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Politicians have spent far too long talking at people of color. It’s long past time for them to try talking with us. We need real solutions, not more empty platitudes and false promises.
For five decades and counting, big-government intervention has failed to create a level economic playing field for Black communities to reach their full potential. Untold billions of dollars have flowed from taxpayers, through the hands of well-heeled lawyers and lobbyists, and into mismanaged one-size-fits-all programs that fail to address the actual needs of the people they’re supposed to help.
According to Pew research, about 61% of Americans believe that economic inequality is too great. Interestingly, though, only 41% think that addressing inequality should be a top priority for the federal government.
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What explains the disconnect? If you talk with people of color, especially those living in disadvantaged neighborhoods, you’re likely to find that a lot of them are simply disenchanted with the federal government’s track record of failure and ineptitude. It’s not because of racism, or even because of politics. It’s just that the federal government isn’t properly equipped to provide the sort of help we need. They may have plenty of money to splash around, but federal lawmakers and bureaucrats simply don’t have the specific knowledge of local needs and concerns that would allow them to implement effective solutions.
The ones who know what communities really need are the folks who live and work in those communities. Community leaders, parents, business owners, city council members – those are the people who know what their communities need to thrive.
The consistent failure of big-government central planning demonstrates the need for a radically different approach. Instead of relying on politicians and bureaucrats to craft top-down “solutions” for struggling communities, we must establish working partnerships with those communities to identify their most pressing needs and come up with real solutions that will enable them to succeed.
That’s why Concerned Communities for America, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to solving the most pressing problems afflicting Black and brown communities, launched the “Conversation with Black America” on November 12 in Atlanta. Bringing together over 200 business owners and community leaders, the event took place at the New Black Wall Street Market – a powerful symbol of the sort of economic success that we intend to spread to Black and brown communities throughout the country.
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We entered this conversation with no preconceived notions of where it would lead, because our intention is to listen, not to talk. We wanted to find out what the people of Atlanta need and discuss ways that local, state and federal elected officials can help them improve their lives.
In the coming months, we’ll be holding similar conversations in other cities all over the country, engaging Black communities in places such as Chicago, New York and Tampa.
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The result of these conversations will be a “Contract with Black America” that contains specific, unique and innovative policy proposals that lawmakers can implement with bipartisan support. We’re not here to play politics; we’re here to make a difference. This isn’t about creating photo ops to boost someone’s political career. We are actively seeking input from our communities to co-create solutions, not force-feed an agenda.
It’s time to change. It’s time for a real Conversation with Black America about how to inspire and resurrect generational wealth, reduce crime rates and ensure that all Americans – no matter the color of their skin or where they live – have a realistic chance of achieving the American Dream.