Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Well done Barack. Well done Jack Lawton.

To paraphrase Jon Stewart: "And at 10:30 this morning a politician gave a speech and spoke to us like adults." Check it out if you haven't seen it yet.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.
Speaking the truth ain't always easy, or the smartest thing to do politically, but it is really nice to see leadership like this from a likely our next president.

And well done to Jack Lawton, the extremely impressive Canadian opposition party leader who I saw speak the other day at Take Back America:
"My message was 'let's work together and make trade deals that are sustainable and fair,'" Layton said.

Layton sees an opportunity to re-open the trade agreement after U.S. Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama made calls that they wanted changes for NAFTA.

And Layton seemed confident that either Obama or Clinton would be the next U.S. president that Canada would be dealing with.

"It's very exciting . . . (the movement) surrounding the candidacies of Senators Clinton and Obama," Layton said. "A real sense that a change in direction is in the offing in the United States."

"And that extends to the need to address some of these trade issues which are leaving working families and the increasing squeezed middle classes of the United States and Canada feeling more and more concerned."

Earlier this month, Layton sent both Clinton and Obama a letter warmly welcoming the positions of both candidates to "rethink NAFTA."

"Together, we can prudently lay the groundwork to craft trade agreements which will lead to improvements for the vast majority who have been left behind since NAFTA came into effect in 1994," Layton said in both letters.

"The Democrats in the U.S. can count New Democrats in Canada as allies in the vital effort to improve upon NAFTA and help build a modern 21st century North American economy that is prosperous, fair, and sustainable for today's families and future generations."
What's really cool about this guy is that he is a real deal progressive who has a realistic chance to be Prime Minister in the next election cycle. And if he went into office, I believe he really would challenge NAFTA, even if the president we get in the fall chooses not to.

Today was a good day. (Cue the sample)

1 comment:

  1. Here's hoping Obama's speech puts racial dialogue into the public forum. It's something this country desperately needs if we are going to change things for the better.