Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Black Agenda

 Copyright By R2C2H2
The Black Agenda
by Ron Walters

There never has been a time when Black folks in America did not have an agenda, from when we tried to avoid captivity in Africa to be sent here, to when we were in the holes of slave ships, or on plantations planning ways to survive and to escape, or those of us today still trying to obtain the promised vestiges of freedom and equality. The Black Agenda is our Black survival grocery list and Tavis Smiley is right, to a great extent it is also an “American” agenda.

But to “make America as good as its promise” means that we must confront a contradiction that may take away some of what the “American” agenda is today. Our agenda is the same as that of other people in this country when it comes to fighting for good health care, education, jobs, wealth and etc. The “Blackness” comes when we consider the way in which our history has defined us - shaped the differences in our attitudes, our socio-economic status, our culture, our geography of living and etc. So, while we might want and need WHAT other Americans want and need generally, it is HOW we want them specifically that matters most. That is what makes our Agenda fit our unique wants and needs.

Is the fight to eliminate those differences an “American” fight? I think so, because the culture of our people is one of many that have defined this country beyond the Anglo brand, then the attempt to achieve adequate material resources will enable us to live what has been referred to as “the American dream.” This leads to the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that to acquire human equality in America would also enrich our civil rights and lead to our full citizenship, giving legitimacy to our right to participate in the decisions that would satisfy our needs and wants and those of the nation itself.

The Black experience however, has not only been geared to the best in the fulfillment of the American dream and its promises of democracy and equality. Because of our unique experiences of having been oppressed and exploited, we have also shared the perspective on America of those globally who have suffered from imperialism, capitalism and militarism, things that have prevented America from achieving its promise. Nevertheless, we can also make the argument that in opposing these things, we are also attempting to make America as good as its promise, which means to go beyond what the framers of this country could see to position a new country with a new racial geography for a new century.

But defining the Black Agenda is not enough. How do we implement it? In my book, Freedom Is Not Enough, I suggested that we have done very well with electoral politics. We now vote in big numbers: in 2008 for the first time, Black voter turnout was greater than white voter turnout (the number of those who vote as a percentage of those who are eligible). Our vote has elected over 9,000 Black officials and thousands more white elected officials. But we have not been as effective in turning that vote into the power that returns the goods and services back to our communities that we need to survive and prosper.

In other words, we need to place greater emphasis on the civic engagement that leverages our vote into public policy resources. How many call their elected officials? The cell phone is a powerful instrument of communication, but we use it more than 99 percent for social purposes. What if we used it just 10 percent for political purposes: to call our congressperson, county officials, city council persons, mayors and etc. We seem afraid to follow up the vote by demanding the accountability of our officials to the Black Agenda. Now, I agree with Rev. Al Sharpton that we don't always need to call it that, or put it on blast, but we need to have a sense of what it is and advocate for its contents.

The Black Agenda was never more important than at this moment when billions of dollars are moving through the political system. 

It will take discipline: knowledge of what we want and need and how to get it, to move those resources into our communities. Some of this is the responsibility of President Barack Obama, but it is also the responsibility of governors, agency heads, city officials and others who manage these funds. Most important, it is up to you to make it happen by getting connected to some organization dedicated to moving our agenda forward.

Dr. Ron Walters is a Political Analyst and Professor Emeritus of the University of Maryland College Park. 

Hear Dr. Ronald Walters On W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio:
Topic: 2010 State Of The Black Union
“It Ain’t About Tavis, It’s About Us, & It's About Time!”

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