It seems that for the most part black Americans have always had an agenda.
In 1903, in his book, “The Souls of Black Folk,” sociologist and writer, W.E.B. Dubois articulated the agenda. His three charges were explicit: the right to vote, civic equality, and training for youth according to ability.
Then, some 40 years later, in the less well known collection of essays entitled, “What the Negro Wants,” Howard University historian, Rayford Logan set forth the black agenda even more concretely. Logan wrote that blacks wanted “first class citizenship” that included – equality of opportunity, equal pay for equal work, equal protection of the laws, equality of suffrage, equal recognition of the dignity of the human being, and abolition of public segregation.
Finally, in 1963, some 50 years ago, at the famous March on Washington in August 1963, the black agenda was clear: jobs and justice. That is, whether many of us know or not, what the march was about back then.
Today, as the shouts for President Barack Obama to address the black agenda grow louder, one can only ask: What is the Black Agenda? Has anyone articulated a coherent agenda to him and stated how it gets accomplished?
And if there is such an agenda, like always must be the case, who is the broker for the agenda; who shall appear in the halls of power and seek the execution of such an agenda? The Rev. Al Sharpton? The Rev. Jesse Jackson? Or is there no need for that anymore?
This last point makes this all complex.
Black Americans now hold office. The President is black. There are black senators in the U.S. Senate right now. There are many Congressmen representing various districts across the country. Blacks are situated in the halls of power. There is no excuse for non-communication or non-action. But how does it happen and what happens?
Is the agenda – jobs?
Surely, the answer at least partially to that is “yes” but what exactly does the President do?
Does he demand people hire blacks more than others? He can’t. He can point out that the black unemployment rate is nearly 14 percent while the rate for everyone is 7.9 percent. Will this spur action? It is doubtful.
Should he call for massive government hiring and try to get black people jobs that way? He could but that is not a lot of jobs. Besides, he won’t.
Perhaps, one thing that can be done is to help younger blacks who have no career direction find a direction by providing training for the future jobs. But, what are the future jobs and where will these jobs be located? This is not articulated well either.
One thing for sure is blacks have adapted in the post-slavery period. Blacks worked in agriculture following slavery and on their own farms as well; however, when the nation shifted from rural to urban, agricultural to industrial, black people came to the cities to work. They moved, migrated. It worked for a time. A professional class was also born of that decision.
We are now post-industrial, a society that has shifted to being an information society. Jobs now most agree increasingly involve specialized skills involving science, information technology, and technical knowledge. Jobs are done remotely using technology. Jobs that in the past required hands on work now are completed using technology that speeds up the process.
There will be jobs in the health care industry as well as our nation’s health care system expands and treatment becomes more efficient and highly specialized. Surely, other industries will continue to produce work but I am sure traditional work areas will also provide employment. Other areas of work will remain but will likely entail more sophisticated skill.
So instead of demanding jobs from this President, should blacks be calling for training that prepares their children for the future where work will be quite different and might not even be located in the continental United States? Perhaps, but the unemployment rate is 14 percent amongst blacks; what about now?
These are hard, hard questions.
I have to think that this dilemma about jobs and the black agenda will not be solved by calling out the President of the United States. He is not powerless to do anything but there isn’t much he can do. He talks a very liberal agenda but is liberalism what will fix the problems in Black America and specifically find work for the masses?
Again, I just don’t see it. Tell me I am wrong and tell me why; I am prepared to listen and consider anything.