The Black Agenda – What is all the fuss about???
[WEST ADAMS, CA] The Black Agenda has become more pronounced since President Barack Obama took office on January 20, 2009. Of late, some of you may have seen the MSNBC Special hosted by Ed Shultz called “A Stronger America – The Black Agenda” which happened to air during the week of The National Action Network’s (NAN) 20th Convention hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton, who is a regular MSNBC guest. So, it wasn’t a surprise that many panelist and contributors featured on “The Black Agenda” were part of NAN’s convention. While some criticized Shultz for being selected to host the event, some were very appreciative of his role. Really though, it speaks to the state of national media where there is a dearth of African-American national talk show host. But that is another discussion for another time, as we applaud Ed for stepping up and giving voice as the Black Agenda is not relegated to only being communicated by blacks.
What is all the fuss about?? What is The Black Agenda? Have Blacks articulated an agenda on the national stage such as other groups? Whatever the case, while President Obama is African-American or Black doesn’t mean he will champion The Black Agenda just because he is Black. Three years into his administration some Blacks have voiced great frustration by his seemingly lack of efforts to address concerns dealing with their specific concerns. At the same token, his favorability is still very high from that voting bloc.
Every group, especially in a democracy has a specific agenda…..stated or otherwise. Despite President Obama holding office, The Black Agenda takes on a heightened sense of urgency. From our research and data we will lay out a very basic definition of just two components of what many have stated are efforts Blacks should focus on to improve their plight. Economics and Education.
ECONOMICS. No doubt Slavery was abolished over 100 years ago and while many are very quick to dismiss the evils of Slavery, it’s the vestiges of Slavery which remain the crippling legacy that has shackled the Black community. Sure some have progressed but many more, even in 2011 can’t escape the grips of White Supremacy or self-hate or other residual effects of being enslaved.
The Black middle class is booming and some have made it to the wealthier status, but the vast majority remains in lower middle class or outright poverty. Nevertheless, the collective spending power of Blacks is noted by top economist and surprisingly, in Black communities other groups treasure this market and set up businesses of all types to capture these resources. Sadly, and very commonplace it is more predominant to see other groups serving the Black consumer than Blacks themselves. How can something like this happen? Do Blacks have no regard to serve their own? Are Blacks simply not cut out to conduct business?, etc. There is no easy response or answer to this phenomenon but there is no argument that vestiges of slavery and public policy cripple those Blacks who otherwise might want to participate in a business enterprise from doing so. Do Black businesses fail because their products or so inferior or their service is so bad? Again, it boils down to access to capital and resources and proper undergirding. No doubt, a viable black market exist and surely if it can support other groups (Korean, Indian, Whites), it could support the Black community and uplift itself through fueling employment and other economic benefits any group needs to sustain itself.
History reveals Blacks have been very industrious and capable of taking care of its community. On the other hand, coming out of the modern day civil rights movement of the 60’s saw a sharp rise of Black elected officials which was supposed to address some of the public policy issues. While there was a spike up to the 80’s, there has been a decline in the black community of businesses and other opportunities which surely have resulted in Blacks being in the predicament we see today. On a more political basis, it is communicated and even accepted that Black unemployment usually is twice that of Whites. As we draft this Blog today, unemployment is a little under 8% for White and 15% for Blacks, although there is evidence to dispute the 15% number, as a more realistic number could easily be argued to be 20, 25, maybe as high as 50% in some pockets. Interestingly as the nation debates the 2011 Budget and some spotlight President Bill Clinton’s administration as the last one leaving a surplus, but specifically the employment component which saw White unemployment at 3.5% and Black unemployment at 7%, which under today’s microscope would perhaps render good news as more would be able to participate in the economy, thus enjoying a better quality of life. We ask the rhetorical question…..Why do Blacks have to accept double the rate of unemployment by the majority group; Whites, as the norm or acceptable??? Why can’t both groups be equal. Again, we point to the legacy of Slavery and basic public policy.
SOLUTION: Blacks as a group are very diverse. Public policy deals with specific programs or benefits that are targeted. Groups receive them as part of day to day operation. You don’t have to be a Black political leader to address Black needs, but from a constituent perspective, in predominant Black communities you will most find Black elected leaders. Rather, than deferring to President Obama to pull out a miracle wand, which is highly unlikely we advocate LOCAL POLITICAL LEADERS responsible for serving Black communities target specific policies aimed at promoting Blacks to open businesses (the same businesses which others seem to open with very little problem) which will allow them to compete for Black dollars. Rather than see substandard businesses, or those boarded up and abandoned, or those offering very little appearance of being vibrant to attract businesses, Political leaders must draft a strategy, block by block business by business and lay out an effective model that will motivate Blacks to assume the risk required to operate a business. Again, if others can do it why can’t Blacks serve their own community? The key is undergirding whatever business is open to insure there is sufficient capital and other resources which provide a likelihood to succeed versus dying on the vine because the business has no staying power. As part of integration, Blacks particularly those lower middle class and above will continue to take their money “outside the community” but if there was a commitment and movement spearheaded from public policy, there is a greater chance of more Blacks being able to serve their community, thus becoming a legitimate participant in the economic benefit their communities produce. The end result would see a rise in business owners and direct employment as if there was not documented spending power this argument might be considered “pie in the sky” but look around any Black community and you do not see non-Black groups packing up and leaving due to lack of business. It is often whispered in Black communities that non-black business owners are given preference or other support to allow their businesses to thrive and capture the “black consumer market.” Whatever the reason, one must ponder how other ethnic groups, some with very little language assimilation, take up stake and in doing so are able to become self-sufficient versus being a burden to society, as the case of the very consumers they serve.
EDUCATION. There is very little argument that Education is one key component of improving your lifestyle. The next question is how in the hell can Blacks allow themselves to falter in education and claim one of the highest dropout rates of modern time? Whatever the reason, education has failed. Whatever the phenomenon of the sociology; Single Mothers, Lack of Fathers in Black homes, Black male incarceration, The Vietnam War, etc., etc. the results represent one of the biggest self-inflicted wounds of all-time.
Some tout Charter Schools as the solution. We think not!!! Charter is more defined as an inclusive group. Public is Public and unfortunately the vast majority of students are Public. Communities have bought into the notion to take resources from Public schools as a viable remedy. We see the solution, although there is much more to this component as pretty simple.
SOLUTION: The key component for student success is PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT. Whatever a student’s plight, rich or poor, it is the parents responsibility and most likely strategy for success to take an active role in their child’s education. Even though schools where resources are thin, or facilities or dilapidated or otherwise inferior, it starts with one parent at a time, simply reclaiming on one end, their responsibility, but institutionally realizing their power to provide their children to be successful in the realm of education. Similar to the Economic paradigm, public policy is a key component to start the engine of success, and that starts at the local level.
In summary, of all the characteristics of The Black Agenda, two specific components if addressed properly: ECONOMIC AND EDUCATION could reverse the decline in the Black Community and allow it to reclaim its greatness by becoming a viable part of America’s broader society. But to do so, requires a commitment from the Black Community and a commitment from local political influence or that which is responsible for public policy.