Last week, in the aftermath of the re-election of President Obama, and a very good Election Day for Democrats, a questioner on radio station KJLH’s “Front Page” community talk show asked when we were going to call for a town hall meeting to discuss creating a Black political agenda. The question was related to the common belief that many other groups, including Latinos, the LGBT community, Jews and Asian Americans, were clearly readying themselves to advocate and push their interests to the Obama administration and to other representatives. Given that African Americans had voted 93 percent for the president’s re-election, weren’t we going to ask anything substantive of President Obama within the next four years?
This was a reasonable question, and I answered it by reminding the listening audience that, indeed, in October-December 2010, there had been a series of town hall meetings in Los Angeles to craft at least a California Black political agenda, and from 2006-2010, there had been a series of meetings of a Black think tank group at California State University, Dominguez Hills, regarding the same issue. A California Black Agenda has been generated, agreed upon, and publicly promulgated. Included are items in public education, the political-social environment, business and economic development, community health and wellness, and the criminal justice system.
At this point, the next question in the process may be, how do we best implement this agenda?
(Although, clearly, it needs better public dissemination.) To see it, readers can go to www.cobpo.org, and on the home page click on “A Summary of a California Black Agenda.”
A nagging question in my mind throughout the creation of this version of a Black agenda that may also need addressing at this time: Is it even possible to create a single set of focused issues to be resolved for all Black Americans, when, in reality, there is not and has not been a single African American community in California, nor in America, for a very long time?
Communities are defined mainly by the existence of common interests. Based on that, and the political fact that skin color is not an interest, there is no single African American community in the USA. There was briefly one community created in the 1850s by the Fugitive Slave Law that made all Blacks not carrying proper identification papers when accosted by anybody White subject to arrest and being quickly sent up or down river to a slave plantation. There was also a brief time during Reconstruction, but not since then. There is a common Black Experience, which is the foundation of Black American culture, but what is generally called the Black community is in reality a consolidation of several various Black communities, including the Black landownership elite, aka, the Black boule; the Black professional community (doctors, lawyers, school presidents, etc.); the Black business community, the Black poor; the Black working poor; the Black Incarcerated and formerly incarcerated; the Black military community; the Black homeless community; the Black educational community, including students; the Black gay and lesbian community, and the Black musicians, artists and entertainment community, etc.
Each of those communities has needs, desires and common interests that may be exacerbated by melanized skin, but are not completely defined by that situation. The Black elite, for example, is much more interested in whether the capital gains tax rate is increased, and whether the taxes for upper-income Americans are increased in the coming days, than, for example, the Black working poor, or the Black incarcerated.
So, are there really issues in common to all or most African American communities? Are we, for instance, all interested in improving the education of African American students, although those with substantial means already do generally better in that regard? Are we all negatively affected by the general tenor of healthcare disparities that affect Black folk in America? Do we all care about the maximum-minimum sentencing disparities that have put so many Black youth in prison for long stretches of time?
Clearly, we need to answer these questions, and we need to answer them soon. We cannot promulgate a Black Agenda that confuses rather than elucidates, and we cannot promote a disjointed document that looks like we did not do our homework.
We also should not shrink from advocating, articulating and defending what we need from Mr. Obama’s last four years. Failure to strategically act within this important time frame should be unforgivable on our part. So, let’s get to work. We need less talk, and more concerted action or what action to take.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
DISCLAIMER: The beliefs and viewpoints expressed in opinion pieces, letters to the editor, by columnists and/or contributing writers are not necessarily those of OurWeekly.