When the subject of a “Black agenda” comes up, it’s often presented as an ask rather than an explicit demand. Asking politicians what’s their agenda for Black America is totally different from proposing an agenda and asking politicians how do they plan to get it done. I recently visited the Museum of Civil & Human Rights in Atlanta, and there was something that stuck out the most. At the March on Washington exhibit, their demands were specific and immediate. Here’s a highlight of them:
- Desegregation of schools
- An executive order banning housing discrimination
- A $2 minimum wage
- Expansion of the Fair Labor Standards
- A federal Fair Employment Practices Act
So, what is the current “Black agenda?” I’m not sure. It’s like asking people why they’re “boycotting” the NFL, Gucci or any other company that commits an offence. These “boycotts” are seasonal with very little significance after three months. Is a “boycott” a part of the “Black agenda”? It shouldn’t be.
To me, there are three issues that should be at the top of the list of a Black agenda. They are addressing the racial wealth gap, health disparities and environmental injustices. Yet, there is still a significant challenge to achieving these policies. That challenge is America’s current intuitional power structure. This is why the Black agenda for 2020 should be centered around POWER.
Statehood for Black People. Did you know that there is a majority Black territory whose Congress member cannot vote for or against legislation? That majority Black (for now) territory is the Washington District of Columbia. Here’s my point. Because our system is a republic rather than a pure democracy (where the popular vote rules), states with smaller populations than DC (Wyoming and Vermont) have more legislative power in Congress.
Statehood is not a long-ago concept. (Hawaii and Alaska became states in 1959.) Without much legislative power, Washington DC is essentially a colony with slightly more electoral perks than other colonies (Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and other territories). This is why statehood should be a part of the Black agenda. Not to benefit one party over the other. But to empower people of color.
The Courts. Checks and balance is a vital part of our democracy. It is now time to check and balance the courts. The courts are more political than they have ever been, largely due to the fact that appointments are subjective to the partisan swings of the presidency and senate. Therefore, lifetime appointments are determined by elected officials who are subjected to four- or six-year election cycles (largely dependent on swing states). And these life-time appointments are critical in determining how much race plays into our everyday lives. (Imagine that—a white aristocrat will determine the Black experience while a Black man on the court remains silent.)
Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed for court reform. Some may think his motives were partisan. However, more research shows that there is an argument for term-limits for court appointments based on fiscality and retirement incentives. I know that currently Republicans subscribe to the theology of hypocrisy more than the ideology of conservatism. Yet, it is a great public argument. We need to restructure institutions that were not initially built to protect or serve us.
Voting Rights. Everything will be for naught if we don’t have secure and accessible access to the ballot box (or secure voting machines). Yes. In the 21st century, we are still fighting for voting rights. We probably won’t ever stop fighting for voting rights. And we should never stop fighting for voting rights. There will always be new innovative ways to limit any power Black people have. From the covert (gerrymandering) to the overt (voter purges), we should pay close attention to our state legislatures even when it’s not an election year.
Having a Black Agenda instead of asking for a “Black agenda” allows our people to negotiate from a position of power. Statehoods, institutional reforms and voting rights will not only allow us to exercise that power in 2020. But it will also empower us for decades.