Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where Is Our List?

As far as African Americans, where is our list of demands that reflect the vital issues that we want the Obama administration and future administrations to address? If you ask 100 African Americans what are our top ten most critical issues, you will get 100 different answers. The last time we as a people were united around clear and specific issues was back during the Civil Rights movement. Every four years African Americans faithfully turn their votes over to the Democratic Party with no specific, universally accepted demands from us. The end result has been that our situation has gotten worse and worse. Studies have shown that our overall situation on a number of fronts is worse now than during the Civil Rights period.

African Africans are the only ones who are shy about presenting a list of demands. The banking industry was not shy about asking for $700 billion. The automobile industry was not shy about asking for $34 billion. Various ethnic groups and special interest groups are not shy about presenting their lists. So where is our list?

Obama could not have been elected if it were not for the brothers and sisters who fought for voting rights, desegregation, Affirmative Action and suffered the consequences. An incredible 98% of African Americans voted for Obama. No other group gave him more support than we did. During the election campaign African Africans avoided making any demands of him and avoided criticizing him. Despite all of this, there was an amazing revelation at a recent debate in Harlem. On Sunday December 14, there was a debate on whether Obama is good or bad for African Americans. There was a panel of scholars, lawyers, politicians, and political activist who took different sides on this question. One of the most incredible things I took away from the forum was that out of over a dozen speakers, not one of them stated one thing that Obama ever said he would do for African Americans! Furthermore, not one of them even speculated on one specific thing that Obama might do for African Americans! If any other racial, ethnic, or special interest group was having such a meeting, they would be very specific about what a politician they supported, has agreed to do or was most likely to do for them.

In the absence of an agreed upon list, the following is offered for consideration:

1. Pardon Mumia Abu-Jamal. The whole world is convinced that he is innocent. There have been massive demonstrations in support of him. This alone means that there is reasonable doubt and Obama should pardon him. Pure, hardcore racism is the only reason why this man is still on death row. His remaining in jail makes a mockery of America, America's Democracy, and America's criminal justice system. Pardoning Mumia Abu-Jamal would not only save a man's life, it would also be an important symbolic gesture that would help build America's credibility with African Americans and around the world. Obama has said that he wants to improve America's image, and this would represent a positive step in that direction.

2. End the prison slavery system. For years prisons have been the fastest growing industry in America. Corporations have reaped huge profits from the cheap labor of prisoners who are paid next to nothing. Roughly 80% of prisoners are African Americans and Latino Americans. Many brothers and sisters are in jail for no other reason than the fact that they could not afford a lawyer and had to rely on court appointed attorneys. DNA tests are constantly proving the innocence of prisoners. Backroom confessions in which no lawyer was present has filled the cells with our people.

If the profit is taken out of the prison system, then fewer of our people would be behind bars. America has more people behind bars than any other country on the planet. So long as the modern day slave labor prison system is allowed to exist and fill the pockets of the superrich, every African man, woman and child is at risk of being thrown into the jaws of slavery once again.

3. End police brutality. Racially motivated police brutality has terrorized African American communities for as long as anyone can remember. The time has come for specific decisive steps to be taken. One critical step in that direction would be to have predominately black cops in black communities. No white community would tolerate a police force that was predominately black. Yet this is the situation in African American communities. There are a number of other steps that black leaders have put forth in the past and should be acted upon by Obama. We should not have to live in fear in our own communities of the very same people whose salaries our tax dollars pay for.

4. Civil servants should look like and live in the communities they serve. In public schools in black communities, most of the teachers, principals, and administrators are white. Highly qualified black teachers are routinely fired, shuffled from school to school or denied tenure, thus allowing white teachers to dominate in our schools. Most of the firemen in black communities are white. Most of the police officers in black communities are white. In addition, they don't even live in the communities they serve, which means that they take their money and spend it in their communities, not ours. This situation is outrageous. The tax dollars of black people pay their salaries and we deserve civil servants who look like us and live in our communities. This is a national problem and should be addressed by a national leader.

5. Funding needs to be established for African Americans to start commodity businesses in African American communities. Currently everyone can get loans and other funding to open up businesses and make money in black communities except us. Our communities are overrun with Chinese restaurants and pizza parlors, yet there are no black owned businesses in Chinatown or Little Italy. Laundromats, dry cleaners, fruit stands, 99 cent stores, nail salons, jewelry stores, grocery stores and others that saturate our communities are owned by every other racial and ethnic group except us. Banks have been notorious about denying loans to black entrepreneurs while freely giving loans to other racial and ethnic groups to open businesses in African American communities. These same banks came begging for $700 billion of tax payer money. Part of that $700 billion comes from African Americans. One of the requirements before any more money is given to banks should be that a portion of the loans they give out must go to African American entrepreneurs to start commodity businesses in our communities.

6. Evaluate and overhaul the three credit reporting agencies. Many African Americans can not get the credit that they need because of their credit reports. The three credit reporting agencies each have a long list of different excuses they use to drop a person's credit score. For example, most people do not know that merely paying their credit card bill on time is not enough to increase their score. If their credit card balance is above fifty percent this actually lowers their score, regardless of the fact that they make their minimum payments. The criteria of the credit reporting companies should be made public. Those criteria should be standardized for all credit reporting companies and those companies should be forced to eliminate those criteria and practices that are clearly not justified. This would be very beneficial to African Americans.

7. Funding should be established for educational programs in public schools and private organizations in the black community that teach personal finance, and business finance. Too many African American students graduate from high school and college with little to no understanding of credit, taxes, acquiring loans for a home or business, insurance, or even how to manage a checking account. It is no wonder that we are the biggest consumers in America. The only thing too many of us know how to do is spend money. In other ethnic communities, the parents mentor their children on these issues. That tradition has not been firmly established in our community and therefore there is an overwhelming need for educational programs which stress these skills.

8. Affirmative Action and ending employment discrimination must be put back on the table. Affirmative Action and employment discrimination have become dirty words over the past few decades. Unemployment is still rampant among our people and disproportionately compared to the white community. Job discrimination is still alive and well. The effects of slavery and racism have not been overcome as far as the workplace. We need the Executive Branch to step in and do something.

9. Obama should appoint some people to his cabinet who not only look like us but also have an established track record of being progressive as far as the issues that most affect African Americans. Obama's cabinet thus far has been described as: "center of the right". This is not the change that most black people were expecting when they voted for him.

10. Eliminate compulsory vaccinations. The harm that vaccines cause is well established. They have also been proven to be ineffective and there are natural, safer alternatives. In a democracy, every parent should have the right to make an informed choice about what medical procedures that they want and do not want for their child. There are also reports of experimental vaccines being given in black communities such as was the case with the EZ Measles vaccine. Millions of our children are being needlessly put at risk for autism, cancer, asthma, brain damage, death and a long list of other adverse reactions. Compulsory vaccinations, and any compulsory medical treatment, are things that a police state does, not a democracy.

This list is offered to stimulate discussion. A panel of African American scholars, politicians, religious leaders, political activists and ordinary brothers and sisters should come up with a refined list and put it before our people for approval.

Given all that we have suffered since the sixties to make Obama's election possible, and our overwhelming support of him during the election, no one can deny that we have a right to present him with our list just like everyone else has done. Such a list would also serve as a yardstick for us to measure his performance and decide if we should support him when he runs for re-election. Lastly, we should have a list for every election and every politician seeking our support.



It is always a pleasure to have a guest blogger. If you have something you want to share with Cultural Health readers let me know.

These are my top three as one member of the community. What are your Top Ten Issues?

Top Ten Issues
2008 Presidential Election

Political issues by category
Domestic Policy:
1. Universal Sick Care (USC) (Pro-life for grown ups)
2. End the Iraq War in 30 days (Use money at home)
3. Green Moon Shot in 10 years (fix economy and form the future)
4. Protect my retirement including Social Security (quality of life)
5. Net Neutrality & Obama's Google-Gov't (change to Open gov't)

Foreign Policy:
6. End Torture and attacking countries to steal resources e.g. oil
7. Ensure we can compete with China in the Global Village
8. Education for National service - World Class education at home
9. Security: Protect the country and my constitutional rights
a. Get the folks who enabled the Attack on America and keep the Taliban out of power
b. Restore our national friends and make new ones.
10. No military bases or attacks on the African continent - Work with the UN

Key: They include my personal self-interests and What I think is important for the National interests.

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