Acknowledgement of Racial Issues Needs to Go Beyond Holiday

Rhonda B. Graham, News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware), February 12, 2010

It’s unfortunate that the first black American president feels he can’t confab with African-American leaders about jobs in their community outside Black History month.

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Somehow Black History Month becomes the guilt month for all of America rather than a respectful acknowledgement of the remarkable and necessary accomplishments of a particular segment of citizens. As a result, every issue, from slavery apologies to assessments of the latest U.S. Census tally on the state of Black America, gets lumped into the second month of the year for serious consideration.

To their credit the 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus understand that their constituents can’t wait for a holiday-like recognition to challenge joblessness.

For months they have been forcing the issue of unbalanced unemployment and home foreclosures among their constituents. By standing together to boycott a key House committee vote and threatening to abandon support for banking regulations, in December the CBC was able to get $6 billion added to key legislation to help

To their credit the three men at Wednesday’s meeting did not make the case for a race-based preference in solutions to the unemployment malaise.

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But in challenging Obama to do more, members of the CBC did what every other congressional representative and senator did in advocating for targeted interests on behalf their constituents.

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But race is a prickly issue for Mr. Obama. Who said it wouldn’t be? Some recognition of the leadership on this issue and even presence at Wednesday’s meeting would have been fitting.

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If the Republican Party were smart, it might want to court the mostly Democrat CBC for support, particularly since the president has been beefing so much about bipartisan dialogue.

The always-blunt Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., challenges the effectiveness of the bailout money that the administration says can help minorities catch up to the new employment realities.

Waters called the respective retraining programs targeted to urban communities “rip-offs” and a waste of bailout funds.

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Furthermore, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver points out the administration’s blind spot when it comes to understanding the nexus between unemployment and foreclosures. About 50 percent of the nation’s foreclosures are on homes owned by African-Americans, which makes the jobs situation for blacks urgent.

“If you’re in a training program and you have a notice that you’ll be kicked out of your house if you don’t make your payment in two weeks, chances are high that you’re going to quit the training program,” Cleaver said. “We need some immediate help from a program where the government funds municipalities and nonprofits to hire individuals to do real work right now.”

graham

Rhonda B. Graham.

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