Race Matters: Is a ‘Black Agenda’ an American Agenda?

The African-American media round table hosted by the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee of the U.S. Senate yesterday was the perfect opportunity to ask the gathered senators (11 in total) to validate or knock down something I have been saying for a while now. If President Obama sent Congress a definable “black agenda,” I asked, “how dead-on-arrival would such a piece of legislation be?”

There were murmurs and a bit of nervous laughter, But Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) stepped up with the short answer. “It would not be dead on arrival in the Senate,” she said. “It would be dead on arrival in the House.” She means the Republican-controlled House that has so lost touch with the concept of governing that it can’t get anything done.

But Sen. William “Mo” Cowan (Mass.), one of only two blacks in the Senate — the other is Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) — gave the long answer. One  I wish the president’s critics would listen to if not appreciate.

“What is a definable black agenda? I mean the president wasn’t elected to be president of black America. He’s the president of all Americans,” Cowan responded. “Frankly, there are some significant issues in black America, the black community, that are issues that are endemic in other parts of the nation. I think with respect to those who raise that issue, I think it’s short-sighted to say these are challenges unique to black America.”

He added, “The issues that black Americans are concerned about frankly are the same issues I hear about when I talk to my white constituents. It’s the same challenges. There may be differing degrees, but I think if you’re going to govern you have to govern for everybody.”

Read more by Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post

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