Category: Your Voice Written by Bill Johnson
The majority of black Detroiters won’t participate in the commemoration of the historic march when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. first delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech 50 years ago. Most no longer identify with the cause and have no interest in being part of the symbolism.
This weekend, power-seeking labor and civil rights advocates expect to attract 1-million people to follow theroute Dr. King took down Woodward on June 23, 1963.
The theme: “We Shall Not Default On Our Freedom.” The stated purpose is to call attention to the problems that people of color still face. “We still need jobs, justice and peace,” said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, Detroit branch NAACP president.
There’s no dispute that some Detroiters, and black America in general, have faltered in pursuit of the “dream” envisioned by Dr. King. Here, at the epicenter of the original march is a large poorly educated, unemployable, racially divided population that is trying to cope with abandonment, declining services, internecine violence and pending bankruptcy. However, none of the disparities has much, if anything, to do the racial barriers Dr. King lived and died to remove.
In fact, inside – although to a larger extent – outside Detroit is a sizable black middle class that has made substantial gains up the social and economic ladder since the 60s. The glass ceiling to political access has been shattered. Whereas a half century ago it was unthinkable, today a black president occupies the White House.
So for the NAACP to blame the deteriorating black condition on forces and people who have nothing to do with the denial of opportunity brings into question the real motives of the organization, its supporters and followers.
As I see it, the event is less about the commemoration of King’s struggle and aspirations for America, and more about the self-serving NAACP and UAW. Both are trying to regain respectability.
The NAACP, which once preached “unity” has morphed into one the largest proponents of the “us against them syndrome.” Years after the decline of skin color as an impediment to progress the group causes race consciousness to remain at a high level and race relations at their worst
No longer is the organization respected as the premier legal arm of the civil rights movement. Nor is it held in high esteem among young blacks. Why? The NAACP has an identify crisis.
As a matter of record, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act effectively destroyed the legal foundations of the Jim Crow system. Dr. King acknowledged that in 1965: “There is no more civil rights movement. President Johnson signed it out of existence when he signed the voting rights bill.”
The UAW, also looked at with a jaundice eye, needs to bolster its shrinking ranks to be seen as politically legitimate. Both organizations are not averse to using black victimization to incite, alienate and “keep race alive.”
Dr. King’s dream isn’t deferred by some vast white conspiracy – but by the failure of credible black leadership to be a good shepherds for those still un-prepared to walk through the doors of opportunity opened by King.
I suspect that many former supporters of civil rights causes question the wisdom of resurrecting60s-style tactics to achieve the promise of prosperity in the 21st Century. So those seeking something more meaningful should reflect onanother important day in history. One hundred fifty years ago – 1863 — Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in an attempt to unite a divided nation over the institution of slavery. It led to the freeing of slaves from physical bondage.
Nothing is more worthy of celebration and commemoration as one of the great events in the annuals of human freedom. And nothing is more symbolic of the need to be free from theNAACP’s psychological bondage that prevents the disadvantaged from reaching their full potential.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 June 2013 10:27
Category: Your Voice Written by Jesse Jackson
Fifty years ago this week, Medgar Evers, the NAACP regional secretary in Mississippi, was murdered by a member of the White Citizens’ Council. Evers’ death received national attention, serving only to strengthen the movement for civil rights.
Two years later, President Lyndon Johnson delivered a historic commencement address at Howard University, laying out progress made and challenges unmet. Johnson praised the “indomitable determination” of African Americans demanding their freedom. He hailed the Supreme Court for outlawing segregation, as well as Congress for passing the first civil rights legislation in 100 years.
The barriers to freedom are tumbling down, but “freedom is not enough,” he told the graduates. “You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying, ‘Now you are free to go where you want.’ . . . You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and bring him to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘You are free to compete with all the others.’”
“It is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity,” the president said. “All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.” This, Johnson concluded, was “the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just legal equity but human ability; not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and equality as a result.”
Johnson understood that ability can be “stretched or stunted” by the accident of birth — the family you are born into, the neighborhood you live in, the school you attend, the poverty or luxury of your surroundings. He noted the progress that had been made in the building of an African-American middle class. But for “the great majority of Negro Americans,” he said, “there is a much grimmer story. They still . . . are another nation.”
Johnson listed some of the “facts of this American failure.” What is stunning is how little progress has been made since.
Negro unemployment was twice as high as that of whites in 1965. It is twice as high as whites today.
Unemployment for African-American teenage boys had grown to 23 percent in 1965. Unemployment for black teenagers of both sexes is 42.6 percent today.
The median income of African-American families had dropped to 53 percent that of whites in 1965. It was 63 percent in 2011.
Johnson argued that while the causes of this disparity are complex, “we have to act.” He pushed for a war on poverty, for jobs, “decent homes in decent surroundings” and “an equal chance to learn.” Care for the sick, welfare and social programs “designed to hold families together are part of the answer.”
Sadly, Johnson’s war on poverty was lost in the forests of Vietnam. Tired of war, cynical about lies, weary of upheaval, Americans were said to suffer “compassion fatigue.”
No president has sounded the call since. The barriers Johnson vowed to shatter have remained. And even as African Americans discovered the ladders to the middle class were disappearing, middle-class Americans of all races found themselves starting to lose their own footing.
Five decades later, legal segregation is behind us. Medgar Evers would be pleased to see African Americans admitted to the University of Mississippi. African Americans voted in higher percentages than whites in 2012 for the first time ever. But the work of what Johnson called “the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights” — equal economic opportunity — remains to be done.
Keep up with Rev. Jackson and the work of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition at www.rainbowpush.org.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 01:44
Category: Your Voice Written by Robert S. Weiner and Nakia Gladden
The nation’s media are transfixed with obsessive coverage of Hillary Clinton’s role (there was none) in the talking points on the Benghazi deaths, IRS oversight of Tea Party groups’ tax deductions (the same way they asked liberal groups including the NAACP), the Justice Department’s demand for AP’s phone records concerning leaks on Yemeni terrorists (after Congress demanded the investigation of the leaks); and the press properly wants to know about Syria, sex abuse in the military, drones, and Guantanamo.
Meanwhile, what about jobs? That’s the real problem that will define our future success as a country for the rest of this century, and it is a question Rep. John Conyers is asking. The silence has been deafening. At the president’s news conferences, which we attended this week and last week, there was not a single question from the media about jobs.
Despite the Dow reaching all-time highs, the number of jobs available has had no such luck. “Are we in the midst of a jobless recovery?” asked MSNBC’s Chuck Todd last week on “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment is at 7.5%. Though that is the lowest it has been in the last four years, the U.S.post-World War II norm is about 5% unemployment and has often been at 4% or under.
Michigan’s unemployment rate is a staggering 8.5%. Michigan tops the list for African Americans who are unemployed at 18.7%.
What are the major factors contributing to the slow recovery of jobs in the US? Outsourcing is at the top of the list. Shipping jobs overseas for cheaper labor hinders the opportunity for job growth. Moreover, based on recent tragic events in Bangladesh’s and China’s factories, lives would be saved because companies would be regulated under U.S. standards. Unfortunately, major companies would prefer to increase their profit margins than to make those jobs available for Americans who need them. Yet U.S. company profits are not at issue; they are at all time records. It’s our jobs — the factor which helps most American families — that are at low numbers.
There is a glimmer of hope, however. Last week the president began a series what he calls the “Middle Class Job and Opportunity Tours.” According to White House spokesman Josh Earnest, the president will visit cities exhibiting job growth to “learn what has helped them become successful and use these models of growth to encourage Congress to act.” He launched his first events in Austin, Texas and Baltimore, Maryland. Although it is a start, we need more than stump speeches, we need immediate action.
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, has reintroduced his Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act and is creating a Jobs Caucus. The act is a “jobs-for-all bill that would create millions of new fast track jobs and allocate billions of dollars for job training.” The bill currently has 35 cosponsors and counting. Hopefully, Conyers can use the same noise and clamor he used for the single payer health care bill. He made the president’s health bill a better one. He can do the same on jobs by making sure that they get included on the agenda and not just debt, deficit, austerity and rich tax breaks.
Conyers is pressing the issue. At his weekly jobs strategy meeting, where he pulls in national, Michigan and Detroit organizations and leaders, he said that every time he sees the president — and Obama listens since Conyers was the first congressman to endorse him —Conyers tells him, “Jobs should be the number one concern. Full employment is the single most important issue on the agenda. Jobs are the way the economy will improve, and government emphasizing employment is the way for families to come out of poverty and joblessness.” End the debt by jobs and productivity, not by cutting programs, says Conyers.
Conyers is also concerned about the social ramifications of high unemployment rates. He says, “When jobs go up, crime goes down. Alcohol and drug use also go down.”
Once again, later this summer, the debt ceiling rears its ugly head. Jobs do not seem to be at the top of the agenda of most in Congress; they are focused more on the deficit, tax cuts and program cuts, a spiral which we and Europe have seen in the past and now makes everything worse. We need jobs, not austerity. Lest anyone think John Conyers, despite his incredible history, is not out there pitching, they should see his high energy, constant meetings and leadership discussions pushing jobs onto the national agenda.
Robert Weiner is a former White House spokesman in the Clinton administration and former chief of staff for Cong. Claude Pepper(D-FL),spokesman for the House Government Operations Committee, and senior staff for Cong. John Conyers (D-MI), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Ed Koch (D-NY), and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). He wrote the epilogue to Bankole Thompson’s groundbreaking book, “Obama and Christian Loyalty.” Nakia Gladden is policy and research analyst for Solutions for Change.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 May 2013 14:45
Category: Your Voice Written by Rev. Jesse Jackson
When President Obama and the first lady travel to Africa at the end of this month, they will receive a rapturous greeting. The president’s deep roots in Kenya, the land of his father, resonate throughout the continent. His success in the United States evokes pride and joy in Africa.
I write this from Nigeria, a country that has just celebrated its 14th year of democracy. President Obama’s election enabled Africans to see America in a new light. I hope his visit will enable Americans to see Africa with new eyes.
We know the problems of Africa: its poverty, corruption and conflict. After 246 years of the slave trade, 100 years of colonialism, African suffering and struggle are known. But perhaps the president’s visit will enable us to see the possibilities.
Africa is the second-largest continent in the world, larger than China, the United States and Europe combined in land area. Its peoples number about one-eighth of the world’s population. It is a richly endowed continent, providing some 22 percent of the world’s gold, 55 percent of its diamonds, and 12.5 percent of its oil. Seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa. It is still marked by poverty, but extreme poverty has been declining at about 1 percent a year.
Nigeria has twice the population of any other African country. It is growing at 7 percent a year, and will be Africa’s largest economy within the decade. It is a major supplier of oil to the U.S., and potentially a major trading partner. Nigeria’s GDP is three times that of any other West African country. It is the largest destination for foreign direct investment on the continent. It sends 7,100 students to the U.S. for university programs. Its democracy is taking root. The sun is rising in this land of potential.
Nigeria still has deep challenges to overcome. Its infrastructure is outmoded; its health care and education systems inadequate; corruption remains a curse, and 60 percent of the population remains below the poverty line. Like many African countries, it struggles with an exodus of professionals.
The president will visit Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa with a large delegation of business leaders and investors. Tanzania and Senegal are among the fastest-growing economies on the continent. The U.S. is not the only country interested in these new possibilities. The president will arrive in Tanzania three months after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit. Americans will get a new understanding of how aggressively China has reached out to Africa, providing aid, investments and securing supplies of oil and other raw materials. For economic, national security and humanitarian concerns, America has every reason to open up closer ties with the nations on that continent.
Independent Africa is still young. It was only 57 years ago when Kwame Nkrumah founded Ghana, its first independent nation. Now there are young, growing democracies, moving from the struggle for independence to the struggle for legitimate governance and economic development. Think of the United States 50 years after its historic revolution. Our institutions were still being formed; we were still trading in slaves, denying women equal rights, headed toward a violent civil war.
Democracy and development are roads with twists and turns. In Africa, as the president’s visit will expose, the turns are now positive. We would be well advised to contribute to the progress, to invest in the promise, and to bolster the push for human rights, development and democracy.
Keep up with Rev. Jackson and the work of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition at www.rainbowpush.org.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 June 2013 02:04
Category: Your Voice Written by Brent Wilkes
By many accounts, the economy is prospering again and the housing market is on the road to recovery. But, reality is nowhere near as comforting as fiction, and the facts point to a very different reality faced by working families and minority communities, especially in the barrios.
The Great Recession pushed millions of willing workers off the labor force, put many others in lower paying or multiple jobs, and communities are still reeling from assets lost.
At a time when we should be discussing how to stimulate our economy and job growth, many policymakers seem to only want to discuss how to mimic European austerity measures.
The regressive nature of our economic recovery has not gone unnoticed in our communities. We hear it every day from friends and family members, and in Washington D.C. we see it in reports like the one issued by Joseph A. Smith, who heads the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight.
Smith oversees the agreement between 49 state attorneys general and the nation’s largest lenders to provide up to $25 billion in relief to borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure.
Yet, his report shows that many lenders are instead pushing homeowners to sell, resolving subordinated debt entanglements to drive owners toward short sales, and avoiding principal modifications at all costs.
More recently, attorneys general detailed how lenders grossly underreported the extent of their fraud and misdealing.
There is no shortage of scathing reviews that show lenders dragging their feet on modifying mortgages, and regulators fumbling their responsibilities while trusting those very same lenders to police themselves.
The fact is that housing is hot again and investors want inventory. Which inventory exactly? Those would be the homes that were previously or are currently owned by modest wage families and across many communities of color. There is also a big investor driven effort to commercialize renting. If you think that’s a good idea, ask working families in Providence, Rhode Island where it is all too common for families to spend, at a minimum, fifty percent of their take home pay on rent.
There’s no doubt that banks are working hard to settle liabilities to process more foreclosures, and many more homeowners that may yet lose their home as the allure of profits take hold.
What is so frustrating is that there is so much the government could do to provide relief, like utilizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for principal reductions and modifications, but holdovers of the Bush Administration refuse to act.
Indeed, regulators and agencies on the front lines of housing finance have so little diversity within their ranks that it is not even clear that they genuinely understand the plight of ordinary citizens, and especially minorities. That can be seen in proposed changes that would benefit Wall Street over Main Street, raise down payments and make it more difficult for anyone except the wealthiest to own a home. From policies that have already been approved like the Qualified Residential Mortgage rule to ideas like privatizing Fannie and Freddie, these all undermine the American Dream of homeownership that is so important to working wage families.
We need positive solutions, and increasing the inventory of affordable rental housing is absolutely important, but it should compliment the policies that allow families to own a home, build roots in their community and depend on those assets for their children’s education, starting a business and retirement.
There are too many private interests actively lobbying to privatize the GSEs and therefore carve out the most profitable pieces, like multifamily, for themselves. At the same time, they want to shift the government guarantee from GSEs to instead guaranteeing large too-big-to-fail financial institutions.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 May 2013 14:41
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!