A Discussion of Race Worth Having
by Cynthia McKinney
March 18, 2008
Much has been made around the edges of this campaign about the issue of race. Sadly, nothing has been made of the public policy exigencies that arise because of the urgent racial disparities that continue to exist in our country. Just last week, the United Nations criticized the United States, again, for its failure to address the issues arising from the rights, particularly the right of return, of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita survivors. Author Bill Quigley writes in “The Cleansing of New Orleans,” that half of the working poor, elderly, and disabled of New Orleans have not been able to return. Two weeks ago, United Nations experts on housing and minority rights called for an immediate end of public housing demolitions in New Orleans. Now, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, ratified by the U.S. in 1994, further observes that the U.S. must do more to protect and support the African American community. In 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Commission “noted its concern that while African Americans constitute just 12% of the population, they represent 50% of homeless people, and the government is required to take ‘adequate and adequately implemented’ measures to remedy this human rights violation.” In short, the United Nations has issued reports squarely calling for the United States to do more to eliminate racial discrimination—and this discrimination is a human rights violation.
I am deeply offended that in the middle of a Presidential campaign, remarks–be they from a pastor or a communications mogul, or a former Vice Presidential nominee–are the cause of a focus on race, and not the deep racial disparities that communities are forced to endure on a daily basis in this country.
Myriad reports and studies that have been done all come up with the same basic conclusion: in order to resolve deep and persisting racial disparities in this country, a public policy initiative is urgently needed. A real discussion of race, in the context of a Presidential election, ought to include a discussion of the various public policy initiatives offered by the various candidates to eliminate all forms and vestiges of racial discrimination, including the racial disparities that cloud the hopes, dreams, and futures of millions of Americans.
For example, every year on the anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. United for a Fair Economy publishes a study of the true state of people of color in America called the “State of the Dream Report.” And it was their 2004 report that noted that without public policy intervention, it would take 1,664 years to close the racial gap in home ownership in this country. And that on some indices, for example, infant mortality, the racial disparities were worse at the time of the report than at the time of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In their 2005 report, entitled, “Disowned,” United for a Fair Economy explored the disparate impact of Bush’s “Ownership Society” economic program that saw Black and Latino lives shattered as unemployment, income, home ownership, business ownership, and stock ownership plummeted even in the face of Administration economists trumpeting the phenomenal “growth” of the U.S. economy as a result of their policies.
In 2006, United for a Fair Economy focused on the devastating and embarrassing effect of government inaction before, during, and after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. They focused on something as simple as car ownership and the relationship between vehicle ownership and race. In the case of New Orleans, car ownership literally meant the difference between losing or saving one’s life.
In 2007, United for a Fair Economy explored the Black voters’ attachment to the Democratic Party, and in a piece entitled, “Voting Blue, but Staying in the Red,” they explored goals that the Democratic Party should have put at the top of its agenda for its first 100 hours in the majority. While noting that the Democrats didn’t even mention Katrina in their agenda, United for a Fair Economy concluded that Blacks and Latinos voted in the November 2006 elections in the blue, but due to a failure of public policy that pays attention to their needs, they continue to live in the red.
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