Feature Week of July 4, 2004
THE MYTH OF BLACK POLITICAL EMPOWERMENT
Since Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, U.S. Presidents have been gaining more strength from African American voters than African American voters have gained programs of social and legislative substance from them. Since Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” civil rights legislation and community development programs and Richard Nixon’s Black Enterprise programs, African American voters have given presidential candidates, mostly Democrats, their votes without issues directly impacting them having any prominence in the political parties’ platforms or discord. In the Johnson-Nixon era, the typical black family had 60 percent as much income as a white family - only 58 percent as much in 2002. Black infants are two-and-a-half times as likely as white infants to die before age one – a greater gap than in 1970. At the rate the black-white poverty gap has been narrowing since 1968, it will take until 2152 to close it.
So far, the only level of discord toward blacks in the 2004 presidential is two-party system rhetoric of “vote a Democrat in to keep a Republican out”. The talk among the so-called “black leadership” – civil rights heads and politicians who’ve set themselves up as liaisons and middle-men supposedly working for black interests – is “If you don’t vote for John Kerry we’ll have to deal with George Bush for another four years”. But that type talk only allows them to use black support and numbers as cattle counts to further their own agendas. Inside their communities, black political leaders say “some problems faced by blacks have improved” over the last 30 years. But, they take no accountability for economic, crime, drug, and other problems that have worsened in inner cities. The need for blacks to have these problems addressed has increased, not diminished.
In order for their vote to empower them, from now until Election Day black citizens need to hear concrete statements from all candidates regarding:
Employment and job opportunities for blacks - Black unemployment (11%) is consistently double that of white unemployment (5.1%).
Commitments to affirmative action - After more than 300 years of affirmative action to benefit white males, affirmative action for people of color and women is necessary to offset enduring historic wrongs and present-day inequalities. Affirmative action programs can be made to use a variety of methods to achieve increased diversity, including using race and gender among factors in evaluating suitability of job or school applicants.
War in Iraq - Sixty-five percent of blacks have opposed the war from the beginning. There is concern that blacks are a high proportion of casualties and about the $150 billion in financial resources going to the war and rebuilding of Iraq that could be used to bolster decaying black communities and commercial areas.
Reforming the criminal “injustice” system - Programs can be initiated to prevent crime through investments in education, rehabilitation and restoration of safe neighborhoods and communities. U.S. prisons host over 2 million people – a disproportionate number of African Americans.
Ending the War on Drugs and providing responsible and rehabilitation focused drug policies - The drug war is a failure. The nation spends more than $50 billion annually on the drug war while problems related to drug abuse continue to worsen. Acknowledge that drug abuse is a health problem with social and economic consequences and those solutions include – public health, social services and economic development. Bring some illegal drugs within the law by regulating, taxing and controlling them. Ending the drug war will dramatically reduce street crime, violence and homicides related to underground drug dealing.
Expanding and supporting minority business development programs - Minorities need broader opportunities in federal, state and local government procurement programs.
Making health care universally available - There are significant gaps in many health-related diseases and conditions between blacks and whites, as well as in the treatment of those conditions and insurance coverage. We need to increase patient choice and expand coverage and get help for more than 45 million Americans that have no health insurance; such as a single-payer program, with full medical coverage, that could provide health care that provides comprehensive benefits with quality care and cost controls to all Americans throughout their lives.
Provide equal access to education - African American education is highly segregated. Eighty percent of black kids go to schools that are more than 50 percent black and 60 percent of whites go to schools that are more than 50 percent white. Education is the route all people need to succeed and gain greater social mobility and professional status. Significant educational grants and government funding are needed to help gain black parity. Education is primarily the responsibility of state and local governments, but the federal government has a critical supporting role to play in ensuring that all children are provided with rich learning environments and equal educational opportunities.
African American voters can control their own destinies through proper exertion of their political power. Wouldn’t it be better for us if potential Presidential Administrations had made declarations for needs specific to our people before we commit to vote for them?
© 2000-2004 William Reed - www.BlackPressInternational.com