TRICE EDNEY NEWS WIRE
Applauded by an enthusiastic crowd at the National Urban League convention in New Orleans, President Obama – in a rare moment – spoke of the war-level violence in Black communities. And, defying critics, he also seized the opportunity to say specifically what he has done for Black people.
“Our hearts break for the victims of the massacre in Aurora,” he said. “We pray for those who were lost and we pray for those who loved them. We pray for those who are recovering with courage and with hope,” he said of the tragic shooting in which 12 people were killed in a Colorado movie theater on July 20.
Then the president turned the page: “And we also pray for those who succumb to the less-publicized acts of violence that plague our communities in so many cities across the country every single day,” he said to more applause. “We can’t forget about that.”
Thousands gunned down
He went deeper comparing the occasional violence in some communities to the daily violence in Black communities.
“Every day – in fact, every day and a half, the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater. For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, and here in New Orleans.”
According to a compilation of FBI annual homicide statistics, more than 300,000 African-Americans have been killed by violence since the mid-1970s, when the federal government began compiling the stats. That’s greater than the population of some cities, including Cincinnati, Ohio.
‘Defeated by politics’
The president stopped short of promising gun control action. He noted that since the Tucson shooting that wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, “the background checks conducted on those looking to purchase firearms are now more thorough and more complete.”
He added that, “the federal government is now in the trenches with communities and schools and law enforcement and faith-based institutions, with outstanding mayors like Mayor Nutter [of Philadelphia] and Mayor Landrieu [of New Orleans] – recognizing that we are stronger when we work together.”
He also listed partnerships with cities for summer jobs, youth prevention and intervention programs “that steer young people away from a life of gang violence, and towards the safety and promise of a classroom.” He then concluded that none of these actions have been enough because of political stalemate.
‘Belong on battlefield’
He said he believes strongly in the Second Amendment right to bear arms, “But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.”
Obama vowed to continue working with all stakeholders “to arrive at a consensus around violence reduction – not just of gun violence – but violence at every level, on every step, looking at everything we can do to reduce violence and keep our children safe, from improving mental health services for troubled youth to instituting more effective community policing strategies. We should leave no stone unturned, and recognize that we have no greater mission as a country than keeping our young people safe.”
What’s been done
The president also listed several of his economic and educational accomplishments in the Black community.
“…We’ve helped African-American businesses and minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses gain access to more than $7 billion in contracts and financing that allowed them to grow and create job.” He seized the July 25 opportunity to list his accomplishments in the Black community.
He continued, “…Millions of Americans – including more than 2 million African-American families – are better off, thanks to our extension of the child care tax credit and the earned income tax credit, because nobody who works hard in America should be poor in America.”
He added, “…We’ve fought to make college more affordable for an additional 200,000 African-American students by increasing Pell grants. That’s why we’ve strengthened this nation’s commitment to our community colleges, and to our HBCUs.”
Finally, he announced, “…I’m establishing the first-ever White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans – so that every child has greater access to a complete and competitive education from the time they’re born all through the time they get a career.”
He acknowledged the reality that the initiative means nothing without safety.
“Good jobs, quality schools, affordable health care, affordable housing – these are all the pillars upon which communities are built. And yet, we’ve been reminded recently that all this matters little if these young people can’t walk the streets of their neighborhood safely; if we can’t send our kids to school without worrying they might get shot; if they can’t go to the movies without fear of violence lurking in the shadows.”