President Obama: Back Pay for Philippinos but no Reparations for Blacks

President Barack Obama is officially the man. He is literally all over the place trying to undo in record time, the many things that have Americans outdone with our government and the state of the country.  You name it – he’s trying to fix it. The economy, global relationships, trade issues, gender equity and healthcare reform to name a few.  He’s passing this legislation and overturning that legislation, while doing in record time what should truly be taking years to undo.

For those of you who questioned his Blackness because of his bi-racial heritage, that nonsense can be put to rest. He clearly understands the burden of being Black which means you have to work twice as hard (four times in his case), run faster, jump higher and do more just to get half as far as our more privileged counterparts.  His 68% approval rating reflects the hard work and energy he’s bringing to the White House.

Although I am proud of what he is tackling and accomplishing, I do think that he is doing way too much.

One of the things that successful people, especially Blacks face in society is being everything to everyone.  W.E.B. DuBois and Frantz Fanon wrote about the double consciousness (triple if you’re a woman) that we experience in society in order to survive. We learn this in our families, schools, churches and institutions. Those that are bi-racial are tasked at an early age with gaining acceptance and approval from two shared and sometimes distinct cultures, often in the same household.  President Obama’s upbringing speaks to his universal appeal and willingness to court approval from many groups.

Recently he was named the first Asian-American president, because of the wonderful things that he has done for the Asian community. Obama appointed a record three Asian-Americans cabinet members and quickly focused his attention across the Pacific. He invited Japan’s prime minister as his first guest and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Asia on her maiden trip. 

He also made sure that aging WWII Veterans from the Philippines who fought alongside US forces but were stripped of benefits in 1946, received 200 million dollars in “back pay” by signing a measure.  This was absolutely the right thing to do.

However, I was dumbfounded by this act because of President Obama’s insistence that “government handouts” i.e. reparations for African Americans is a bad idea.  When I read about this gesture, I immediately thought about the Blacks who fought in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World Wars, Korean War and part of the Vietnam War without civil rights and many without pay or benefits. I thought of the plantation economy upon which this country was established, based on free labor, performed mainly by Blacks.  I wondered aloud why it is “okay” and “honorable” for some groups to receive “back pay” while others are overlooked and admonished for seeking so-called handouts?

President Obama was right to give “back pay” to the Philippinos, but is absolutely wrong to deny the same to African Americans. Unless you have been under a rock, President Obama has been adamant about not giving reparations to Blacks. While he was running for office, people said that he had to be President for all of America, so to assume that he should do something “special” for Blacks was wrong.

He’s in office now, and I don’t think that he should exclude his own because of what it might look like.  Just as other groups expect things from the President, Blacks should be able to have the same expectations, not based on race, but as Americans.   We should be treated fairly and equally, not punished because our President looks like us and paranoid folks think that we’re getting something that they’re not. We’re only asking for what we are owed and what they’ve always had – back pay. He has opened the door and I certainly hope that Black folks don’t let him off of the hook because he looks like us.

As President Obama continues righting the wrongs of multiple groups, I hope that he doesn’t forget his own in the process.

This article originally appeared on


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