The author of a letter to the editor published on Oct. 7 acknowledged her agreement with my recent column on the importance of citizens exercising our right to vote and voting our conscience.
She also, however, raised concerns about my assertion that candidate choice should be a matter of trust and not religion.
Her first concern was whether public policy issues are more important to African-American Christians than President Obama’s positions on same-sex marriage, abortion rights, religious freedom and support for Israel. Her second concern was whether African-Americans are voting for the president based on what we think he can “do” for us as opposed to what’s best for the country.
She also asked that I explain what the president has done to “earn the trust of African-Americans.”
I’m more than happy to respond.
Let me again state what I tried to make clear in my recent column. President Obama was elected not to dictate theology or doctrine to those of any faith group, but to fulfill the duties of his office. The U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 3, says in part that the president shall
“… take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
President Obama does not shape my beliefs about the issues noted — those are matters of personal faith and conscience. President Obama does, however, have to assure that the laws of our nation are equitably applied across lines of faith and even for those who embrace no faith. Same-sex marriage and abortion rights are matters of faith and of public policy that are disagreed upon by people of faith.
Religious freedom is a constitutional guarantee. Support for Israel is a matter not of faith, but of foreign policy.
I commend the president for understanding that and for making decisions that promote equity for all citizens.
The concept of “all citizens” is the foundation of my response to the second concern and request. I’ve been black all my life, even when the terms “colored” and “Negro” were the labels assigned to African-Americans in the days of my youth. I’ve never heard one single, solitary African-American say that America or any president should “do” anything for them.
The century-long struggle for civil rights has focused not on special perks for African-Americans, but for equal rights under the law for all Americans, regardless of color, culture or faith. The civil rights warriors of the mid-20th century fought not for preference or entitlement, but for equal rights and equal opportunity.
Regardless of the misconceptions of many, the majority of Americans receiving public assistance and the majority of the 47 percent of Americans written off by Mitt Romney are white.
African-Americans want the president to “do” what all Americans should want done — to faithfully execute the duties of his office with equity and fairness.
To quote the immortal James Brown’s song of the civil rights era, “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing, open up the door, I’ll get it myself.”
The question of what the president has done to build “trust,” therefore, applies to all Americans and not just African-Americans, and the full answer would take more space than I have here. President Obama has embraced and achieved substantive reform of public education and more affordable higher education. President Obama has fought to assure that all Americans have access to affordable health care. President Obama has expanded credit for all small businesses through the Small Business Administration. President Obama has lowered taxes on the middle class, enacted consumer protection, and steered the foundering ship of the American economy toward more stable waters.
President Obama has managed to do those and many other positive and productive things that benefit all Americans, even in the face of GOP congressional determination to block anything that could be seen as a presidential “victory.” For all of those reasons, he has earned the trust and support not just of African-Americans, but of many Americans of all colors and cultures.
I encourage all citizens to remember that, go to the polls and vote their conscience.
We need a president who will fight for the well-being and equity not just of Christian Americans or white Americans or African-Americans or Latino Americans or gay Americans or straight Americans or rich Americans or poor Americans, but of all Americans.