By Charles W. Cherry II, NNPA Special Commentary –
In one of the most honest self-assessments in recent American political history, 10 Congressional Black Caucus members ruefully admitted that they fell asleep at their posts as the traditional political guardians of Black America.
The “Ben (for “Benjamins”) 10”: U.S. Reps. Andre Carson, William Lacy Clay, Emanuel Cleaver, Keith Ellison, Al Green, Gregory Meeks, Gwen Moore, Maxine Waters, David Scott, and Melvin Watt – all serve on the House Financial Services Committee. The committee is, in the words of P. Diddy, “all about the Benjamins.”
It oversees America’s banking, insurance, real estate, securities, and public/assisted housing sectors. “Each of us served on the Financial Services Committee and we have not been forceful enough in our efforts to protect the most vulnerable of our population,” a joint statement issued from Rep. Waters’ office said.
“…Since last September, we have continuously voted for bailouts and reform for the very institutions that created this devastation, without properly protecting the African-American community, or small business. That stops today.”
We slept Much of Black America was lulled into slumber by the images of Malia and Sasha playing in the White House’s backyard and by the knowledge that their grandmother, Marian Robinson, is one of their primary caregivers. We swell with pride – then go back to sleep – when the elegant Michelle Obama hosts White House parties. We marvel at the sight of a Black U.S. president – then we take another nap.
Snap out of it. The Ben 10’s joint statement should be the cold water to our faces. President Obama’s reaction to the statement should be the slap upside our heads.
Obama was quoted in USA Today as saying, “The most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy moving again and get people hiring again…It’s a mistake to start thinking in terms of particular ethnic segments of the United States rather than to think that we are all in this together and we all going to get out of this thing together.”
Cough medicine Black-owned newspapers reported that Black America was already in economic depression in 2006, two years before the deep American recession arrived. If the general American economy has pneumonia, the economy of Black America has full-blown AIDS. The Obama administration has given Wall Street the financial blood transfusion it demanded, while treating Main Street and MLK, Jr. Boulevard with slow-acting cough syrup. If we wait long enough, the cough syrup will work and the coughing will eventually stop – when the patients die.
Obama still believes in Ronald Reagan’s “rising tide” theory that all Americans’ economic conditions rise and fall together. (Statistics disprove that.) Yet, in the USA Today interview, Obama considers the possibility of a “surgical” financial stimulus that would incentivize people to buy home insulation from Home Depot and Lowe’s.
The Ben 10’s statement mentions a few racial disparities regarding economics. We all know there’s a lifelong American ‘Black tax’ that follows us from cradle to grave. It increases our chances of stillbirth, infant mortality, being disciplined in school and dropping out, unemployment, imprisonment, small business failure, poverty, sickness, homelessness, and early death. As the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, said, “It ain’t White or Black –it’s a fact.”
But it’s the hypocrisy and denial of historical and institutional racism and its continuing impact that sandpapers Black America’s racial ‘scar tissue’ daily. The fact is that we know that the U.S. government – now purportedly led by our Black president – won’t confront the disparities. This drives Black America’s collective blood pressure to hypertensive levels.
We won’t wait In his 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., castigated White moderate clergyman who believed the civil rights movement was moving too fast. “For years now, I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity,” Dr. King wrote. “This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never’…(W)hen you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society…when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” – then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”
We of the 200-member National Newspaper Publishers Association, “the Black Press of America,” will continue to stand – as we always have –with the Ben 10 and everyone who intelligently advocates for the Black community’s permanent interests. Mr. President, we won’t wait for your slowacting cough syrup to work. And we’ll fight you – if necessary – to get the targeted financial help Black America deserves.
Charles W. Cherry II, ESQ. is an NNPA national board member and is the publisher of the Florida Courier and the Daytona Times. He is a practicing attorney and former South Florida prosecutor. Contact him at ccherry2@ gmail.com.