02-19-2017  8:43 am      •     

Lou Dobbs of CNN prodded his panel the other night to explain what was underneath the awful image of castration used by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., in voicing his frustration with Barack Obama. 
His panel completely missed the lively underground disappointment among some Blacks who support Obama, reflected in these two headlines:  "Obama Calls For More Responsibility for Black Fathers," reflecting his speeches recently to large Black audiences such as the Apostolic Church in Chicago and the AME Convention; then another headline, "Obama Brings Economic Message to N. Virginia" in which – before a largely White audience of 10,000 — he proposed legislation to ensure equal pay for women, expanded paid family and medical leave, child-care services and pre-school programs, all paid for by reducing Iraq war funding.  
The rhetoric of the moral failure of Black men has helped to nationalize an image of their inferiority.  But after serving on a Commission on the Black Male, I have become sensitive to the facts that Black families fall apart — or are never consummated — most often because Black men lack education and or money, and therefore, Black women do not see them as viable partners.  Part of the pressure to get money in the absence of an education pushes Black men into bad choices that result in their disproportionate incarceration or other conditions. So they are often not available as fathers to provide for their families.
This image of the mass irresponsibility of Black males also gives a pass to the difficulty for anyone to accept responsibility for a family where access to the economic resources are difficult and they are often blocked by racism. Research shows that Black children arrive at most schools three to four years already behind White children. Their disproportionate poverty places them in schools that do not have the resources – in fact, there they need much greater resources than average — just to educate them on an equal basis. The 50 percent drop-out rate manifests this result and so, they become fuel for the streets.
They also become fuel for a racist public policy that sweeps them up by racial profiling, targeted neighborhood policing and long sentences into prison, even though 80 percent of them are there for non-violent, petty drug offenses.  Where is the outcry for the collective responsibility of government that put them there and therefore, is implicated in their inability to support their families?  Where are the bridging programs that effectively connect them to their families while they are in prison? 
Rep. Danny Davis of Chicago should be applauded for passage of his Second Chance Act that promises to build a foundation for those just leaving prison, but my discussion with him reveals that it has not been funded. 
Barack Obama should be applauded for proposing to create a White House Office on Urban Policy because when Black males go to the street for their livelihood, they will find few positive options because urban policy has been on the back-burner of public policy for nearly 30 years now.  
How did that happen? Ronald Reagan was able to sell America on "personal responsibility" rather than government assistance to blunt charges of racism as implicated in Black progress. 
With that support, he was able to take billions of dollars from cities to give to the suburbs, private corporations and the Defense establishment. 
Therefore, the sensitivity of Blacks to the principle of "personal responsibility" is the awareness of its danger; it has been elevated from a natural act of virtue that blacks have consistently performed to a powerful political ideology of the Right that marginalized the image of blacks and supported the dramatic shift of government resources out of urban areas. So that, today even a new "urban policy" must be targeted to achieve results.
The sensitivity to the ideology of personal responsibility also reflects the intellectual awareness that in the absence of balanced proposals that also privilege a robust version of the collective responsibility of government, the large structural problems that are faced by the Black community will not be addressed.  These problems that ravage cities and their Black neighborhoods now include: the home foreclosure crisis, globalization of the economy and jobs, competition for low-wage employment, depression level unemployment rates, the persistence of poverty and under-education and crumbling infrastructure of urban institutions and places.  
This debate should result in both presidential candidates speaking to those needs, giving concrete public policy answers to the question of how they would address them, especially at venues where Black audiences are gathered.

Dr. Ron Walters is the Distinguished Leadership Scholar, Director of the African American Leadership Center, and Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park.  His latest book is: The "Price of Racial Reconciliation."

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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