Presidential promises, political priorities and still no attention to Black concerns

By News | Last updated: Feb 5, 2013 - 10:25:16 AM

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One week after the president’s inauguration came a stunning and most would have thought impossible announcement: A group of major Democratic and Republican lawmakers had come to bi-partisan agreement on an issue—and the issue was one President Obama had cited as a priority for his second administration.

Speaking Jan. 28 from Las Vegas, senators announced a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for so-called illegal immigrants. The eight senators included GOP heavyweight John McCain, Democratic major player Chuck Shumer, GOP future hopeful Mark Rubio and Democrat Robert Menendez.

At a major press conference, the day before the president was to lay out his own plan for immigration reform in Las Vegas, the senators spoke. “We still have a long way to go, but this bipartisan blueprint is a major breakthrough,” said New York Democrat Schumer. The other senators involved in hashing out the bi-partisan principles for action were Republicans Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C) with Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet and Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin.

The timeline for dealing with the bill includes an official introduction in March and Senate passage by “late spring or summer.”

Why such major strides now? Democrats say Latinos gave President Obama 70 percent of their vote in the last election and expected the president to act. For the GOP it was the exact opposite: “The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens,” Sen. McCain said.

The senators’ plan would allow undocumented immigrants to “obtain permanent residence visas, called green cards, which is the first step towards citizenship,” media outlets noted. To qualify, the immigrants would have to register with the federal government, pass a background check, pay any taxes owed, and pay a fine. They would also have to stand in line behind legal immigrants awaiting green cards, but the children of illegal immigrants would not have to wait as long, agricultural field workers would have a shorter route as would highly-skilled immigrants. Senators said more secure borders and employment verification would also be part of this comprehensive approach. “It won’t be easy,” Sen. Durbin told the media. “It will take them time and determination.”

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., Black civil rights leaders who met to craft some requests for the president announced their agenda Jan. 25. It was essentially a presidential wish list, but there was no major response from the White House, no bi-partisan press conference touting principles or legislation to support their desires but there was hope the president would talk about the issues. So much for the interests of the 90 percent-plus Black vote the president received and a first term spent waiting for a second term to try to get anything.

“When we gathered here a little over a month ago, we urged our nation’s leaders to commit to economic and educational parity for communities of color,” said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. National Action Network President Rev. Al Sharpton, NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous, and National Coalition on Black Civic Participation President and CEO Melanie Campbell also participated in the meeting.

But the leaders had nothing to announce except “recommendations on how best to achieve those goals.”

There hasn’t been a response to a call from the leaders for “for the reintroduction and passage of the Urban Jobs Act, which would allocate resources for job training, education, and support services and activities for eligible young adults to prepare them for entry into the workforce.”

While the leaders called the president’s commitment to deal with senseless gun violence “encouraging,” gun violence is not solely a Black concern but a major issue on the mind of Americans across the board.

While the president did voice concern about people waiting in line to vote in his inauguration message, as a nod to voter suppression concerns, it is not a controversial position and makes political sense for Democrats who need Black voters to show up at the polls.

But no news conferences from lawmakers, no major statements from the White House or the president and no promise to deal with Black concerns—in particular the joblessness, the epidemic of violence and police brutality, the high school dropout problem and the crisis of Black male incarceration.

Once again as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan declared Jan. 26 as part of his The Time and What Must Be Done lecture series—repeating the warning of his teacher, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad—this country has nothing for us to do. Once again we have been ignored, lied to or dismissed while the lie that we are full citizens is repeated. We are still fighting for rights that these senators want to bestow on immigrants—and we do not begrudge our immigrant brothers and sisters and their community for organizing, unifying and demanding that their concerns be heard, that is what intelligent people do.

But we say we cannot accept this mistreatment when our very survival is at stake and the genocidal plots against our people continue. Is the targeting of an entire people on all fronts, violence against that people, denial of adequate education, denial of protection, denial of health care, denial of jobs, destruction of leaders and organizations, mass incarceration and all out exploitation anything but genocide? All out murder is the final step and as the Minister has warned and as scriptural prophecy affirms, that is on the way, take it or let it alone! Look at the highly militarized and well-armed police departments, growing militias, the racial climate and the portrayal of Black young men, in particular, as a menace to American society.

It is time brothers and sisters for us to let go of a people that let us go long ago. They are becoming angrier and angrier at any hint of a request for racial justice, let alone a demand. We must face reality that Min. Farrakhan is feverishly working for us to recognize in order that we might act properly: “There is no hope for America to make a place for 40 million of us. We are going to have to do that for ourselves.”