- Created on 13 May 2013
“Brighter days are ahead.”
“The check is being put in the mail.”
That is what the Republicans seem to be saying after they released their “Growth and Opportunity Project” report in March. Six months after Republicans took a drubbing in the 2012 elections, GOP National Committee Chair Reince Priebus announced a $10 million outreach program to seek more minorities as members.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) provides national leadership for the Party. It is responsible for developing and promoting the Republican political platform, coordinating fundraising and election strategy. The problem for Priebus and the party is that the RNC is often viewed as “an old White guy’s club” that is unsympathetic to the needs of Blacks and minorities.
So, in March, Priebus decided that it was time for the party to “call Tyrone.” In past months, the Republicans set new goals for “outreach” and their spring meeting was to “focus on putting the party on a path to fulfill” their goals. The agenda for the RNC’s spring conference called for strategy sessions and workshops on voter outreach and party coordination.
The “Growth and Opportunity Project” chided the Republicans for not dealing with “shifting” voter demographics. Just after the “Growth and Opportunity Project” was announced, the RNC tapped Raffi Williams, son of TV newscaster, Juan, to be an African-American press contact with a focus on youth outlets. During the spring meeting in Hollywood, Calif., the RNC announced hiring Asian and Pacific Island field and communications directors and election of a state party director “to support and empower the work of grassroots activists and volunteers.” There are reports that “some RNC members discussed working with minority media” in their quest.
In past months, the Republicans haven’t actually called Tyrone, and have stepped back from the heady days of the “Growth and Opportunity Project” announcement. Short of sending checks in the mail to Black voters, the Republicans face long odds connecting with them. Unless, the Grand Ole Party expands its level of electoral support, it could slide into complete irrelevance.
Bottom line is the Republicans will need minority media to develop meaningful relationships and channels of communication to change Black Americans attitudes. The way Republicans make inroads among African Americans is to help them gain weight in their wallets. Priebus and Company need to take public policy positions that have potential to advance Blacks’ interests. As they make their way through the “hood,” Republicans can make much of the fact that Black population, uptown and in suburbia, have always done well economically under their governance. Under Republicans, Blacks could again know political reciprocity like they did the last time they supported a Republican presidential ticket in any sizeable numbers, and gave Richard Nixon more than 30 percent of their vote. Nixon, in turn, generated millions of dollars through Black-oriented programs and projects.
In 2012, just 5 percent of African Americans considered themselves Republicans. And Republicans need to do more than shout slogans to gain higher numbers of African American registrants. It’s time greater numbers of Blacks and Republicans align in projects that generate mutual benefits. Such alliances can repair and bring new successes to Black communities. In the past, Republican practices have helped empower Blacks – from President Lincoln’s Emancipation to Booker T. Washington’s post-slavery practices of commerce to Richard Nixon’s endorsements for “minority enterprise.”
Even a slight GOP inroad among Blacks could swing a state or two in close 2014 elections and the 2016 presidential contest. The promotion of the Republican brand among Black Americans requires messages that connect with the realities of Black life in America. As opposed to tepid trials of the past, the GOP’s chiefs and corps have to move quickly to have a meaningful presence among Blacks, and at their community events and cultural ceremonies.
The RNC should have no reservations in chronicling that they’ve “made progress” in mending relationships with African Americans; but for the party to be viable on the national stage so much more needs to be done.
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.
- Created on 13 May 2013
The Senate’s Gang of Eight have put together an 844-page monstrosity known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, legislation that President Obama says he “basically approves” of. This essentially unreadable bill was put together by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Michael Bennett (D-Col.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.).
On its surface, the bill provides much-needed relief to many of the 11 million undocumented people who live in our country. The challenge is that it disadvantages some immigrants, especially African and Caribbean immigrants, while helping others.
Further, the Senators crafting the bill put goodies into the bill that only serve to advantage themselves or their states. Senator Lindsay Graham wants more visas for the meat packing industry. Senator Charles Schumer provided special provisions for Irish people with a high school diploma (why?), Senator Marco Rubio, the much touted possible presidential candidate in 2016, asked for more visas for the cruise ship industry, and Senators Michael Bennett wants more visas for workers in ski resorts.
Meanwhile, the legislation would eliminate the Diversity Visa Program, which allows a visa lottery for countries that have low levels (less than 50,000 people) of immigration to the United States. Many African immigrants come here through this program (Ghana and Nigeria each had 6,000 immigrants through this program in 2011; African immigrants are 36 percent of those receiving diversity visas). Thus, while Senator Schumer pushes for special provisions for Irish immigrants, there is no one on the Senate side pushing for special provisions for African and Caribbean immigrants.
Instead of the Diversity Visa Program, the Senate Bill 744 creates between 120,000 and 200,000 visas on a “merit based” system, which gives highest priority to those who have future employment opportunities. Because employers do not seek out African and Caribbean immigrants for employees (as they seek out Indian and Chinese employees), the merit-based point system is likely to provide fewer opportunities for those from Africa and the Caribbean. Senator Schumer’s special provision for the Irish carries no stipulation that these people be employed, essentially granting them a pass from the merit-based point system.
Many hi-tech companies use the H-1B visa program on the grounds that there is a shortage of skilled workers in the United States. There is evidence that this claim is specious and that employers prefer foreign workers who they can pay less and control more. The new legislation will prevent employers from holding workers hostage because their continuing employment is necessary in order to keep their visa. The new legislation gives H-1B 60 days to find a new job. But why do we have H-1B visas at all. With unemployment over 7 percent, and Black unemployment over 13 percent, surely there are unemployed people who could work effectively in technology companies. Howard University economist Bill Sprigs has written that there are proportionately more African American students majoring in computer science than White. Many of these graduates cannot find jobs. Meanwhile, African and Caribbean immigrants get just a small percentage of H-1B visas.
The Immigration Modernization bill will spend $4.5 billion in an attempt to secure the southern border, which will “secure” our country from Mexican immigrants, but ignores the northern border, which makes our country more open to Canadian immigration. Of course, Canadian immigrants are more likely to be White, and thus less feared, than Mexican immigrants. The Congressional Black Caucus is one of many groups that suggest that this $4.5 billion could be more effectively spent, perhaps on STEM education.
The immigration bill is by no means final. The House of Representatives still has to vote on it, and many of them will add amendments and exceptions to take care of their “pet” causes. Meanwhile, President Obama has been urging Democrats to accept the immigration bill as it is, because too many amendments may jeopardize the bill. For example, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would like to propose an amendment that would allow gay Americans to sponsor their partners for green cards. The Judiciary Committee is likely to pass this amendment, but the whole Senate might not pass it.
President Obama has had a bad year, so far. He didn’t get his way on gun control, and he’s been kicked around by an obstructionist House of Representatives. He needs immigration reform to fulfill promises he made to the Latino community during his campaign. But the unwieldy 844-page piece of legislation contains lots of provisions that don’t pass the smell test. It makes it more difficult for African and Caribbean immigrants to become citizens of the United States.
The African American community must take a closer look at this legislation. If Senator Schumer can give 10,000 Irish immigrants the open door, how many Africans and Caribbeans will he make exceptions for? At the very minimum, Congress should restore the Diversity Visa program. The bill is called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. Exactly who will have more economic opportunity? And is immigration really being modernized when it locks foreign-born Black people out of the process?
Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.
- Created on 10 May 2013
Anyone despairing that Congress can’t get anything done should note last week’s swift vote to get furloughed air traffic controllers back to work. Congress can move very quickly and efficiently when it wants to and when its own comfort and that of constituents well-off enough to fly was affected.
Reduced unemployment benefits, children dropped suddenly from Head Start programs, poor mothers and babies losing food supplements, teacher layoffs, and cancelled meal deliveries for seniors didn’t move them—but airport delays as members headed out of town for their April recess were apparently unacceptable.
Poor 3- and 4-year-olds denied the early child development services that can help them succeed in life may not be able to call Congress, but we need to speak out for them to stop those cuts too. We know that eliminating a child’s early education investments now will increase his chance of going to prison later by 39 percent. And paying for that prison will cost all of us nearly three times more a year than it would have cost to provide him a quality early learning foundation to get ready for school. So I hope parents and grandparents and all of us will tell our members of Congress to “be careful what you cut” because some cuts create scars that last a lifetime and public costs that drive up budget as well as human capital deficits.
When Congress flies back next week they must stop the unjust across the board cuts imposed by sequestration. And the needed fix isn’t just moving around cuts from one part of a federal agency to another as Congress did with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Sequestration is dangerous policy that is hurting many children who are homeless and hungry, the unemployed, seniors, and others across the country. This slow death by a thousand indiscriminate cuts is hindering our still sluggish economic recovery. And while the jobs numbers released this week were better than expected, millions of Americans are unemployed and have been for long periods of time. Much greater improvements are needed with greater urgency. Sequestration must be repealed so that people already suffering in multiple ways from economic downturn are not hit further while they are already down.
The Coalition on Human Needs and others have been keeping close track of the impact of sequestration in local communities and have provided just a few examples of sequestration’s harmful effects:
- In Michigan, $150,000 in projected federal cuts to the Head Start program in Menominee, Delta, and Schoolcraft counties are forcing the closure of the program up to three and a half weeks early for 254 children and their families.
- College Station, Texas’s Head Start and Early Head Start will eliminate a 20-day summer instruction program because of a $99,000 sequestration cut. They will also reduce staff training, field trips, and food and eliminate child care for parents participating in training sessions.
- In Kentucky, the Jefferson County Public Schools are losing about $6 million in federal funding and projected cuts to Title I programs for low-income, special education, and Head Start children which could affect 300 teacher and staff positions, including reading tutors and other intervention specialists who help these children catch up.
- The Lebanon school district in Pennsylvania has a $334,000 shortfall from federal funding cuts for Title I schools even after the state provided extra funding to make up some of the sequestration cuts. School officials expect to lay off 20 elementary school teacher aides and will not fill vacancies for a literacy instructor and a 5th grade teacher. These cuts are on top of 22 positions eliminated in 2011.
- Starting April 28, about 400,000 long-term unemployed workers in California received a 17.7 percent cut in their federal unemployment benefits because of sequestration. The average weekly unemployment check of $297 in California faces an average payment cut of $52 a week. In February, California was tied with Nevada and Mississippi as having the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 9.6 percent.
- Faced with a nine percent sequestration cut, the Henry County Senior Center in western Illinois has shortened its transportation services for seniors by two hours per day, making it harder for them to schedule doctor appointments and food shopping. Worse, the center will need to cut back on some meal deliveries to homebound seniors according to Cassandra Schmoll, the center’s executive director.
- In New Orleans, a 17 percent decrease to the housing services budget meant the city was forced to rescind about 700 recently awarded Section 8 housing vouchers. According to officials, there were already 13,250 names on the waiting list.
- Approximately 3,400 AmeriCorps volunteers are expected to be cut, including 600 of the 8,000 AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, the service program designed to fight poverty. More than 1,600 seniors will lose Senior Companions who help prepare meals, drive them to medical appointments, and fill in for family caregivers. And 9,000 children will not be helped by Foster Grandparents who receive small stipends for mentoring youths in schools and juvenile justice and other community facilities.
These cuts are being or will be repeated in communities, counties, and states across our country along with cuts to legal aid societies, services for individuals with disabilities, and more.
While needlessly hurting those who need assistance most in this challenging economy, sequestration is also needlessly harming our national economic health by cutting benefits and jobs and causing furloughs.
The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan arbiter of budgetary impacts, estimated in February that sequestration will reduce gross domestic product growth in 2013 by 30 percent compared to what would have happened without the indiscriminate cuts. This is expected to cost the nation 750,000 jobs.
While today’s jobs numbers help assuage fears of a sharp economic slowdown, the fact is that with 11.7 million Americans unemployed in April of 2013 and an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent—the 52nd consecutive month of unemployment at or above 7.5 percent—any policy that cuts jobs is a policy we cannot afford.
Our Congressional leaders need to make better choices but enough citizens must demand they do so. Don’t we want to remove more people from the unemployment rolls? Don’t we want to prevent more children from falling deeper into poverty and further behind? Instead of indiscriminate cuts under the guise of deficit reduction, we need a comprehensive strategy that includes a mix of investing in job creation and early childhood development and learning supports; tax increases for the wealthiest; and spending cuts to non-vulnerable groups to help strengthen the economy and meet the needs of children today and prepare for tomorrow’s workforce and military and future economic growth.
Tomorrow is today, so contact your Representative and Senators and urge them to repeal sequestration, get about the real business of strengthening our economy, and to be careful what they cut.
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.
- Created on 10 May 2013
I call it The Hip Hop Dilemma. The symptoms are all around us. You hate the new direction Hip Hop is going in and you hate that the young boys are wearing tight jeans. Still, Hip Hop has a tremendous pull, something that you can’t ignore.
And if it’s a dilemma for our younger generation, imagine what it’s like for adults. Ask your mother or aunt what is their dilemma with Hip Hop and the question will ignite a long, drawn out conversation because in some way or another Hip Hop bothers them. Deeply.
I am writing this column, in part, because I want to help bridge the generation gap in our community. Just because our elders don’t like our music – and will admit that their elders didn’t like what they were playing when they were growing up – doesn’t mean I have to ascribe negative motives to them or they to us.
Civil Rights leaders just want us to use our power wisely and remember the battles from which we came. At the same time, the Hip Hop pioneers and legends just want to be recognized for their greatness and they want the true meaning of Hip Hop to be appreciated by all age groups.
True Hip Hop artists and fans have been preparing for the day real Hip Hop returns. In the meantime, a new school of young people are making their own way, making their own rules with the power that has been prematurely handed to them. .
What is Hip Hop?
If you ask most, it’s music gone wild. But it’s more than that. This art form represents a way of communicating – an attitude, a position, a swag, life lived freely. When people talk about Hip Hop, they say it’s a youth movement. This is our first dilemma. Hip Hop will be 39 years old this year (it began August 11, 1973). That was the age of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was assassinated in Memphis.
More than half of African Americans were born after Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at March on Washington. That was nearly 50 years ago! Instead of teaching the younger generation, some elders have left the youth to their own devices, expecting them to absorb the lessons of their movement without providing the needed guidance.
Consequently, some of our artists make missteps – Lil Wayne denigration of Emmitt Till is one example – because our music legends are not spending enough time with younger artists.
Who should be leading them?
Logically, legends such as Afrika Bambataa, Kool Herc, Grand Master Caz, Pebblee Poo, Roxanne Shante and Kangol Kid. They should be schooling the young people on respectful content, situations to avoid and direction. The Tru School artists like Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, KRS-ONE, Del La Soul Brand Nubian, and Monie Love should be the body of A&R’s who are nurturing the music we know and love at the record labels and the radio stations.
Young people naturally look to their elders for direction, but what do they see? Do they see someone they want to model themselves after? They don’t see benefit and prosperity in what their parents are telling them? Or, do they see broken homes and gun shots? They can’t help but see the legends trying to get back in the game, the real Hip Hop heads fighting the power, and no one with solutions.
Where else can you have a job making $300 million with no educational requirements, no drug testing, no prior experience and your only responsibility is to come up with a slick line that everybody in the hood will repeat.
Hip Hop teaches them they can stay true to themselves and represent who they are in the streets. The street is the place where they feel most comfortable because the streets are real with them; the streets don’t lie; the streets give them experiences that are relevant to the world they are growing up in. The schools are not teaching at the pace and in the language that these young people are learning and absorbing information. So Hip Hop music becomes their outlet like generations before but today there is no agenda, no demand for progress.
We therefore render our entire community defenseless when we allow major entities to use the power of money to entice our young people with a false sense of reality. We are fed images that represent attitudes and personalities of cookie cutter artists who have no vision, who have no morals and who have no idea what kind of damage they are causing. These artists, corporations, and record labels have access to the minds and ears of our most precious cargo. When we don’t step in and protect our children from harm in any form, we ourselves are an accessory to the crime.
This conversation will be continued next week.
- Created on 10 May 2013
For someone who seems to revel in being silent during the Supreme Court’s traditionally lively oral arguments – when a public display of his professional competence would be appropriate – Clarence Thomas’s out-of-court comments are extraordinarily revealing. They show a man whose exalted position has brought him no inner peace, a man who continues to see himself as being victimized by this or that person or cabal.
Last week, it came to light that during an early-April interview with C-SPAN, Thomas tried to diminish President Obama’s achievements. Asked about Obama’s being the nation’s first Black president, Thomas said, “I always knew that it would have to be a Black president who was approved by the elites and the media because anybody that they didn’t agree with, they would take apart.”
He went on to say “that will happen with virtually, you pick your person, any Black person who says something that is not the prescribed things that they expect from a Black person will be picked apart. You can pick anybody, don’t pick me, pick anyone who has decided not to go along with it. There’s a price to pay. So I always assumed it would be somebody the media had to agree with.”
Thomas didn’t identify which “elites” and which “media” he was referring to.
But presumably the latter doesn’t include Fox News or the Wall Street Journal and other conservative-leaning newspapers and publications nor the innumerable conservative pundits and talk-show jockeys that have been hammering Obama since he won the Democratic nomination in 2008.
And presumably the elites don’t include the long-list of wealthy conservative elites who’ve spent millions upon millions opposing the president’s initiatives and his re-election. But then, Clarence Thomas has never been one to let facts undermine his raging self-pity.
We’ve seen this facet of Thomas’s character ever since he used that ugly phrase, “high tech lynching,” during his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings. That phrase came from a man who had become a conservative favorite by asserting that Black liberals always unjustifiably blamed racism for Black Americans’ troubles.
We later learned by his own words that that self-pity had long been a part of his character, when he revealed that all through college and law school he never voluntarily spoke up in class because he felt classmates would make fun of his deep Southern accent.
One need not have gone to an elite college and law school, as Thomas did, nor be a psychiatrist, to have immediately considered that Thomas neither got over his embarrassment about his accent nor sought out a language specialist to help him get rid of it precisely because he wanted to hold onto it – the better to feed his seeing himself as a victim.
In fact, Thomas’s attempt to diminish the president just underscores what they have – and don’t have – in common.
Both men are products of elite colleges and law schools. But while Thomas hid behind a self-perceived “defect,” Barack Obama took an active role in the life of the institutions he attended. At Harvard, he sought and won membership on the law review, and then, the approval of the review’s members to be their president.
Clarence Thomas drew no job offers from law firms when he graduated in 1974. He’s claimed this was the result of the “taint” of affirmative action. But numerous articles over the years have shown that Thomas’s Black Yale Law peers have a decidedly different view of their experience.
One such article, in The American Lawyer, of June 2, 2008, “Did Affirmative Action Really Hinder Clarence Thomas?,” available on the web site Law.com, should be required reading. It found “in interviews with a dozen African-American lawyers who attended Yale in the same years” that they described their Yale experience “in largely positive – even glowing – terms.”
The most striking contrast between Clarence Thomas and Barack Obama, of course, is what they’ve done after law school.
Thomas, taken up by then-Senator John Danforth, a Missouri Republican, shortly after graduation, has been a government appointee his entire adult career – while declaring that Blacks as a group are too dependent on the government. With, at best, minimal qualifications he was appointed to the two most prestigious positions in the federal judiciary, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and less than two years later, the Supreme Court.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, spurned lucrative offers from law firms and potential federal court clerkships, to become a community organizer in Chicago. There, he began his career of standing for elective office at the local, statewide, and national level. His galvanic speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention instantly made him a future presidential contender. He won the presidency twice in the toughest kind of combat outside of actual warfare by out-thinking and out-organizing his Republican opposition to garner the approval of millions of voters.
Personal and professional jealousy is always unseemly – the more so in a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York Ciry. His most recent book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.