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Developing a New Black Agenda

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Carroll G. Robinson & Michael O. Adams
November 18, 2016

Criminal justice reform is an important issue on an accountability agenda for the next president when it comes to the African-American community.

Congressman James E. Clyburn’s 10-20-30 Plan to fight poverty should be on the agenda, but it is just a starting point. There also needs to be a wealth building and accumulation policy agenda focused on lifting African-Americans into the middle class and sustaining them there while ensuring they have real access to economic and entrepreneurial opportunities and upward economic mobility.

Economic growth alone won’t end income inequality. Inequality is a result of both slow economic (distorted) growth and existing public policy decisions. Equal pay for equal work is both a gender and racial issue. Women get paid less than men and African-Americans get paid less than whites in far too many instances. This does not even take into consideration the times when race is used to deny employment opportunities.

Fixing Social Security is a major issue, but doing so won’t be enough to address the growing “retirement insecurity” facing aging African-American retirees. The attacks on public pension plans disproportionately impact African-Americans, who are a large segment of the public sector employment pool from teachers to local, state and federal government employees. Like many Americans, most of their individual savings were wiped out during the Great Recession. They have little personal savings beyond their pension benefits to sustain them during their retirement years.

The advancement, evolution and expanding deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) is a development that has both positive and potentially negative – racial bias- consequences for African-Americans. Involvement and oversight in this area must be a priority for not only the next president but also for African-Americans elected officials at the local, state and federal levels of government.

The Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs has produced a free digital reader on artificial intelligence and racial and gender bias. A copy can be obtained by emailing a request to [email protected].

Finally, for the next president, 2020 will be all about re-election. But for African-Americans and other people of color and low-income urban Americans, it will be the next constitutionally-mandated national decennial census and the kick off to the next round of redistricting.

Political power begins with the official census count and urban cities and community-based organizations and leaders need to begin preparing now for the 2020 census count and the redistricting that will follow.

To protect someone’s voting right, the first thing that needs to happen is that they need to be counted during the census. Census data is what will be used to draw new political districts at the city, county, state and congressional levels.

Not only is the census count the foundation upon which political maps are drawn, it is also the numerical data that will be used to distribute federal funding – billions of dollars – for a decade.

The Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs is developing a major civic engagement project focused on helping urban cities begin preparing for the 2020 census.

If you are interested in participating in our Let’s Count – People of Color and Low-Income Urban Americans – Project, please send an email to us at [email protected].

This is the 21st century and African-Americans must not be afraid to have an agenda like the Hispanic and LGBTQ communities. We must be willing to speak up and out for our agenda.

As Adam Clayton Powell advocated, we must not be afraid of “Audacious Power.”

President Obama is leaving the White House. For those who didn’t want to speak out too loudly for the black community for fear of embarrassing the first Black President that issue is off the table as of noon, Jan. 20, 2017.

Generic policy prescriptions have not been enough to fix the challenges facing African-Americans whether they live in urban, suburban or rural America.

Now is the time to develop a specific policy agenda to address the challenges facing Black America as a new president is about to be sworn in.


AuthorsRobinson and Adams are members of the faculty of the political science department at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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