The Internet advocacy organization Color of Change is not as focused on the needs and interests of African Americans and communities of color as they claim. Contrary to the 501(c)(4) organization's web site claim that it is "strengthening Black America's political voice," it has actually sat by silently or, worse, weakened African Americans' influence as users and consumers of broadband data and Internet services, in part, by their unwarranted attacks against my record. No rational person who knows my record would put me in the category of undermining African American interests, but that's what Color of Change Executive Director James Rucker has sought to do almost from day one after I announced my interest in leading Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology in the 112th Congress.
I'm responding now to Rucker's latest, unwarranted attack last Wednesday night in the Huffington Post where he took credit for the subcommittee vote. If anything, all Rucker did was to provide an unnecessary face of color to give cover to those Democrats who were predisposed to vote against me in the first place. While I am not the Ranking Member, I will remain an active and engaged member of the Communications and Technology subcommittee.
I will continue to aggressively advocate for issues such as minority media ownership and other policy priorities that led 19 leading civil rights and progressive organizations such as the NAACP, the National Urban League, the National Conference of Black Mayors, the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women, the National Association of Black County Officials, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the Minority Media and Telecom Council and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition to support my bid to lead Democrats on the Communications and Technology subcommittee.
On the day after last Wednesday's vote, while Rucker was ginning up faux bragging rights using vitriolic language like "make no mistake" about his alleged role in last week's vote, I was addressing the Minority Media and Telecom Council's "Broadband and Social Justice Summit" in Washington, D.C. In that address, I offered earnest words of support to my peers and told the audience that my staff and I were already focused on the ideas and solutions in the energy arena that I'll be talking about in the coming days. Those remarks are posted, online, and you can read them here.
Finally, let me say this. There are far too many serious issues impacting the quality of life for people of color in this nation for me to get bogged down in a back and forth with an organization beholden to Silicon Valley. The 112th Congress is well underway and I remain focused and committed to addressing real issues of concern to African American online users, and other low- to moderate-income consumers, who face growing challenges in a climate where an unresolved 'digital divide' is morphing into a new and seldom talked about 'device divide.'
A disproportionately high and growing number of low- to moderate-income minority consumers only have access to the Internet through their cell phones or hand-held mobile devices. Last October, the FCC issued a white paper on "bill shock" where they reported on rising levels of consumer complaints about errant charges on cell phones--67 percent of those complaints involved bill disputes of as much as $100 in one month!
It seems to me that an organization that claims to represent black online interests should stop seeking to tear down one of that community's respected and proven leaders and, instead, turn its focus on issues that affect the day-to-day online experience of African American consumers.
This who I am and these are the people, and interests, I represent.
U. S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) is the Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Power