Should there be a "black agenda" in America? And if the answer to that question is 'yes,' what is the black agenda?
These are the questions that black leaders and black people have been discussing more and more since President Obama took office. Last week, Reverend Al Sharpton hosted a leadership summit addressing this very issue. Today a group of black leaders got together on an MSNBC special to talk about this issue in more detail. And many will remember the on-air argument that Tavis Smiley and Rev Sharpton had a few weeks ago about this topic.
Tavis believes that Obama isn't doing enough. Sharpton believes that Obama need not 'ballyhoo' a black agenda. I think most agree, though, that something needs to be done.
With a 16.5% unemployment rate (compared to 9.7% for white Americans), an education system that is under serving black children, higher than average rates of death from diseases like breast cancer, and continued social issues, it is hard to disagree that there is need for some kind of targeted and focused approach to dealing with the issues that affect African-American. But many are divided on whether or not the president is doing enough for black people, whether or not it's incumbent on him to do anything at all, and what should or shouldn't be done.
My view is that a black agenda is definitely needed. As I have written before, "solving the issues that affect African-Americans strengthens America as a whole, since chronic unemployment, foreclosures and health care issues have not only a cultural and societal impact but an economic one." I am also of the belief that a black agenda -- which I define as one which would take into account the current and pre-existing conditions of black America and actively seek to do something about them specifically rather than simply addressing them as part of a wider economic, educational or other policy -- is an obligation. Any society which ignores, or overlooks, those of its citizens who are not doing well, as is happening at the moment, is a society that cannot function to its full potential.
The black agenda is not just one for the president nor certain black leaders to address; it is for all black people within the black community to take leadership on.
Listen as Dr Boyce Watkins and I talk the issue out.