Recording artist Bootsy Collins is one of many artists Cornel West has inspired.
I’ve only known retiring Princeton University professor Cornel West as a celebrity activist. I’ve never read Race Matters, his most popular book, or any of his others (though I’m off to the library momentarily with a list). I first encountered West, with no clue as to who he was, at the 2007 American Academy of Religion annual meeting in San Diego, where he and talk show host Tavis Smiley shared a stage. In what became one of the most popular articles ever published on my personal blog, I described that experience as an exciting “gospel pep rally.”
Even in the hallways at AAR, West had the air of celebrity about him. Perhaps it was his appearance in two of the Matrix films. As I passed him, he seemed to expect people to recognize and stop him. When he called out a question from the back of the room at a panel discussion of philosopher Charles Taylor’s book A Secular Age, everyone paid attention.
I began paying attention too, both when he was campaigning for presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 and since he’s become one of the president’s most vocal critics on the political left. Last year, I heard West speak eloquently and passionately about racism in the criminal justice system at the Princeton University Imprisonment of a Race conference with author Michelle Alexander.
Eddie Glaude, Jr. said Cornel West has been his "saving grace."
I’m aware that some Black intellectuals have a “What have you done for me lately?” attitude towards West’s academic achievements. Glenn Loury of Brown University and John McWhorter of Columbia University, for example, dissected his intellectual output in a Blogging Heads dialogue last summer. Their basic critique was that West hasn’t produced any substantive academic work in at least a decade and has chosen instead to be famous.
I’m also aware that West’s theology makes some evangelicals uncomfortable. Earlier this year, a nationally known Black Christian leader told UrbanFaith that West had been disinvited from a speaking engagement at a popular conference because West was perceived as too controversial. Our source said other Black leaders were upset about this and were in discussions with conference organizers about the situation. In trying to discern if it was a story worth reporting, I called West’s office at Princeton University and spoke to an assistant. She said they knew nothing about it, but confirmed that a video crew was coming to film a segment rather than having him appear live at the event. Of course, I thought. What better way to save face and control the message. North Park University, on the other hand, welcomed West to its Justice Summit with open arms in March.
Hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco has referenced Cornel West on four projects.
West is retiring from Princeton University after spending 40 years on and off as a part of the community, first as a doctoral student and then as a member of the Religion and African-American Studies faculty. He’ll be returning to Union Theological Seminary where he taught early in his career. Last night, when I attended his retirement celebration at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, I didn’t go into the event as naively as I had the first time I heard him speak. But I knew it would be a good party, and it was. Musical performances ranged from gospel to show tunes to jazz to hip-hop to what my son described as trip-hop to funk. All the artists were stellar. What most interested me, though, was what people said about West.
Eddie Glaude, Jr., chair of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton, said West has “loved him to death” over many years. “As a deeply wounded young man from the coast of Mississippi, he has been my saving grace,” said Glaude. He also talked about the importance of West’s academic contributions, including how West “pushed and shaped how we think about Black liberation theology.”
Angela Groves spoke for many when she said Cornel West is a "master teacher."
“A generation of young African-American scholars found their feet in the expansiveness of Cornel’s intellectual imagination, reaching for his in-depth understanding of the western intellectual cannon and his profound grasp of the African-American intellectual tradition,” said Glaude, who also credited West with teaching him to stand in a tradition “defined by quality of mind and a disciplined practice.” On another personal note, Glaude said West once told him, “We’re all wounded and we have a choice. We can either be wounded healers or wounded hurters.” West, said Glaude, has chosen “to work at being a wounded healer.”
Princeton’s president, Shirley M. Tilghman, described West as a “prophetic Christian” who was raised in both the Black Baptist and the Black Panther traditions. She said his tenure as a professor at Harvard University (which ended badly) was a “period of self-inflicted exile” and recounted stories of West’s exploits both on and off the Princeton campus. Shortly after West returned to Princeton from Harvard in 2002, Tilghman was at an alumni dinner in Atlanta when someone asked a “querulous” question about West. “A young alumna stood up before I could even begin to answer and said, ‘You’ve got it all wrong. Cornel West was the most devoted teacher I had at Princeton and he changed my life,'” Tilghman recalled.
She talked about a group of graduate students in religion holding a marathon 11-hour seminar with West and about his generous response to a group of Black children that accosted him on campus. She also talked about walking down a Chicago street with him and realizing, perhaps for the first time, what a huge celebrity he is. Drivers honked their horns, taxi drivers stopped and offered rides, passengers in cars snapped photos. What all these people were responding to, she said, was “Cornel’s dedication to teaching, his wide-ranging intelligence, his enormous generosity of spirit, and his compassionate concern for the well-being of others.” “Princeton has been a far, far better place because he has been among us over the last 40 years,” Tilghman concluded.
Actor Harry Belefonte is inspired by Cornel West's public service.
Like the alumna Tilgham spoke of and the students featured in a video montage that played between musical acts, Angela Groves, Princeton University class of 2012, said West was a great teacher. “Thank you for showing us a manifestation of courage and faith. Thank you for igniting a fire under us to serve others, to fight for justice no matter the cost, to speak truth to power, and to constantly and fearlessly examine ourselves and examine the world around us. And thank you for showing us how to do all of this from a spirit of love and compassion,” said Groves.
The celebrities in attendance also spoke. Hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco talked about West’s direct influence on popular culture, for example, and on his own music. He recalled hearing West say, “We have to make those things that are uncool cool and we have to make those things that are cool uncool.” The words stuck with him and found their way into his music. “This man is in love with love more than anybody I know,” said Fiasco.
Actor and activist Harry Belefonte said he had nearly given up on thinking there were any more “renowned figures” who use their platforms to put themselves “in the service of human need and struggle,” but then along came West. “Those of us who have been in the struggle a long time who have still got room to be inspired have been inspired by you.”
Like West and Fiasco, Belefonte has been an outspoken critic of President Obama. In that vein, he offered the only sour note of the evening, telling West, “I’ve been to the White House. These days you haven’t missed much.”
After being coaxed onstage, Cornel West embraced the opportunity to sing with George Clinton.
I was watching the show from the balcony and saw the stage manager try to coax West out of his seat to get up on stage with headliners George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. West kept resisting until she and others pressed him into service. Later, when he finally took the stage to thank everyone involved in the celebration, he spoke briefly and humbly. “I want each and every
one of you to know that when you heard those words about me, you were honoring my father, the late Clifton West, and you were honoring my mother, Irene B. West,” he said. “I hope and pray that even though tonight the focus has been on me, that it’s so much about faith in something bigger than you. …If you’re a Christian, you know that that first century Palestinian Jew named Jesus of Nazareth died for you and he’s bigger than you. … Keep the funk real, keep the vision real, keep the love real, keep the justice real, but in a spirit of self-critical smiling and laughing.”
Whatever you think of the man’s theology or politics, there’s something to be learned from his life of service grounded in faith and his dedication to the next generation, not to mention his wide-ranging taste in music. Bon voyage Dr. West!
RACIAL PROVOCATEUR: Touré, the outspoken journalist and cultural critic, takes the post-racial conversation to another level with 'Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?'.
Cultural critic and Rolling Stone contributing editor Touré is not one to shy away from breaking Black racial norms, and he does exactly that in his racially rowdy book, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now. The title refers to the notion that in the 21st century there exists a new understanding of the Black identity. He interviewed 105 well-known Black personalities from a variety of vocations on his journey to unpack “Post-Blackness.”
Post-Blackness like most terms under the post-modernist umbrella is an attempt to redefine meaning. Touré borrowed the term from the art world where Black artists were envisioning a way to practice their craft without being pigeonholed into the genre of “Black Art.” So to define their shows and artistic pieces they constructed the term Post-Black. This term is not to be confused with the more controversial “Post-Racial,” a term that suggests race does not play a significant role in America anymore. Post-Blackness is contrarian to such a notion (“It doesn’t mean we’re over Blackness; it means we’re over our narrow understanding of what Blackness means.”)
Racially Touré believes one age has ended and another begun (“the age of Obama.”) When using this term, he is not talking politics but rather using it as a signifier of a new racial day. Obama’s racial identity is “rooted in, but not restricted by, his Blackness” as interviewee Dr. Michael Eric Dyson puts it. Obama’s refusal to engage in racial identity politics, while at the same time maintaining a strong connection to Black America, has been nothing short of a political revolution. By taking such a posture, he was able to move from fighting the power to being the power. The same could be said of the President Obama’s good friend Oprah Winfrey (“She ruffled a lot of Black feathers by turning Blackness inside out and allowing it to breathe in the white world on its own with little explanation or apology.”)
For the author, both Oprah and Obama serve as metaphors for a new generation of Blacks that refuses to be pigeonholed into a stereotypical racial Black narrative. This generation vigorously defends their rights to individualism while at the same time value the history of the collective Black experience. Concerning that experience, they refuse to be limited or totally defined by it. This is the author’s core argument (“the number of ways of being Black is infinite” and “what it means to be Black has grown so staggeringly broad, so unpredictable, so diffuse that Blackness itself is undefinable.”)
Of course the “age of Obama” and corresponding Post-Black posture doesn’t necessarily sit well with all. For instance, Dr. Cornel West and broadcasting luminary Tavis Smiley have been super critical of Post-Black posture and have publicly accused the president of ignoring issues specific to the Black community. Really the charge is Obama has not been Black enough. Anyone who has been Black for more than a few minutes knows this charge is not limited to politics. There are “racial police” in all venues enforcing all kinds of chameleon-like rules of Blackness.
One incident the author addresses happened while he was a college student at Emory University. At 2:30 a.m. he entered into a discussion with some fellow Black students concerning always being stuck with cleaning up after a party. A linebacker-sized Black man who wasn’t even in the conversation silenced the whole room by shouting angrily, “Shut up, Touré! You ain’t Black!” He talks about the embarrassment of being charged with being an Uncle Tom and reflects on the racial wrestling that followed. Touré desires this type of attitude to be abolished (“I wish for every Black American to have the freedom to be Black however he or she chooses and to banish from the collective mind the bankrupt, fraudulent concept of ‘authentic’ Blackness.”)
So how does the Post-Black dynamic affect us in Christian circles? Historically, seven major denominations comprise the traditional Black church — the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church; the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church; the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church; the National Baptist Convention, USA., Incorporated (NBC); the National Baptist Convention of America, Unincorporated (NBCA); the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC); and the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). Blacks have also had a significant presence in historic White denominations such as the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational, United Methodist, and Roman Catholic churches. Over the last century, the primary perspectives of the Black Christian experience have arisen from those two groups (traditional Black denominations and historic White denominations) with good reason.
Today we need to acknowledge the existence of a significant Post-Black church movement. Over the last 40 years, many Blacks have come to faith through White parachurch ministries such as Navigators, InterVarsity, and the like. Many have matured in their faith within independent evangelical churches, been educated in predominately White Seminaries, and found homes in White denominations looking to become multiethnic. This group has a set of distinctives that differs from the historic Black church. Will the Post-Black Christian generation be grafted into the overall Black church experience?
I have a significant dog in this fight. Post-Blackness presents to us the idea of being rooted in, but not restricted by, Blackness. That is where I, and many Black Christians, live today. I have historic roots in the traditional Black church, but possess a Post-Black Christian identity. Which leads me to wonder, is there room for people like me in the traditional Black church? And, frankly, what does a Post-Black future signify for Christianity as a whole?
ALWAYS THE MAID: Actress Viola Davis won numerous acting honors but also faced criticism for her role as Aibileen Clark in "The Help." (Image: Dreamworks/Touchstone Pictures)
“When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, ‘Oh no! Oh come on, why her? Again!’ ” Those opening lines of Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech at the Academy Awards this past Sunday verbalized my sentiments exactly, and I’m sure the sentiments of many others. Though Streep is an excellent actor, I was disappointed that Viola Davis, the gifted actor who played Aibileen Clark in The Help, wasn’t chosen as this year’s Best Actress by the committee handing out those coveted Oscars.
While I know I wasn’t alone in my disappointment, I’m sure there were also African Americans who were actually relieved that Davis did not win. That’s just how strong the displeasure among many African Americans was regarding Davis’ role as a ’60s-era Jackson, Mississippi-based maid in The Help. Based on the bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, The Help was a source of controversy almost from the beginning, with the African American community up in arms about the movie and Ms. Davis’ decision to play a maid. In an impromptu Facebook survey of my friends, I found mostly mixed emotions about The Help. “African American actors, as well as other actors of color must be selective in the roles they choose to play,” said one friend. “They must really know the purpose behind the film, the targeted audience, and avoid stereotypical roles.” Her view seems to represent the opinion of many.
FROM PAGE TO SCREEN: The film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's bestseller, 'The Help,' features Emma Stone as Skeeter, Octavia Spencer as Minny, and Viola Davis as Aibileen.
The general consensus, as seen in the news media, is that African Americans are weary of seeing Black actors in subservient roles, as well as the lack of quality leading roles and films that offer a broader view of the African American experience. It didn’t matter that Ms. Davis did a superb job in her portrayal of Aibileen, personalizing the character through knowledge of her family’s heritage of domestic workers. Many people simply were ambivalent about the notion of another Black actor playing a stereotype. Ms. Davis, however, saw the importance of her role when she toldFresh Air host Terry Gross, “You’re only reduced to a cliché if you don’t humanize a character. A character can’t be a stereotype based on the character’s occupation.”
Ms. Davis makes a good point, but even she has acknowledged the dearth of quality roles for Black actors. This has led to the enduring perception that the Academy Awards voting committee, which a recent Los Angeles Times report observed is 94 percent White and 77 percent male, is naturally disinterested in seeing non-White actors in substantial leading roles that transcend standard stereotypes.
I confess that I had my own reservations about seeing The Help initially, having grown tired of movies with Black domestic servants raising white people’s children while often neglecting the needs of their own families. I had seen enough of it, and even heard many real-life stories about it from my own family. Many, if not most, of our ancestors in the 1960s and prior — from the North to the South and everywhere in between — cooked, cleaned, sewed, chauffeured, handled the interests of, and had a part in raising the children of white families. Most of us don’t want to be reminded, preferring instead to highlight past and current achievements of many highly accomplished African Americans in our community. So was this movie a proverbial push back in line and one of “knowing one’s place,” as the Old South would remind us? Or could it be a realistic portrayal of a not-so-distant time in American history?
Another issue raised by the film is this: Should Black people continue to be angry about Hollywood’s shortsightedness when it comes to making films that authentically reflect African American life? Or, should we simply be grateful and celebrate whenever African American actors do their jobs well, no matter the roles they’re given to play?
In an appearance on ABC’s The View, Ms. Davis talked about her initial reluctance to take on the role. “You knew there was going to be a backlash from the African American community,” she told Barbara Walters and the other ladies. “It is a story set in 1962 about maids who are not educated, and I thought that people would look at that and they wouldn’t see the work.”
Seeing the work for what it was, I appreciated the film’s artistry. After counting the few films of Davis’ I had seen, I read her filmography of 40 films to date, including titles like Law Abiding Citizen and Antwone Fisher, but also Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail. I wondered about the attention or lack thereof, garnered from Davis’ previous roles, like the characters she played as the BBF (i.e., Black Best Friend) opposite Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love and Diane Lane in Nights in Rodanthe, providing a shoulder to cry on and mother wit, to boot. And let’s not forget Doubt, where Davis earned Oscar and Golden Globe award nominations for Best Supporting Actress. In that film, Davis played opposite Meryl Streep (again!), who was nominated for Best Actress. Surely, we all saw those movies. Didn’t we?
In that Facebook poll I conducted, some of my friends stated that African American directors should correct the problem of limited film choices for Black actors by creating films with great Black characters. While that’s an understandable sentiment, do we need to be reminded that it takes ambitious amounts of funding and the blessing of countless (usually White) Hollywood decision makers to get any type of movie made today? Hollywood finances what the majority of moviegoers will pay for (notwithstanding the bootleg copies of released films that probably sell exponentially above the few actual ticket sales at the box office). If Hollywood won’t fund the films we want to see, we get angry with directors like Spike Lee, John Singleton, and the Hughes Brothers for neglecting to make them (as if these directors owe us.) How many times have you heard people in our community complain about the latest gangsta film featuring do-wrong black characters? Rarely.
When Hattie McDaniel became the first African American actor awarded the coveted Oscar for her 1939 portrayal of Mammy in Gone With the Wind, we applauded even as she poignantly expressed her hope that she would “always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry.” Was anyone complaining then? Fast forward some 70 years later and many of us are complaining, as Tavis Smiley did on his PBS show, about Davis’ nomination.
During his interview with Davis and her Help costar Octavia Spencer (who went on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress), Smiley remarked: “There’s something that sticks in my craw about celebrating Hattie McDaniel so many years ago for playing a maid … [and] here we are all these years later … and I want you to win … but I’m ambivalent about what you’re winning for.” The actress shot back: “That very mindset … that a lot of African Americans have is absolutely destroying the Black artist.”
As Hollywood continues to finance movies it deems profitable, we may continue to see characters like Aibilene Clark and the young, white, savior-esque character, Skeeter. And know that the majority of the Academy is White and male.
Whether refusing to support Black artists will contribute to their ultimate destruction, as Davis contends, is up for debate. But while you stand your ground waiting for Hollywood to showcase those artists in more desirable roles, think about supporting them in the meantime. Honor their attempts to make strides in a nearly impenetrable industry that still gives crumbs to Black and other minority actors, compared to the whole slices of cake the majority often receives.
ON THE ROAD: Dr. Cornel West and journalist Tavis Smiley recently concluded their 14-city "Poverty Tour" to bring attention to the plight of America's poor.
“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” – John 12:8
Last week media personality Tavis Smiley and his radio show sidekick, Princeton professor Cornel West, wrapped up their seven-day 14-city “Poverty Tour,” for which they caught plenty of hell. Launched to raise awareness to the plight of America’s expanding poor in this depressed economy, critics, from regular folks on social networking websites, to bloggers, to media personalities, labeled Smiley and West everything from “Obama haters” to “cry babies” to “poverty pimps” and worse. Comedian and radio show host Steve Harvey recently branded them “Uncle Toms,” on air, the ultimate diss for black people who are disloyal to their race — in this case their criticism of President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black President.
As a journalist, I’ve met both Smiley and West on occasion but don’t know either of them personally. Still, calling them “Toms” seems overboard. Both men believed their critique of the president and cause for the poor is just and in the spirit of their Christian faith. They deserve praise for using their platforms to take action. Attendees at their tour stops reportedly showed love. What concerns me as a Christian and observer is why these two intelligent brothers chose to advocate in a way they know won’t move the needle one bit for the poor. Why a model that more resembles what Glenn Beck would do than what Jesus would?
Servant Leaders or Advocate Entrepreneurs?
Smiley and West could’ve chosen the servant leader model, exemplified by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other disciples of the civil rights movement. Through nonviolent passive resistance, they raised the nation’s consciousness and got policies changed. King was unfortunately assassinated in 1968 in the midst of leading the Poor People’s Campaign calling for an economic Bill of Rights (sound familiar?) to end poverty among all Americans. There’s also Mohandas Gandhi, the Hindu philosopher who inspired King. Through nonviolence, hunger strikes, and skillfully mobilizing peasant farmers, Gandhi led India to independence from Great Britain. A trained lawyer, Gandhi eloquently confronted Britain’s most powerful, yet related equally to the poor, though, like King, he was of a higher socioeconomic class.
Jesus Christ — the ultimate divine servant leader — inspired both King and Gandhi and obviously changed the world. Servant leaders succeed because of their moral fortitude, skillful planning, and ability to inspire and empower people in concrete ways. Most importantly, they are committed to self-sacrifice.
That’s the problem with Smiley and West.
As Smiley complained of perceived slights, such as Obama being the first president to not invite him to the White House, and West whined that Obama didn’t hook him up with a ticket to his inauguration, their self-absorption became blatantly clear. Could you picture King or Gandhi voicing such drivel? If advocating nationally for the poor is truly your calling (it’s not mine) why not lead a hunger strike or a fast? How about camping out in a tent near the White House or Capitol Hill until change comes? How about organizing and mobilizing voters in the way the Tea Party advocates have done to elect politicians who would pass a poor people’s Stimulus Bill? You both evoke King’s words concerning the poor, why not his manner?
Smiley and West’s method was more like Beck, the multimillion-dollar right-wing media mogul/talk show host who fashions himself as an evangelical bullhorn for angry whites. Beck has done road shows, packed auditoriums, and even held a rally on the National Mall on the day commemorating the historic 1963 March of Washington. Beck’s is the “Entrepreneur Advocate” model, where the speaker to the crowd is the only one whose wallet gets enriched. Beck has mastered this hustle. Smiley has long been associated with it, too.
So what are Smiley and West really peddling?
Besides selling books and a Poverty Tour TV special and DVD that I suspect will be released later, I believe Smiley and West’s goal is to hustle their way into President Obama’s inner circle. The tour was part of their angling for a “come to Jesus meeting” like the “beer summit” that Henry Louis Gates Jr., West’s black contemporary at Harvard, enjoyed after his spat with a white police officer made headlines. Smiley and West would love to commune with the prez at the White House on red wine, crackers and cheese. They likely would want to broadcast the meeting/interview on Smiley’s TV show.
Don’t be shocked if it happens close to Election Day 2012.
And, in the meantime, the poor will remain among us.
The opinions expressed in this commentary belong to the writer and are not necessarily the views of UrbanFaith.com or Urban Ministries, Inc.
Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) deserves the colorful language prize of the week for describing the federal debt deal that President Obama signed into law Tuesday as a “Satan sandwich.” “There is nothing inside this sandwich that the major religions of the world will say deals with protection for the poor, the widows, the children,” Cleaver told ABC News.
But a group calling itself Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE) sent a letter to President Obama Monday urging him not to protect programs for the poor, as Circle of Protection signatories had recommended, but instead to protect those in need from programs that it says “demean the poor, undermine their family structures and trap them in poverty, dependency and despair for generations.”
Timothy Dalrymple, managing editor of the Evangelical portal at Patheos.com and a drafter of the CASE letter, said in a phone interview today that the early CASE signatories are a primarily white, religiously diverse group that came together at a conference about environmental issues. Dalrmyple said he would welcome more ethnic diversity.
“We referenced [Jim] Wallis and the Circle of Protection because, while we agree that the budget is a moral document, we believe that many other moral imperatives are being left out of the conversation. The Circle of Protection was rightly emphasizing the moral imperative to care for the poor … but we felt they were leaving out the moral imperative against the kind of severe, chronic crippling debt that we have, and leaving out the moral imperative of wise stewardship of resources. There are numerous moral imperatives involved here,” said Dalrymple.
“We don’t feel that drawing a circle of protection around one party’s argument is the best way to go,” he said, but pointed out that there are “broad areas of agreement” between the two groups.
“We’re certainly in agreement on the importance of caring for the poor. They are willing to acknowledge the importance of getting our fiscal house in order. There are differences in emphasis, but there is also, on our part, an effort to foster a broader and more nuanced conversation over the moral imperatives at play, and a challenging of the assumption that the measure of your compassion is the amount of money you devote toward ostensibly anti-poverty programs,” said Dalrymple.
At the Washington PostOn Faith blog, Lisa Miller asked a handful of Christian ministers and scholars, including CASE member Eric Teetsel, what Jesus would cut from the federal budget. “All deferred an answer. Instead, they raised the same old liberal-conservative political debate that has raged at least since the Reagan years. Left-leaning Christians insisted that the way out of the debt crisis was to raise taxes. Those on the right supported slashing entitlements,” said Miller.
In a NewsOne/BlackPlanet poll conducted Tuesday, African Americans were divided when asked if they thought President Obama gave up too much to Republicans in the deal. Fifty-one percent said no; 46 percent said yes,” News One reported.
At The Huffington Post’s Black Voices, which launched today, Peter S. Goodman revisited a conversation he had last year with an economist who told him most Americans didn’t “get screwed” in the Great Recession. In light of depressing statistics about its impact on minorities, Goodman said, “Black and Hispanic households together comprise 28 percent of the American population. In other words, great numbers of Americans have indeed gotten screwed. And anyone who missed that essentially missed what was wrong with the American economy writ large.”
As to solutions, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is launching cross country job fairs, town hall meetings, job readiness programs, and seminars as part of its “For The People” jobs initiative resolution, News One reported. And concern about hiring discrimination against the long-term unemployed prompted Democrats in both houses of Congress to introduce legislation that would ban employment discrimination, according to Colorlines.
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to contribute $30 million of his own money to a $130 million initiative that will address the needs of the city’s minority populations. The program “would overhaul how the government interacts with a population of about 315,000 New Yorkers who are disproportionately undereducated, incarcerated and unemployed,” The New York Times reported.
In what may or may not be a pursuit of solutions, talk show host Tavis Smiley and Princeton University professor Cornel West are taking their “anti-poverty tour” to Chicago this weekend, The Chicago Tribune reported. The tour will shine “a spotlight on economic hardships in the president’s hometown” at a time when his former chief of staff and current Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is, according to Chicago News Cooperative, shutting down its overnight emergency services shift for the homeless and laying off 24 employees in the city’s Department of Family and Support Services.
One can only speculate what the strain will be on affluent African and Hispanic Americans who are more likely to live in poor neighborhoods than low income whites, according to a new study by Brown University sociologist John Logan that was reported in The Wall Street Journal.
Well, it’s been a tumultuous couple of weeks talking about money, a subject financial adviser Dave Ramsey says the Bible mentions more than 800 times. Among those verses is Mathew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” As we debate these issues, perhaps we can remember too that 1 John 4:20 says we can’t love God and hate those with whom we disagree about causes and solutions to our nation’s economic problems.