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Candidates Slow to Address Black Issues

NNPA, News Report, Hazel Trice Edney Posted: Jun 13, 2008

WASHINGTON (NNPA) The day after presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama announced his historic victory, the monthly jobs report showed the African-American jobless rate as beng once again higher than all other racial groups.

At 9.7 percent, Black unemployment is almost five points above the White rate of 4.4 percent; three points above the Hispanic-American rate of 6.9 percent, and more than four points above the national average of 5.5 percent.

From joblessness to the overall economy to dilapidated and failing schools to the criminal justice system to health care, now that the primaries are over and Sen. Hillary Clinton has thrown her support behind Obama, African-Americans across the nation are looking to hear from Obama and Republican presidential nominee John McCain exactly how they will change the disparate social impacts on the Black community.

Some say they're not speaking loud enough about those issues that impact African-Americans.

Theyve got to talk abut job creation, says Bill Spriggs, chairman of the Economics Department at Howard University. The big problem is that [industries are] not hiringAnd the first set of folks that theyre not hiring, of course, is us.''

And once policy is set concerning job creation, then policy must also deal with discrimination that holds African-Americans back, Spriggs says. America is like a train and were the caboose. If youre in the caboose, it means youre going forward, but youre still the last car.

Spriggs says it will be difficult for either candidate to speak about the discriminatory aspects of the jobless rate during the campaign except from a policy standpoint. Thats why its important who is around the candidate, he says, stressing the need for policy-oriented staffers on any campaign.

Obama and McCain both launched tours to travel the country talking to people about how the economy is affecting their lives this week. But, Spriggs and activist Al Sharpton agree that both candidates must somehow deal with the race discrimination issues that cause Blacks to lag.

As much as we have great pride in Obama being the first Black head of a major ticket, the whole White media rhetoric that were beyond race is not true, says Sharpton. If you look at the educational disparities, the health disparities, the employment disparities were doubly unemployed and the incarceration rate, were way far from being beyond race in terms of everyday life. And we need to hear more about what theyre going to do to bring equality to the continued racial disparities in life.

A life for a person White and a life for a person Black is still measurably different for a person in the United States.
Regardless of the issue, it will be improved or impacted by the state of America's education system, says Thomas N. Todd, a former U. S. attorney from Chicago.

With millions of public school children in schools with parents who vote as well as teachers and educators, not a single candidate has mentioned education as the number one item on their agenda, says Todd, whose academic achievements led him to graduate early from high school. Todd says high stakes standardized testing, which students must take for promotion to certain grade levels are not the answer are short cuts and quick fixes, he says.

Young people, they dont see the value in education related to their overall lives. The nation needs to shift into that kind of mode. Especially Black people in the South, we saw education as a value. So, we got the education to improve our lives.

Julia Hare, a San Francisco psychologist who is co-founder of the Black Think Tank, agrees that education must be the priority issue. That's the major thing they need to look at. Thats what most Blacks are hoping that we will look at.

Hare says the Obama campaign, which has particularly inspired young people, should also motivate them to stand for themselves on what they want from a president. I have never seen so many Blacks so motivated, Hare says. We will start from the bottom, making the changes moving up.

Thats not just in the cities, but in the country sides as well, says Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree.

The key issue for the candidates is how to make every American, particularly the rural poor, believe that their issues and votes count. This is an unprecedented election with the first African American candidate and developing an agenda for jobs and stability in rural America is key.

Spriggs says the candidates must also begin strongly addressing the foreclosure crisis, which he described as the greatest loss of Black wealth since the farm crisis off World War II, when African-Americans lost millions of acres of land.

There has not been an accurate calculation of how much money African-Americans have specifically lost, he said, But, half of the foreclosures are sub-prime loans, usually marketed to African-Americans. He adds that three million foreclosures are slated for this year alone and that number will likely increase next year.

That means, for Black people who are left owning their homes, theyre going to be in neighborhoods with abandoned homes and the values of their homes are going to decline.

Sharpton and his National Action Network was set to launch a major initiative this week declaring that The civil rights issue of the 21st Century is education.

He adds that voters should not wait to hear what the candidates will say on these issues. It will happen if we make it happen.

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