We all know that a closed mouth doesn’t get fed, but we’ve all been guilty at one time or another of holding our nose at the ballot box while we vote for the best of the leftovers from someone else’s dinner.
As you look at the latest news cycles, we see much speculation about who will run for president of the United States. One candidate appears to be the front-runner, another is considering throwing his hat in the ring, and another just launched an explorative committee to determine whether he/she should run.
As I talk to many people in our community, the common question is, why? Why is this person running? Why doesn’t that person sit down, step aside, or go somewhere and hide?
As it relates to would-be political candidates on both sides of the aisle, many people are not totally enamored with any of them. But we sit by, watch, listen, and then make a choice out of the best of what’s left or the last person standing — who oftentimes is chosen by a group that does not necessarily serve our best interests.
The political process is about power, money, and groups that need to be courted for a politician to get elected. So they cater their platform to address the wishes of those they believe might either a) get them in office with their support or b) keep them out of office if they don’t turn out for them.
Either way, people who are usually in the minority influence decisions that affect our lives.
Many people in power chose to listen to Black Americans during the 48-hour news cycle following the death of George Floyd, but now they’ve returned to business as usual.
It’s time to organize, strategize and let people know that things have not changed, and we are still demanding action.
As we look towards the next presidential election cycle, which technically begins next year, it is important to our community — the Black community — to start campaigning about the issues that are of concern to us and the type of person and values that we would like to see in the next commander-in-chief. And we must hold that candidate accountable for prioritizing our wishes.
For too long, politicians have taken our community for granted and given us lip service regarding what we want to hear. But they rarely deliver on those promises, which in many cases, weren’t promises at all. Instead they expect Black folk to be content with their bullet points delivered in a stump speech or presentation.
Here are the things that we should demand from any person seeking office who wants our support:
- Real police reform and accountability with the resources behind it to make a difference
- Investments in public schools and early childhood education programs that will give our kids the resources they need to compete for jobs, and entrance to the best colleges and universities in the country.
- Urban housing that is truly affordable to working families and not located in a food, banking, and transportation desert.
- Economic development that encourages and promotes entrepreneurship so that we can generate wealth and provide livable wage jobs in and near the communities in which we live.
- Solutions to gun violence that do not center around a political debate of the right to bear arms based on a document drafted before the onslaught of assault weapons and when the common person needed to defend their home and country.
- Racial equity and resolution to the many wrongs, most of which have been recognized to some degree, that have been bestowed upon Black people in this country since its inception.
These are the things that many of us talk about. These are the things that many of us wish would be addressed by politicians and policymakers, yet these issues have gone unresolved for generations.
It’s time for us, collectively and individually, to talk openly about the changes and direction we want to see in this country.
It’s time for us to openly tell political office seekers — regardless of what political party they claim to represent — that they are not the right candidate for us if their priorities and actions do not align with the values we wish to see in a person holding office.
Change will not happen if we sit by and let the current news cycle — and a small segment of our population — dictate who they believe the best candidates are and leave us holding the bags of another person who won’t even listen to what it looks like to walk in our shoes.
Chris B. Bennett is CEO and Publisher of The Seattle Medium Newspaper Group and a founding member of Word In Black.
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