t just love Barack Obama for being a great man….they love him because white people have crowned him to be our king.

If President Obama loves us, he has an obligation to show us, not to the exclusion of everything else on his plate, but to the point where the White House remembers that black people are Americans too. Those who want Barack to succeed as an authentic African American hero are encouraged to push him to higher standards, no less than the way we should push our sons to overcome racism and still do their best. Barack Obama is not just the president of black America, but he must be reminded that black people are part of America too. In other words, it’s time to stop making excuses.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.


You are spot on in this

You are spot on in this piece. It really does come down to this emotionalism that overtakes reasoning and logic when it comes to Obama. Too many of our people simply ignore his DOCUMENTED and verifiable track record--which speaks to being simply a water carrier for the same forces that Bush served. Why some of us choose not to see it with Obama but frothed at the mouth over it with Bush is telling. And the 'crazy' canard seems to be the m.o. with empire as of late--amazing that the US govt can't even come up with new and innovative ways to disparage those that won't drink the kool-aid & have resorted to old Russian stasi methods.

Valerie Jarrett

Someone should investigate Valerie Jarrett and the housing project Cabrini Green. Boston Globe did an investigation in 2008 and turned up this.

Before joining the Obama administration in 2009, Jarrett was president and chief executive officer of the Habitat Company. She reported in 2011 a $1 to $5 million return on her investment in a 46-story luxury apartment complex developed by Habitat.

Jarrett’s involvement in Chicago real estate development between 1992 and 2009 was marred with controversy, much of which centered on Habitat’s role as the sole developer for "family public housing," a status granted under a district court ruling in 1987.

Under Jarrett’s leadership, Habitat oversaw the development of a number of public housing projects, one of which, in the Cabrini Green neighborhood, was dubbed a "national symbol of urban despair." Others became so run-down the city had to ask the federal government to intervene.  

A 2003 Harvard Law Review article cited the decline of the Cabrini Green development as an embodiment of the negative consequence associated with the "privatization of public housing."

"They are rapidly displacing poor people, and these companies are profiting from this displacement," Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Southside Together Organizing for Power, a Chicago community organization, told the Boston Globe in 2008.

The Cabrini Green neighborhood in 1997 was designated a "blighted" area, a portion of which was established as a TIF district. Thousands of families were displaced and many relocated to unsafe, unfinished housing projects elsewhere in the city. Experts questioned whether redevelopment resulted in a net benefit for the city.

You can't blame this on the crackers, not all of it

First, I agree with the general thrust and premises of your article, however I disagree with this quote:

"Black people don't just love Barack Obama for being a great man...they love him because white people have crowned him to be our king."

That statement is only half-true, the other truth is that Black folks have vigorously and aggressively to a damn fault crowned him to be our king, they see him as some fulfillment of Dr. King's manifest destiny of Black equality.  Precisely because Obama's presence in the WH makes some crackers bat-shit crazy, is why the overwhelming majority of Black folks are behind him.  Obama is their Black dilemma writ large, the Black masses take the affronts against Obama more personal than even Obama.  Obama has no problem sipping beer or reaching out his hands to racist Whites, its our problem not his.  It's part and parcel of why he invented this Lincolnesque horse shit because he intended ALL ALONG to accommodate some of the worse and coarse racists in Congress. 

I get so angry and tired of people talking about how smart he is, yet apparently, despite his "smarts" and despite appointing a shit load of Clintonistas to his cabinet, he somehow get amnesia about how the Scaifes and Kochs ripped the Clintons a new one, spent billions destroying the Clinton brand.  How could you be "bright and intelligent" knowing this, knowing that people question your citizenship, some of whom sit in Congress, and yet you are going to be "bi-partisan???"  That's the dumbest shit I ever heard.  So consequently, despite having a historic mandate one of epic proportions, despite having control of both houses, despite Bush II seemingly, permanently damaging the Rethug brand there is a GOP resurgence capped off by Tea Party pricks.  That could have never happened without Obama giving aide and assistance to these assholes.

If Obama didn't think like them nor desired to kiss their asses, he would have destroyed them, vanquished them, I damn sure would have, wouldn't you??? 

What we are witnessing here in real time is the breath, scope and extent to which racism over hundreds of years have f***ked us ALL up, Black and White alike.  Of course we are more sicker than they are, hence our inability to see Obama for what he is.  White American has translated everything for Black folks into symbols over substance, Barack is the latest and greatest manifestation.  So we INTERNALIZE all the racist shit thrown his way and can't see the forest for the symbolic trees.  We get upset and worked up over Trayvon Martin, but Blacks are killing each other at record paces in most American cities and we say nothing.  Racism has destroyed our minds, symbolism has replaced substance. 

Obama doesn't give a f**k about yall broke-ass Black folk, never had nor will.  How many of yall hosting $10K fund raisers at your crib?.  He sent Biden to Detroit to get the Negroes all worked up, when he was in Mich. he went to Dearborn holed up with them rich White folks.  His whole life has been orchestrated to help HIM.  Bush II had more diversity in his cabinet than Obama.  That community organizer bullshit was just a resume builder to keep dumb ass Blacks and White Liberals at bay, and boy did it work.  As Mr. T would say, "I pity the fool."

Aint nobody keeping Obama from doing shit, except Barack and Michelle.  ...Oh, and yall dumbasses, who refuse to pressure him for ANYTHING.  You just so happy happy that a "Brother" is in the WH as if you all arrived there too.  Statistics say yall ain't nothing but the spook sitting outside the door.  Sad.  But you get what you deserve.

RE Obama so-called Rebuttal to RMoney's Writing off of 47% as..

  • Lazy Mooching Gov't dependent Obama folk. Obama response was that he's Pres for 100% of the people [OK so far so good]. BUT- Then to amplify what he meant, Obama talked about his efforts to reach out to GOP voters in the spirit of so-called bi-partanship- [of course the vast majority of GOP voters are white & are often hard-core FOX Noise / Hush Limp-balls type WASPs]. YET NOT ONCE in his rebuttal to RawMoney's write off of 47% of the people as poor-ass / lazy-ass Obama-ites, did Obama mention any efforts he's made to reach out to &/or help Black, Brown & poor voters who overwhelming have & continue to back him as his most loyal & faithful constituency! After all Obama- RawMoney's 47% comment was NOT directed at GOP {white} voters- but rather at your most loyal constituency- IE: Black, Brown, & working-class / working-poor voters- DUHH!!! 

This election choice between RawMoney & O-Bomb-er for Black, Brown, progressive & working-class / working-poor folks- is like asking a woman to choose between 2 men as lovers- one who out-right abuses her even in public [RawMoney] -&- the other who constantly neglects her & often {not so} Subtly dis-respects her- even in public [O-Bomb-er]! Yet she's constantly being told it's her duty to pick one [Obama] over the other [RawMoney]- when in fact the only sane & heathy choice for her is to refuse to choose either one of those abusers- & to continue to look for a better non-abusive & non-neglectful & more respectful lover.

Right-wing rag does Knock-off of Tarpley/Madsen Obama Exposés

[Note: Valarie Jarrett is addressed in Chapter V]

"The Obama you don't know"

Chapter I: A childhood of privilege, not hardship

Chapter II: The myth of the 'rock-star professor'

Chapter III: The 1997 speech that launched Obama

Chapter IV: For the slumlord's defense, Barack Obama, Esq.

Chapter V: Obama's toughest critics on the Left

Chapter VI: The poor people Obama left behind

Chapter VII: The myth of Obama as state Senate reformer

Chapter VIII: Obama's state pension scheme

Chapter IX: The Arab-American network behind Obama

Chapter X: Obama brings Chicago politics to Washington

JB and the Famous Flames

JBrown, you aint' just "talkin loud and saying nothing."

Your are spot on my friend.

What amazes the critical thinker is that Obama outlined his agenda and belief system in his shitty bio: "Dreams of my Father."  BAR has dissected this horseshit to reveal the kernels of Obama's belief system.  Sadly and unfortunately, BAR's  critique didn't jive with nor was able to usurp Black folks sickness, their embrace of anything symbolic versus anything that is substantive.  

(many of my comrades remember the vigorous debates we had 4 years ago when Obama was seeking the WH, when BAR would get 40+ comments on any given week).  Where is the mofo who was talking about holding Obama accountable btw, the Progressives for Obama Nigga???

To be clear, I didn't read the bullshit book, in part because I thought: "who the f**k is he?"  And in part because of the brilliant scholarship of the core members at BAR.  But any critical thinker would have pondered (despite these individuals own personal and political shortcomings) how did Obama jump rank on Conyers or Rangel?

Up until Obama, astute, sober thinking African Americans understood that as the "Leader of the Free World," the U.S.A President was really the guardian of Euro-Centric, Anglo Supremacy.  Hell, even astute, fair-minded White persons understood this, like Howard Zinn.

But sadly and tragically its a tribute to the effects of White Supremacy that lessons not only are not learned, they CANNOT BE LEARNED.  Particularly when you couple the propaganda with either economic survial or cooption in order to become rich and famous.  So what we are left with is Michael Eric Dyson's mind-numbing bullshit, a f**king scholar who talks like some half-ass rapper, a person who is confused about his own sexuality, but isn't confused at all about how to bank the benjamins.   


To illumine my point about symbolism over substance; how many incidents of "empty chair lynchings" must occur before Black folks organize a March on Washington to protest racism and "defend the President," as if that shit (racism) ever died.  In the meantime persons of color ignore the fact and fail to organize against the reality of us killing each other in record numbers in urban confines like Chicago and Detroit, to name a few cities?

Obama cares as much about the empty chair lynchings as much as he cares about our dumb asses. 

To parrot Parliament/Funkadelic:  "Glory Be, the Funks on Me!"

 P.S..  I thought you MoFos was in a post racial era???  Did the Tea Party f**k up your world???  Stupid Mofos.   BAR should do a piece called:  "Where are the Hos?" to illumine all the bitches pimping the "Post-Racial Era" horse shit (Black and White alike).  The Tea Party, by and large ain't about shit, but give them credit for f**king up the "Post-Racial Ho's" wet dream, they shut that goddamn $$$ maker down.   Obama, for all of his efficacy and utilitarian purpose, can't get rid of that shit, can he?  LOL

EC:About Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn and his wife, Roslyn, were Jews from NYC, schooled in NYC public schools, children of immigrants.  In You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train, Boston:Beacon Press, there are two editions of his autobio, the more recent about 2002, Zinn stresses his immigrant parents working hard, remaining in poverty.  The website for Zinn is undergoing reconstruction (

   I think his background was an influence in his evolution.  He and Roslyn Zinn met young, long marriage, and described in the book.  His teaching began at Spelman College in Atlanta and ended with many decades in Boston, becoming a Red Sox fan, although his origins were Brooklyn Dodgers, if I remember correctly.  As a Jew with Brooklyn childhood, although a generation later and 2nd generation New Yorker,  I noted Zinn's history.