by Antoine M. Thompson
While many of us are counting down the days until Election Day on Tuesday, November 3rd, most Americans, especially Black Americans are looking forward to the start of the New Year. This year was supposed to be a break-through moment because of the magic and mystique around 2020. Unfortunately, we have experienced a resurgence of police brutality, economic and racial turmoil, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, over half of Black businesses are projected to close, over 2 million property owners that have government backed mortgages have requested forbearances, and the Black unemployment rate is well over 10%. This year’s election is about restoring hope to Americans failed by the health care system, left behind by a broken legal system, and locked out of the economy because of failed leadership, sexism, and racism too.
Restoring Hope in Government
According to a recent poll by NBC/Wall Street Journal, 62% of Americans believe that the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction. Many view the national and local handling of the Coronavirus as a huge failure. Unfortunately, Black Americans have caught the brunt of this cataclysmic disaster that shuttered businesses and cost over 230,000 American lives. From the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), the inability to have adequate mobile health clinics and food distribution centers available for the needy, it is not a surprise that so many Americans are disheartened about the government at all levels.
Restoring Hope in Democracy
How is it possible in the modern age and what was supposed to be a “Post Racial U.S.,” that numerous states are enacting senseless barriers to deny or suppress the right of CITIZENS to vote? There are even white supremacist and militia groups that are preparing to organize demonstrations at polling booths on Election Day to instill fear at the polls. What message does this send to our children, adults and the world? A couple of disturbing facts that should alarm all Americans is that there are only two Black U.S. Senators out of 100, zero black governors out of 50 in the U.S. The battle for democracy in the U.S. is on the ballot on November 3rd.
Restoring Hope in the Police and the Courts
It is often stated that there is a thin line between order and chaos. Law enforcement and the courts are critical for the orderly function of society. The Black experience with these institutions continues to be complicated to say it nicely. Black women and men are racially profiled for driving while Black, shopping while Black, jogging while Black, even sleeping while Black!
The courts not only too often fail to convict police officers in cases of police misconduct and/or brutality, their simply is not enough racial diversity on the bench at the County, State and Federal level in most of the country. There needs to be mandatory annual racial sensitivity and cultural diversity training in law enforcement and the courts. Additionally, there needs to be a Rooney Rule for state and federal judicial appointments which would require that Black Americans would be at least interviewed when there is a vacancy.
Expanding Opportunities in Jobs and Business
Unemployment and poverty breeds fear, cynicism and hopelessness, and President Barack Obama learned as a community organizer that you must reignite the inner fire for a person to succeed, meanwhile opening doors of opportunity for them. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), recently reported that Black Americans that were laid-off this year with a college degree are being hired at a slower rate than White Americans with a high school diploma. We also, witnessed what happened.
Paycheck Protection Program, the government relief program for businesses that essentially excluded most Black businesses in the U.S. The U.S. Small Business Administration historically has a bad track record of lending and providing grants to Black businesses.
Restoring hope and expanding opportunities is at the core of racial justice and government shutdown protests that have taken place in 2020 and the families that have experienced the loss of a loved one or a job as result of COVID-19. Hope and opportunity are on the ballot on Tuesday, November 3rd, a message that focuses on cynicism usually never wins elections.
Antoine M. Thompson, is a political strategist, former NYS Senator, former Buffalo Common/City Council Member and partner with Black Politics Today.