President Obama made his pitch to black business owners by touting the stimulus package and the auto industry bailouts, in an exclusive interview with Black Enterprise.
Responding to criticism that he hasn't done enough for black-owned businesses, the president told the magazine that he was "not the president of black America, but the United States of America," while outlining how the bailout of the auto industry and the stimulus have been particularly beneficial to African Americans.
"I’m not the president of black America," he said. "I’m the president of the United States of America, but the programs that we have put in place have been directed at those folks who are least able to get financing through conventional means, who have been in the past locked out of opportunities that were available to everybody. So, I’ll put my track record up against anybody in terms of us putting in place broad-based programs that ultimately had a huge benefit for African American businesses.”
The president said that there are black-run businesses that were part of the supply chain or advertisers for the big Detroit automakers that were bolstered by the bailout.
“The African-American community ends up being hurt during recessionary times more than the population at large," Obama said. " [The] African American unemployment rate is still way too high. You had a credit crunch for small- and medium-sized businesses that disproportionately impacted African American businesses. But part of what we have been able to do is to specifically focus on disadvantaged businesses, disadvantaged communities."
Obama pointed to the Small Business Administration, which helps finance many minority businesses, and its move to reduce lending fees for business owners while banks have pulled back.
African Americans have been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn. The African American unemployment rate in July was 14.1 percent, substantially higher than the national average of 8.3 percent.
The gap between black and white wealth has also expanded, nearly doubling since the recession began. The median household net worth for whites was $110,729 in 2010, versus $4,995 for blacks.