Voting rights, racial and economic disparities, are among the leading issues African Americans will still be dealing with in 2020 and beyond.
BY HAZEL TRICE EDNEY
TRICE EDNEY NEWSWIRE
A clear Black agenda is laid out for the future as civil rights leaders, elected officials, political observers and activists celebrated the close of yet another decade of struggle and victories.
Voting rights, Black political participation, disparate killing and abuse of Black people by police; increasing White supremacy; and disparities in economic and educational systems will remain among the leading issues faced by African Americans this decade. This is according to a compilation of the highest profiled stories and reports between 2010 and 2020.
As the New Year of 2010 was celebrated, the euphoria hung heavily in the atmosphere as America had recently elected its first African American president.
A decade later, in 2020, the only three African American Democratic presidential candidates – Sen. Cory Booker (DN.J.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick – did not even qualify for the last major debate Dec. 18 due to lack of financial support.
Actually, by that time, Harris had already dropped out of the race. This leaves a field of White candidates in the forefront.
According to the latest CNN poll, former Vice President Joseph Biden continues to lead the race for the Democratic nomination. Among potential Democratic voters, Biden leads nationwide with 26 percent; Sen. Bernie Sanders is in a close second with 20 percent; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren is at 16 percent.
Nevertheless, Melanie Campbell, chair of the Black Women’s Roundtable and president/ CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, among the most prominent national non-partisan Black voting advocates, is optimistic about the future of Black and women candidates.
“Until people vote, polls are just polls. They’re a snapshot in time. President Obama, when he was a candidate, wasn’t doing great. But you see that he made it across the finish line,” Campbell said. “I’m of the mindset that hopefully by January we’ll see.”
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a Black woman, is among those being considered viable candidates for vice president.
Voting rights and voter suppression have remained front burner issues for the past two decades since President George W. Bush, amidst much fanfare in 2006, signed the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
But that hope quickly plummeted in 2013 as the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Section 5 preclearance clause of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibited certain states and territories from changing voting laws without the oversight of and permission from the Department of Justice.
The Democrat-dominated U.S. House of Representatives, on Dec. 6, 2019, passed legislation to restore the protections against changes in voting laws that could result in voter suppression. But the bill is not likely to become law under the predominately Republican Senate. And President Donald Trump has threatened to veto it.
While attacks from conservatives on voting rights are seen as the bottom line of voter disenfranchisement across the nation, leading voting advocates also say apathy within the Black community has prevented some gains.
Donna Brazile, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, documented that more than 7 million prospective Black voters (7,135,303) were not registered in the spring of 2018.
White supremacy growth
Meanwhile, the impeachment of President Trump by the House of Representatives for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress has won wide applause from Black voters.
The charges against Trump are based on his attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joseph Biden, by withholding nearly $400 million of military aid from the country.
“Eighty-five percent of African-Americans said President Trump should be impeached, the highest of any ethnic group, according to the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll…However, only 41 percent of Whites do, according to the survey,” reported Richard Prince of Journal-isms.
Trump has become known for blatant insults against Black people. Those insults include his equating the rabid White supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., resulting in the death of protestor Heather Heyer, with protestors who opposed the White supremacists. Trump shocked millions when he said, there were “very fine people on both sides.”
It is this kind of verbiage that has earned Trump a reputation as a racist, an extremist, and as one who has incited the growth and incubation of racism and White supremacy around the nation.
“The number of hate groups operating across America rose to a record high – 1,020 – in 2018 as President Trump continued to fan the flames of White resentment over immigration and the country’s changing demographics. It was the fourth straight year of hate group growth – a 30 percent increase roughly coinciding with Trump’s campaign and presidency,” wrote the Southern Poverty Law Center, America’s foremost tracker of racism and hate groups.
Trump was elected to office amidst an already volatile racial atmosphere in which the loose knit organization, Black Lives Matter, and others had emboldened the movement against police brutality and killings of Blacks, starting with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter following the Feb. 26, 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, 17, in Sanford, Fla.
Despite protests, the killings have remained consistent. According to a scientific report contained in the August 20, 2019 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States or America, police violence is now a “leading cause of death among young Black men.”
Over the past decade, several high profiled cases of Black people killed by police have become household names.
- Philando Castile, 32, shot seven times in Falcon Heights, Minnesota after telling Officer Jeronimo Yanez that he had a legal fire arm and assured him he was not reaching for it
- Walter Scott, 50, shot in the back while running away from North Charleston, S. C. police Officer Michael Slager
- Mike Brown, 18, shot dead in Ferguson, Mo. after confronted by police Officer Darren Wilson while simply walking down the street in his neighborhood
- Eric Garner, 43, choked to death while pleading, “I can’t breathe” after confronted by Staten Island, N.Y. police officers while standing on the street
- Tamir Rice, 12, immediately shot by Cleveland, Ohio Officer Timothy Loehmann as Rice wielded a play gun
- Baltimore’s Freddie Gray, 25, who was arrested as he left a coffee shop and died of a spinal cord injury sustained while in police custody.
These cases, among others, resulted in national protests as well as fiery riots in Ferguson and Baltimore. In Ferguson, the debut of police using military equipment shocked the world.
Yet, the most recent outrageous attacks by police have taken another turn. In recent incidents, police have attacked Black people in their own homes.
Botham Jean, 26, was killed while sitting in his Dallas apartment as off-duty officer Amber Guyger burst in and shot him, later claiming she thought it was her apartment.
Then 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson, playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew, was shot dead through the window of her Fort Worth home by Officer Aaron Dean who subsequently resigned and is now charged with murder.
On this issue, the statistics speak for themselves:
- In February 2019, there were only 2.6 million Black-owned businesses in the United States, whereas the U.S. Black population is estimated to be more than 40 million, according to the U.S. Black Chamber Inc.
- The median wealth of White households is 20 times that of Black households.
- The rate of Black homeownership in America was at 41.1 percent, according to 2019 census numbers – even lower than it was when the Fair Housing Act was signed into law 51 years ago on April 11, 1968. The White homeownership rate hovered at approximately 73 percent, according to the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. This issue prompted the founding of Black Wealth 2020 five years ago, a coalition of organizations established as a catalyst for Black economic justice.
- Regardless of how high or low the national employment rate fluctuated over the past two decades, without fail, Black employment remained only half that of Whites.
- Gentrification, called the new “negro removal” program, by Ron Daniels of the Institute of the Black World – 21st Century, continues to displace Black people and culture in record numbers in cities across the nation. The gentrification issue prompted an “emergency summit” by IBW last spring and promises to remain the focus of civil rights leaders.
Disparities in schools
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Black children comprise 15 percent of students in public schools across the U. S. Yet, they accounted for 31 percent of the students either referred to law enforcement or arrested, according to the most recent US Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection published bi-report annually.
Likewise, standardized test scores at majority Black public schools remain low, compared to majority White schools. But that has little to do with academic ability and much to do with wealth gaps reports.
The racial “achievement gap” in standardized-test scores shouldn’t be considered a racial gap at all, according to a study by the Center for Education Policy Analysis, which argues that the achievement gap should be called a “poverty gap.”
“U.S. public schools are highly segregated by both race and class,” says the report, released in the fall of 2019. “We use 8 years of data from all public school districts in the U.S. We ﬁnd that racial school segregation is strongly associated with the magnitude of achievement gaps in 3rd grade, and with the rate at which gaps grow from third to eighth grade.
“The association of racial segregation with achievement gaps is completely accounted for by racial diﬀerences in school poverty: racial segregation appears to be harmful because it concentrates minority students in high-poverty schools, which are, on average, less eﬀective than lower-poverty schools.”
Given the weight of these issues and others that have lingered from one decade to another, there is no doubt they will continue to fuel the civil rights agenda for years to come.