As a recently retired and transitioned political warrior once confided to me, “We, as a people, must change the current political paradigm we operate in, or else accept the inevitable marginalization of our interests that will undoubtedly occur. We can only do that collectively, strategically and with consistency.”
That inexorably leads to the persistent question: does the California Black population need a Black political agenda? That is a perplexing, relentless question that needs to be addressed and addressed now.
Not a people of color agenda. Not a diversity or minority group agenda. No, the question is do we need a specifically Black Agenda. And if we do, why?
Is it because while we are all part of several interest groups in our daily lives–women’s groups, student groups, class–interest groups, union groups, etc.,–the group that we did not choose and that is a constant in our daily engagements, is our Blackness? As Ralph Ellison once said, there is no shame in recognizing the fact of being Black. There is only shame in once having been ashamed of it. We are disrespected because we are Black. We are profiled and imprisoned because we are Black. According to Kenneth Clarke’s duplicated and modernized doll study, very young children are yet being taught that the darker the hue, the uglier and more non-preferred is the child. The recent Dorner case was surely about being Black.
By the way, for those still looking for a solid analytical explanation of what the hell was going on with all that, please refer to the 1968 William Grier and Price Cobb classic, “Black Rage.”
So, do we need a Black Political Agenda in California to organize ourselves around, and to serve as a social-political reference point? Without one, will we keep acting as if we are in this alone? We still keep trying to swim upstream in hostile, oily waters as if we can make it by ourselves and as if we will be judged and evaluated fairly, based on our individual merit.
Neon bulletin folks: We are not in a post-racial society, as any non-self deluded African American will tell you if asked any time of day or night.
Race is not only still a factor, it is still THE dominant factor in socio-political-economic affairs in this state and in this country.
Should it be said that in general, to win any significant battle, or to overturn and replace any established paradigm, there must be a solid, agreed-upon strategic plan? If that is the case, then shouldn’t such a plan for us, within the political context of this discussion, have to be based on a Black Agenda in order to know where to go, what to fight for, how to evaluate gains and losses, and how to determine a lesson for future action from a chance aberration?
In politics, interest group agendas poorly articulated, badly or negligently advocated, and weakly, if at all, defended, simply get no play. Those interests are not in the game and cannot win. Votes from Black folks are then not associated with benefits for Black folks, even when the successful candidates are Black. The votes are respected, but not the Black voters providing them nor are their needs and wants well considered.
The California Black Think Tank located in Southern California (and meeting monthly at the Africa House), and now also represented by the new Council of Black Political Organizations (COBPO) has come up with such a California Black Agenda. Go to www.cobpo.org to see it. A few of its essentials are below. The stand taken by both groups is that in order not to become politically irrelevant in a state in which the Black population is increasing in sheer numbers, but substantially decreasing in its proportion of the overall state population as that body grows larger, the Black community must get better organized and it must get more clear-visioned. The Black community will not be saved by accidental circumstances; it will only be saved from political oblivion to progress to its full potential by its own devices. Black folks can wait for Godot all we want. He/she is not coming to rescue us.
Having a comprehensive California Black Agenda will include:
A. In PUBLIC EDUCATION, we need to increase the positive value of education among Black youth, adjust positively to the increasing Latino presence in schools, increase the presence of Black teachers and staff in the schools, decrease the percentage of Black youth sent into Special Education and Remedial Programs, and increase the numbers and percent of Black youth graduating, among other things. President Obama has recently issued an Executive Order establishing a Black Youth Educational Initiative. We need to work with him on it and take advantage of any opportunities for positive advancement that comes out of it.
B. In the POLITICAL-SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT, we need to increase the political literacy of the California Black population. We need to maintain the political status quo in elective circles while we simultaneously expand our base (has anyone noticed who is running for what office lately who also looks like us?). We also need to establish and maintain an annual series of Black Youth Leadership workshops or academies in various parts of the state, and we need to maintain scrutiny of, monitor, and defend against any public policy choices that decrease Black political influence in California, among other things.
A concise and effective Black Agenda also includes business and economic development, community health and wellness, and dealing with the Criminal Justice system and Black families.
Again, we can wait, or we can do. Waiters too often are left in the desert to expire. A mere word to the wise.
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.
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