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Frederick Harris Attack Not Grounded in Reality

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Last week, Professor Frederick Harris penned an op-ed in the Washington Post lampooning President Obama's commitment to the African American community and made the slanderous claim that we are "Still Waiting For The First Black President."

Harris' main thrust stems from a belief that the President has abandoned the African American community and pursued a "racially defused electoral and governing strategy" for political expediency. He cites an apparent lack of focus from the President on a range of issues including reform of the criminal justice system, addressing the foreclosure crisis, black unemployment, and HIV/AIDS.

But the distortions and omissions of the President's record from a professor at an esteemed university were so egregious that the column begs its readers to question whether the author is merely trying to boost sales of his upcoming book.

For example, Professor Harris claims that President Obama failed to reform the criminal justice system. But he omitted any mention of the Fair Sentencing Act signed into law by the President that reduces sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. He failed to mention that the Obama Administration settled the longstanding Pigford II litigation, fought laws aimed at restricting access to the ballot box, and investigated the Trayvon Martin shooting -- just to name a few.

Harris conveniently dismissed the President's effort to save the American auto industry - an industry that has propelled thousands of African American families into the middle class. At the time, Mitt Romney said we should just "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." But the President bet on the American worker, and thanks to his leadership, thousands of African Americans are getting back to work.

Throughout the past three years, President Obama has been focused on building an economy that is built to last. And in spite of the obstacles, the economy is making progress and each month, more and more Americans, and African Americans are getting back to work.

Not only did he secure the payroll tax cut putting $800 back into the average family's pocket, but he also expanded the Child Tax Credit, and African American small business owners have had access to $4 billion in low-interest loans through the Minority Business Development Agency. In fact, 21 percent of loans included in the Small Business Jobs Act have gone to minority-owned businesses, helping them create jobs for African Americans.

Despite a stubborn housing market, President Obama has taken action through the Making Home Affordable program to help homeowners across the country avoid foreclosure, reduce their monthly payments, refinance loans, or get help if their home is under water. This is real progress, and African-American families are finally starting to see some relief.

And President Obama understands the plight HIV and AIDS has had on the African-American community. That's why he has aggressively fought to reduce the number of HIV infections, committed an additional $15 million for HIV clinics and $35 million for state AIDS-drug assistance programs, and set a goal that many once thought was impossible decades ago: an AIDS-free generation.

Let's not forget that this President pushed for and signed the Affordable Care Act, which improved access to health care for all Americans. Thanks to his determination, 7 million African Americans currently living without health insurance will get the coverage they need, and nearly a quarter of African Americans will no longer be denied access to health insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

But the most outrageous part of Professor Harris' column is his attempt to pit the African American and gay community against one another. It simply has no place in our politics and distracts from the real work that we have to do.

While the President may have been elected by 53 percent of the country, he is responsible for fighting for 100 percent of the country, regardless of their party affiliation, race, gender, or sexuality and there is nothing disingenuous about waging that fight.

But after taking stock of all that President Obama has achieved in the face of almost unanimous opposition by a hostile Republican party, you can see why some African Americans are doing a little "cheerleading." And given the tremendous struggle for equal rights that spanned generations, it's not surprising that African Americans would be proud of electing the first black President.

Now, the American people, and African Americans in particular, face a real choice in November. It's a choice between a "severely conservative" Republican nominee with empty rhetoric or a President who has delivered since day one and delivered for not just African Americans, but for all Americans.

Barack Obama has never forgotten who he is or where he came from. He has fought every single day to improve the livelihood and well-being of the African-American community. And in a second term, he'll only build on the monumental achievements of his first term.

We have our first black President, his name is President Barack Obama, let's start paying attention to what he is doing -- for all of us.Michael Nutter is the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is the Largest American City with an African American Mayor