Democratic Party candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are both making appeals to win over African-American voters during the final two months of the primary and caucus elections.
Nonetheless, very few specific issues are being addressed during the course of the debates, particularly the New York contest in mid-April. Some of the essential concerns of African Americans requiring attention include:
• The need for jobs and income, considering the continuing astronomical jobless rate and impoverishment among the masses.
• Housing and land, where over the last century African Americans have lost 13 million acres of farmland, largely in the South, and during the previous decade millions have been displaced from their homes due to the foreclosure and eviction crisis and the systematic pushing out of others from core urban areas.
• Education prospects are far dimmer than in the 1960s and 1970s with the abolition of affirmative action, the privatization of schools, the closing of school buildings, mass layoffs of teachers, and cutbacks in academic and extracurricular programs.
• Health care issues persist despite the Affordable Care Act as infant mortality rates remain very high in the cities, as well as the proliferation of treatable diseases requiring prohibitively expensive treatments, and the lack of accessible, affordable clinics and hospitals.
• Communications outlets where the corporate media utilize their influence to systematically demoralize and demobilize the people in an effort to halt movements aimed at social change and revolutionary transformation.
Housing and the cities
African-American communities across the United States have not recovered from the impact of the Great Recession of 2007-08. In the area of housing, the economic crisis has devastated large sections of major urban areas such as Detroit, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles.
Predatory lending schemes initiated by the banks drained the limited household wealth of African-American working families. This phenomenon, coupled with the loss of jobs and other economic opportunities, forced millions to relocate to suburban areas and other states.
Some of the same financial interests involved in the massive fraud involving home ownership later moved into buying up rental properties, in part prompting the escalation of rents and fueling the demand for housing in cities and suburbs. Many of the traditional neighborhoods of African Americans and other working-class people have been cleared for “gentrification,” in which community residents are no longer able to afford to live in those areas.
Aggravating the housing crisis even further is the mass incarceration of African Americans and Latinos/as, where existing laws make them ineligible for low – and moderate-income housing in restructured metropolitan areas. There has been discussion about drafting new rules that would make it more difficult for private and public landlords to systematically discriminate against those with criminal justice records.
Such a revised set of guidelines from the Department of Housing and Urban Development could solve problems for those being denied rental properties by prohibiting landlords and real estate agencies from refusing service to those seeking housing only because they have been convicted by the courts.
This initiative, announced April 4 by HUD, suggests that any refusal to rent or sell to people with criminal records is inherently discriminatory due to the fact that the nationally oppressed — African Americans and Latinos/as specifically — are disproportionately profiled, arrested, convicted and imprisoned. (nbcnews.com, April 5)
Jobs and Income
During the last year of his life, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a leading proponent of civil rights, human rights and peace in the U.S., advocated for the enactment of legislation to provide jobs to everyone able to work and to set standards for a guaranteed annual income. Such an approach would alleviate poverty and create much-needed employment in the public sector.
To implement such a policy would require a major redistribution of wealth from the ruling class to the working masses, jobless and farmers. Also needed would be slashing the Pentagon and Homeland Security budgets, which are largely designed to oppress the peoples of Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific and dominate over the formerly socialist states in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Organizations based in oppressed nations inside the U.S. should demand in exchange for their electoral support a well-defined economic program for full employment and a minimum yearly income. A plan for the reconstruction of the cities and the rural areas historically inhabited by African Americans should be the focus of a development program based on the rehabilitation and building of new housing and livable communities.
Based on the historical legacy of enslavement, legalized segregation and modern-day underdevelopment and super-exploitation of African-American labor, the banks, corporations, federal and state governments must be compelled to provide funding for these projects. Existing public policies that facilitate the forced removal of oppressed and poor people from prime districts in urban areas must be immediately halted.
In cities like Detroit, the infant mortality rate far exceeds that in countries in the so-called developing world. Socialist Cuba, despite enduring a U.S.-imposed economic blockade for over five decades, has a far superior health care system for its people than the U.S., which is considered the leading economic power internationally.
Education and health care
The health care status of oppressed communities impacts educational achievements. The lack of prenatal care and exposure to high levels of lead and harmful metals and chemicals can have a detrimental effect on children’s psychological and physical well-being.
Public schools in many urban areas and suburbs are currently under siege, with school buildings in extreme disrepair and subject to closings. Students are taught in overcrowded classrooms by educators whose salaries and benefits are being reduced. Public funds allocated for student education are in many cases channeled to private corporations and their agents within the school system, leaving the bare minimum for student learning.
Under the guise of a “business model” of governance being forced on public schools and municipalities, working people are being denied the bourgeois democratic right to elect members of their school boards and make decisions about how educational curriculums and programs are to be implemented.
Mass communications and political mobilization
Perhaps one of the most critical methods used to maintain the class dominance of the wealthy is the way in which the corporate media reinforce the status quo. Oppressed and working people are blamed for their own social plight, while the rich are portrayed as having some inherent right to govern, absent any semblance of democratic practice and accountability.
During the course of the debates in both the Republican and Democratic parties, these important issues affecting African Americans and other oppressed and working people are never addressed in a substantive manner. Clinton and Sanders are spending considerable time attempting to win the support of the workers and the oppressed, and Sanders is now seen by many as an opponent of Wall Street. Yet it is not clear what programs they are committed to carry out if elected, especially with regard to the acute needs of African Americans.
Both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz make no pretense of soliciting African-American voters. The battle among the Republicans is to fashion a far right-wing, even neofascist agenda without being labelled as such.
However, all the major challenges gripping African-American communities around the country have been brought to the fore through demonstrations and other forms of self-mobilization and – organization aimed at building mass support for the eradication of racism and economic exploitation.
The call for a $15 minimum wage, the movement against police violence, the struggles against school privatization and for quality housing are largely centered in the streets, workplaces and educational institutions. Irrespective of who is elected president in November, the opposition to bourgeois class rule will continue to be a focal point for the majority of the people in the U.S.