- Created on 03 April 2013
On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stepped to the podium of the Riverside Church in New York to vigorously proclaim his opposition to the War in Vietnam. It was one of the most powerful orations among numerous remarkable speeches delivered during his brief but extraordinary life.
In articulating a persuasive moral and practical framework for his stance, Dr. King said: “… I knew America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and attack it as such.”
Equally disturbing for King was the disproportionate impact of the war not only on the poor but specifically young Black men. He went on to say: “We were taking the Black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”
Dr. King’s decision to visibly and vocally oppose the War in Vietnam was no doubt complicated by the fact that the war was being promoted, prosecuted and defended by Lyndon Baines Johnson, the president who had courageously responded to Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery March by working for and signing the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965. President Johnson was viewed as a friend of civil rights and social programs favorable to poor and working people. Nonetheless, King saw the Vietnam as an ill-conceived and immoral war that would ultimately undermine the quest for social, economic and racial justice. Therefore, principle and conscience demanded that he not be silent even in opposition to a president who had signed milestone civil rights legislation.
It is in that same spirit, that on April 4, 2013, a group of social justice, drug and criminal justice policy reform advocates will intensify the demand for an end to the War on Drugs and mass incarceration and call on President Obama to invest resources to revitalize America’s “dark ghettos.” Just as Dr. King saw the War in Vietnam as wasting massive resources on an ill- conceived and immoral war, drug and criminal justice reform analysts, experts and advocates have concluded that the War on Drugs is a flawed strategy complete with a contemporary “demonic suction tube” which has wasted billions of dollars that could and should have been used to invest in distressed urban communities. Equally distressing, as Michelle Alexander brilliantly documents in her classic book The New Jim Crow, the War on Drugs is a racially biased policy/strategy targeting and disproportionately devastating Black and Brown communities. As the brothers and sisters in the “hood” say, “the war on drugs is a war on us.”
How else can we make sense of the fact that African Americans make up an estimated 15 percent of drug users, but account for 27 percent of those arrested on drug charges, 59 percent of those convicted and 74 percent of all drug offenders sentenced to prison.
The War on Drugs, policing, criminalization and mass incarceration have become substitutes for social, economic and racial justice in America’s dark ghettos. The damages to our communities have been devastating – and it must end.
As we gather in Dr. King’s memory on April 4 this year, our charge must be to call on President Obama to exercise leadership by proclaiming to the nation that it is time to end the War on Drugs and treat the crisis of drugs as a public health rather than criminal justice issue – a dramatic paradigm shift which, at a minimum, will lead to decriminalization of marijuana, increased funding for drug education and treatment, and a national dialogue on the desirability and feasibility of regulating and taxing drugs.
It is time for President Barack Obama to have the audacity to declare a state of emergency in urban inner-city areas, where millions of Black people are suffering and struggle to survive. It is a moral and political crisis that demands direct, targeted economic and social policies and programs to create wholesome, sustainable communities. The president and the nation have reacted as if there is no face to the millions who are suffering in the “dark ghettos” of this land. These millions do have a face and it is overwhelmingly Black.
On April 4, we will honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his opposition to the Vietnam War and his call for an Economic Bill of Rights. We hope President Obama and the nation will heed our call and the walls of ignorance, indifference, hostility, blatant and benign neglect, racial bias and injustice will come tumbling down, clearing the way for the rescue and revitalization of the urban inner-city neighborhoods/communities in this country.
- Created on 03 April 2013
Thomas Boston, noted economist and author of Affirmative Action and Black Entrepreneurship, in which he called for a strategy that would establish and grow Black-owned businesses to the point of having the capacity to employ 20 percent of the Black workforce by the year 2010. Aptly titled, “Twenty by Ten” – A strategy for Black Business and Employment Growth in the Next Century,” Boston’s charge was right on point, especially since he wrote it in 1999.
When I read his book, “Twenty by Ten” seemed very doable to me. After all, we had 10 years to make it happen, not to mention the fact that if we implemented his plan, Black folks would be well on our way to a higher level of economic self-sufficiency. What an idea, I thought to myself; I was certain government officials and businesses sectors would jump on that idea and bring it to fruition.
Well, it’s been 13 years since Professor Boston called for “Twenty by Ten” and sadly, according to the last economic census, of the 1,197,864 Black firms, only 106,566 were employer firms, and they employed just 909,552 workers. Of course, we know all of those employees are not Black. Thus, we are shamefully behind Boston’s ideal, and according to a recent poll, we are not only behind we are seeking every solution except the one that he put forth in 1999.
The poll was commissioned by Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET, multiple business owner, and employer of many. Titled “Black Opinions in the Age of Obama,” and conducted by Zogby Analytics, the poll brought forth some very interesting responses from Black people. The area I will address in this column is Black employment.
When asked why they believed the Black unemployment rate was double that of Whites, respondents’ answers included, failure of the education system for minorities/African Americans, lack of corporate commitment to hiring minorities/African Americans, and a lack of good government policies.
When asked why the wealth gap has increased by $70,000 over the last 20 years, nearly half (47 percent) of respondents said that both the lack of jobs and a lack of access to capital were to blame for the wealth gap between Whites and African Americans. When respondents were asked if they have ever been overlooked or felt discounted as a serious contender for employment because they were Black, nearly half (47 percent) replied “Yes.”
While the answers are all valid and reasonable, I was struck by the absence of any response that suggested what Thomas Boston called for over a decade ago: More Black businesses hiring more Black people. There was a noticeable lack of onus put “on us” when the subject turned to unemployment and wealth creation/retention.
I am not trying to wrap all of our problems into a neat little package called “Twenty by Ten,” but I am attempting to point out a flaw in our thinking and a gap in our own responsibility toward Black economic empowerment. Yes, we have need of solutions to the many problems we face, but many can be resolved if we would follow the perfectly sensible business model of starting and growing more Black businesses to the point of having the capacity to hire more Black people.
Yes, the government has a role to play. Yes, the private sector has a role to play. But what is our role? I am so tired of hearing so-called leaders beg for “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” from folks who are too busy taking care of their own to worry about us. It drives me crazy that there is no call for “Businesses! Businesses! Businesses!” We must get back to common sense strategies for growth of the Black economy, which means we must produce more, or at least just as much, as we consume. And, we must hire more of our people. Others certainly have an obligation to hire us as well, no doubt. But we cannot keep chanting slogans and begging them without, at the same time, building and growing our own employment base.
Professor Boston noted, “Without question, economic inclusion is the next civil rights frontier…promoting the growth of Black owned business means reducing society’s unemployment burden, providing jobs where they are most needed and improving the income status of people who are too often trapped below the poverty line. Because the economy can grow as a result of economic inclusion, everyone can benefit.” According to Bob Johnson’s survey, many Black people believe we should remain the “included” rather than the “includers.”
Let’s look inward as well as outward for solutions to our problems. Let’s have our own economic inclusion policy by dusting off “Twenty by Ten” and renaming it “Twenty by Twenty.”
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.
- Created on 02 April 2013
The top Black Republicans in the country recently joined Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as he honored “Black Republican Trailblazers” in his latest attempt to make inroads into the Black community. During the event at the National Republican Club of Capitol Hill, Priebus put the party’s strong suit on parade.
In saluting “Black Enterprise” Priebus paid homage to Republican role models William T. Coleman and Robert J. Brown, chairman and CEO of B&C Associates, Inc. Coleman is a former U.S. Secretary of Transportation under Gerald Ford and Brown is a former presidential aide to Richard Nixon. Both trailblazers have made immeasurable contributions toward Blacks doing business in America. When it comes to the business of America, the GOP has no political peer. Capitalism is a key Republican Party pillar and these trailblazers made great marks on Black Americans’ businesses and opportunities.
During President Richard Nixon’s tenure in office, Brown served as the White House’s liaison in Black communities. In ways not occurring today, Brown dealt with issues related to civil rights legislation, funding for jobs, Black colleges and inner-city housing. As Blacks became frustrated with economic conditions that didn’t improve despite advancements in civil rights, the Nixon administration addressed economic empowerment by sponsoring strong minority business initiatives. Before and after his stint at the White House, Brown retained his standing as a successful businessman. He founded B&C in 1960.
During the 1950s, Coleman helped President Dwight D. Eisenhower increase minority hiring in the government, something he also did while serving as Secretary of Transportation. He co-authored the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s brief on Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education. He successfully argued cases that compelled the admission of Blacks into segregated universities.
The event’s keynote speaker happened to be the owner of the country’s largest African-American-owned business. David L. Steward, is chairman and founder of World Wide Technology, Inc. (WWT), a top Black Enterprise business. WWT is a systems integration company based in St. Louis. The company employs more than 1,700 people and operates more than 2,000,000-square-feet of warehousing, distribution and integration space in 21 facilities throughout the world. WWT’s 2011 revenue was $4.1 billion. Former President George H.W. Bush said Steward’s “story of success epitomizes the American Dream and … an inspiration to us all.”
Chairman Priebus is set on “taking the Republican message to the streets.” The question is: How receptive will Blacks be? Republicans like and applaud entrepreneurs. The GOP hierarchy appreciates job generators and creators. Historically, the Republicans believe in personal responsibility and actions, and that all material things are earned, not owed. They believe private spending is usually more efficient than public spending and that the private sector and/or the individual are better suited to control their own lives. There should be a way for African Americans and the Republicans to get together.
Black party members want Priebus to change the party’s performance with minority voters. African-American RNC National Committeeman Glenn McCall of South Carolina told the gathering of Black Baby Boomers and Millennials that, “The Republican Party must compete in every state and every region, building relationships with communities we haven’t before … as we must stop talking about ‘reaching out’ and start ‘welcoming in.’” North Carolina’s Black RNC National Committeewoman Ada Fisher said: “Republicans must be willing to go into local minority communities and hold town hall meetings and banter. … It’s time to advocate for issues and causes that directly affect minority populations … and staff to tout and pursue Blacks.”
A Black Republican in personal and political ascent is conservative commentator and entrepreneur, Armstrong Williams. A protégée of Brown, Williams emphasized that GOP values mirror those of many enterprising Blacks in America who support: “safe families, good education and economic empowerment.” Williams commented that “There are many conservative Blacks … disgruntled with President Obama … We need to hook up with them to initiate business principles and practices that work.” Williams used the occasion to announce the acquisition of two television stations: WEYI-TV in the Flint/Saginaw/Michigan and WWMB-TV in the Myrtle Beach/Florence, S.C. area.
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.
- Created on 02 April 2013
- Created on 02 April 2013
“No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”
– Voting Rights Act of 1965
During recent Supreme Court oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, Justice Antonin Scalia called a key part of the Voting Rights Act – Section 5 – a “racial entitlement.” Section 5 requires that the Justice Department or a federal court “pre-clear” any changes made to voting procedures by covered jurisdictions to ensure they do not “deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race or color.”
This act was established to fix a broken system, and it remains relevant today. As long as blatant voter suppression measures such as voter ID laws and district gerrymandering are being used to keep certain groups from the polls, the Voting Rights Act – in its entirety – remains necessary. And to clear up any confusion that Justice Scalia has or anyone who found merit in his argument: Voting “rights” are indeed that – a right guaranteed to every citizen of the United States. They are not a special privilege. They are not a gift. And they certainly don’t constitute a “racial entitlement.”
Justice Scalia’s comments are a shameful reiteration of a right-wing political interpretation of the Constitution. The Voting Rights Act was a response to an inarguably unjust and unfair system for voting in this country.
Prior to the Voting Rights Act, millions of African Americans, primarily in the South, were forced to run a gauntlet of “voting qualifications or prerequisites,” including ludicrous literacy tests, discriminatory poll taxes, and other bureaucratic restrictions. And when those measures failed, Blacks were routinely subjected to intimidation, economic sanctions, beatings and even murder. The 1964 murders of three voting rights activists at the hands of Mississippi Klansmen and the March 7, 1965 Bloody Sunday beating of peaceful voting rights marchers in Selma by Alabama State troopers are horrific examples.
While there has been undeniable progress since 1965, voting rights abuses are still sadly a part of the American electoral landscape. In fact, every presidential election of this new century has been plagued by voting problems – from “hanging chads,” to Tea Party-backed campaigns of Election Day intimidation to new voter ID restrictions. Cut backs in early voting even led to a Florida woman, 102-year-old Desiline Victor, having to stand in line for three hours to vote in November’s presidential election.
The Voting Rights Act, and specifically its Section 5 preclearance provisions, is still needed to protect against such abuses. While Justice Scalia is either confused or misguided in his characterization of the right to vote as a racial entitlement, Congress upheld this basic right in 2006 by overwhelmingly reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. House Speaker, John Boehner said at the time, “The Voting Rights Act has been an effective tool in protecting a right that is fundamental to our democracy and renewing this landmark law will ensure that each and every citizen can continue to exercise their right to vote without the threat of intimidation or harassment.” We intend to hold Speaker Boehner to those words. If the Supreme Court declares any part of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, Congress will have a final chance to keep Section 5 alive.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.