Saturday, October 2, 2010

Benjamin Todd Jealous: Anti-Tea Partiers Descend on Washington to Fight for a Stronger Economy

Anti-Tea Partiers Descend on Washington to Fight for a Stronger Economy
By Benjamin Todd Jealous article link
October 2, 2010 | NAACP | AlterNet

We are living through a very particular moment in American history, one where diversity is increasing, with prosperity decreasing. Barring great social movement, this is a formula for a battleground.

Since the dawn of the nation’s worst economic crisis since the 1930s, progress has been made. We have expanded health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans, cut sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine by more than 80 percent, and saved more than 150,000 teachers’ jobs.

Yet, what was a recession for most Americans remains a depression for too many. Black American unemployment is nearly twice that of whites. Eight million jobs have been lost and over 2.5 million Americans have lost their homes, with millions more in danger of foreclosure. Schools are closing at unprecedented rates, while Americans are being imprisoned at alarming rates. In each case, people of color suffer worse.

A strong workforce is the answer to this economic crisis. Families with jobs spend money and as consumers, their buying power increases, allowing businesses to expand and hire more employees. Rather than a trickledown economy, where the rich get richer, we need to create new jobs and financial security for the middle class; only then can the economy grow. We have seen the impact of a top-heavy economy, reliant on prosperity trickling down to the masses, and the result is a nation where the top 10 percent of Americans holds 976 times more income than the bottom 90 percent of our nation’s families.

Good and fair jobs must be the top priority, yet we face a Congress where a fringe minority rebuffs measures to do just that. The Miller Bill -- legislation that would create one million jobs -- is stalled in the House. Anything that could help, whether it was the extension of unemployment benefits over the July 4th holiday or efforts to prevent the firing of thousands of teachers nationwide, is met with a chorus of NO.

Simultaneously, far-right extremists have found their way back into the national dialogue, helping drive a regressive agenda. From the Voting Rights Act, to the Civil Rights Act, to the 14th Amendment, the very pillars of democracy are under attack.

Now is the time to get everyone off the benches and back onto the field.

We must be bold and aggressive in turning this situation around. We cannot remain quiet in the face of such clear and imminent danger. Tradition teaches us to run and not get weary, walk and not faint. We have made real progress and great strides, but we must press forward because our work is not simply for us, rather for future generations to come.

As humans, we possess the ability to imagine the future and its possibilities, to look forward with anticipation for a new tomorrow. But we cannot achieve that new day without putting boots on the ground and seeing to fruition the change that millions voted for in 2008. We have to say no to a country divided and yes to a country united.

On October 2nd we will stand together as One Nation, a broad multiracial coalition of advocates and activists. We will come together in the name of putting our nation back to work, educating each other and our children, ensuring justice for all Americans.

Critically important to putting the nation back to work and bolstering our economic outlook is a commitment to ensuring that every child has access to a good school and a quality education. Until our children are given an opportunity to get the best education available, we will never be able to compete in the new global economy, where far too many of our corporations are leaving our shores and relocating to get both cheap and skilled labor.

Yet far too many schools throughout our nation are failing our children. In North Carolina, the state is adopting measures to re-segregate schools, returning to the era of separate and unequal. The state’s anti-diversity caucus has dismantled a nationally recognized socio-diversity student achievement policy, which will re-segregate bodies, budgets and the basic building blocks of a quality education.

We are the people who will decide whether our country stays in this valley of joblessness, foreclosures and despair, or fuel the hope and determination of the One Nation campaign, rise toward the mountaintop, and breathe new life into the great American dream.

We must harness our multiracial majority and make our narrative of hope and unity a renewed battle cry for change. Our voices cannot be consigned to a whisper nor can we stand passively on the sidelines, waiting invisibly for change.

Benjamin Todd Jealous is the president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

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