Toward a Black Agenda

Tavis Smiley talks to the Root, and outlines the importance of an African-American agenda:


It is clear black folk are getting crushed, economically and politically. We see black folk high up in office being run [out], from Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) to pressure on Gov. David Paterson (D-N.Y.). While we celebrate a black man being in the White House, there are a number of other major African American figures who are being targeted in some pretty significant ways by some pretty powerful forces. 

There has not been any real drill-down from the media on that issue. But more importantly, it's the people who don't have job, who have disproportionately lost their homes -- black people -- and who don't have health care. And the health care we do have is disparate in its treatment of blacks. This is not just a conversation we're having in Chicago. Black folk across America are living this story....A lot of folk are having a difficult time trying to make it, but black folk are getting crushed.

I believe that disproportionate pain requires a disproportionate response. The question is how do we do that in a space we've never occupied. 

I'm fine with a lot of this, but the David Paterson defense strikes me as very, very wrong. Paterson is largely in trouble for attempting to influence a case in which one of his aides is accused of beating up his girlfriend. It's the need to see an abuse accusation through a racial lens that gives me pause. This is a politician whose approval rating is below 50 percent among black voters. I don't get how he fits into a narrative of black folks "getting crushed."

I suspect the same of Charlie Rangel, though I haven't kept up enough to know for sure. I just don't see where the "black/white" angle is in this.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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