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related to any of the candidates or to race and racism and the election.
By Cynthia McKinney
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
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, titled, "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 titled, "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.
In their 2008 report, United for a Fair Economy explores the sub-prime
mortgage crisis and notes that the largest loss of wealth in U.S. history is being experienced by the Black
and Latino communities with an estimated $92 billion being lost by Blacks
and an estimated $98 billion being lost by Latinos. And while families
are losing their life savings and the only major investment that they
own, policy makers are asking them to tighten their belts. But the
predator banks' CEOs are walking away with record remuneration. And
our policymakers are notable for their inaction: first on the predatory
lending that disproportionately affects Blacks and Latinos, and then on
offering relief so that homeowners remain homeowners, including in the
midst of this crisis.
Sadly, United for a Fair Economy isn't the only research organization
to find glaring and intolerable disparities in our society by race and
no appropriate public policies enacted to address them. Hull House
did a study that found that it would take 200 years to close the gap in
the quality of life experienced by black Chicagoans and white Chicagoans.
There has been no public policy initiative taken up by the mayor
or the governor of Illinois to begin closing that gap.
Several years ago, the New York Times published a finding that nearly
half the men between the ages of 16 and 64 in New
York City were unemployed. There was no initiative by the mayor
or the governor of New York to begin addressing such pain.
Every year, the National Urban League publishes a study, "The State
of Black America," in which the ills and disparities that persist
in this country are catalogued. Every year, the story is basically
the same. The United
States has a way to go that only public policy can
address. However, when Harvard University/The Kaiser Family Foundation
did a study on White attitudes about race several years ago, it found
that Whites have little appreciation for the reality of Black life in
from police harassment and intimidation, to imprisonment, to family income,
unemployment, housing, and health care. But without an appreciation
of the reality faced by many of our fellow Americans, the necessary public
policy initiatives to change those realities will find difficulty gaining
acceptance in the public discourse.
Additionally, compounding the problem, there is little public discourse
because the corporate press refuses to cover the deep implications of
the results of all these studies. I am convinced that if the American
people knew the truth of the conditions, change would surely follow. I
believe that to be the case because of the impact of the images of "Bloody
Sunday" on the passage of the Voting Rights Act. I believe
that to be the case because of the impact of the images of the Vietnam
War on the turn of the tide of public opinion against that War.
This moment sheds light on a much-needed discussion: on race and
the legacies of race and slavery and the continuing problems associated
with our failure to treat racism as a curable American disease.
I am glad that candidate Obama mentioned the existing racial disparities
in education, income, wealth, jobs, government services, imprisonment,
and opportunity. Now it is time to address the public policies necessary
to resolve these disparities. Now it is time to have the discussion
on how we are going to come together and put policies in effect that will
provide real hope and real opportunity to all in this country.
To narrow the gap between the ideals of our founding fathers and the realities
faced by too many in our country today: That must be the role of
public policy at this critical moment in our country today.
I welcome a real discussion of race in this country and a resolve to end
the long-standing disparities that continue to spoil the greatness of
our country. I welcome a real discussion of all the issues that
face our country today and the real public policy options that exist to
resolve them. That must be the measure of this campaign season.
For many voters, this important discussion has been too vague or
completely non-existent. Now is the time to talk about the concrete measures
that will move our country forward: on race, war, climate change,
the economy, health care, and education. Our votes and our political
engagement must be about ensuring that fairness truly for all is embodied
in "liberty and justice for all."
and US House Representative from the State of Georgia, Cynthia McKinney is a member of the Green
Party, running for the office of President of the United States. Her candidacy
has also been endorsed by the Reconstruction Party. You may obtain more
information at her official website.
Additionally, Cynthia McKinney is the author of Ain't
Nothin' Like Freedom.
here to contact Ms. McKinney.
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