Thursday, August 13, 2015

Black Lives Matter... In Ohio


Like most progressive groups that look for worthy congressional candidates, Blue America has added a new filter to guage where candidates are likely to wind up on a spectrum that creates a few worthy leaders. That new filter is about the Black Lives Matter movement. All the candidates we've endorsed so far for House seats and for Senate seats have a good comprehension of what the issue is and are sympathetic to the African American struggle against the institutionalized, systemic racism that blights the lives-- literally-- of millions of our fellow citizens.

Republicans and conservative Democrats are less than sympathetic and, at best, will say "all lives matter," which is certainly true but fails to acknowledge the sense of white entitlement that forces African Americans to take their lives in their hands just by leaving them homes or, for example, letting their hair grow out naturally. In Ohio, a state where just over 12% of the population is African American, neither of the Establishment candidates, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Ted Strickland, has had anything worthwhile to say about the Black Lives Matter movement. The progressive in the race, P.G. Sittenfeld, aCcity councilman from Cincinnati, tackled the issue head on last weekend at the Center of Hope Baptist Church in Toledo, where he was hosted by the Reverend Donald Perryman-- who said that P.G. was "the first politician I’ve heard-- black or white"-- speak out so strongly on these issues.

Listen to his entire speech in the video above. These are some selections from it:

In recent weeks, some politicians have come to events like this one and began their remarks by saying “ALL lives matter.”

And when the audience responded critically, they seemed surprised and confused.

I’m sure those politicians meant well and did not intend to offend anyone.

But what they failed to confront and recognize is the reality of institutional racism.

Saying "black lives matter" does not mean we think black lives matter more than anyone else's.

It means we recognize that “black lives matter” as much as anyone else's-- and  for far too long, that hasn't been the case.

But now-- in light of what's been happening with frightening frequency all around the country-- acknowledging that "black lives matter" has assumed a special urgency.

The names of the victims weigh heavily on our hearts. And it’s important that we remember them… and continue to call out their names.

In Baltimore, Freddie Gray had his spine nearly severed in the back of a police van.

In New York, Eric Garner was being arrested for selling loose cigarettes on a street corner-- and wound up dead when a police officer put him in a choke-hold.

In Cleveland, 12-year old Tamir Rice was playing with a toy gun in a park near his home-- and was shot and killed less than 2 seconds after police arrived on the scene.

In Texas, Sandra Bland was found hanged in her jail cell shortly after being yanked from her car, thrown to the ground, and arrested after police pulled her over for not using her turn signal.

And less than a month ago in my hometown of Cincinnati, Samuel DuBose was shot in the head and killed after a University of Cincinnati police officer stopped him for driving a car with no front license plate.

So while it is obviously true that all lives matter, here is another and equally obvious truth:

In far too many cases, the police treat people who look like me differently than they treat people who look like you.

Too many employers-- as President Obama put it-- call John back for a job interview, but not Jamal.

And worst of all, too many black lives are being lost under suspicious circumstances or following  petty crimes that don’t even merit jail time, let alone the death penalty.

And that is why good intentions and soothing words are not enough.

The problem of institutional racism is real.

It must be addressed.

And public officials need to acknowledge that not every problem in our inner cities is related to economics.

...Back in June-- when a 21 year old racist who decorated his jackets with apartheid patches and posed for pictures with the Confederate Flag walked into Charleston’s Mother Emmanuel Church and brutally murdered 9 innocent people-- two things became painfully clear.

The first is that while full-throated racism is no longer socially acceptable in this country, segregationist hate is still very much alive in the darkest corners of our society.

And we also saw another horrific example of why the easy availability of guns for people with no business having one must come to an end.

Let me ask you: Why does America experience more gun-related mass murders than any other industrialized nation in the world?

Is it because we are inherently more violent… or because we have more people who are mentally ill?

No-- it’s not.

Nor can we blame violent movies and video games-- since people in other industrialized countries watch the same movies and play the same games.

What’s different is the 300 million guns this nation now has in circulation-- and the ease with which they can be accessed and carried into public places.

So let me be crystal clear.

While I support the 2nd amendment, I am tired of seeing it misused either to protect gang members who want assault weapons or to kill common-sense gun safety laws designed to protect our churches, schools and movie theaters.

Polls tell us that 90% of the American people-- and a solid majority of gun owners--strongly support common sense measures like universal background checks that actually work.

So if we’re serious about keeping guns out of the hands of people with criminal records or histories of mental illness, I believe we must elect public officials who will stand up to the extremist wing of the NRA’s leadership and lobbyists, do what’s right, and close gun show and other loopholes once and for all.

But the problem goes far beyond guns.

You can see it in the fact that so many good and brave police officers are now being attacked in the line of duty, like Officer Sonny Kim who was recently gunned down in Cincinnati.

And you can see it in the frayed and broken bonds of trust that often no longer exist between law enforcement officers and the people they serve-- especially in communities of color.
I'm not sure who the NRA is going to endorse in the Ohio Senate race. They love both Republican Portman and Democrat Strickland, who is proud of his NRA "A" rating. But you can rest assured that they won't be backing P.G. Sittenfeld. Nor will Big Business. Corporate America will have a hard to choosing between Strickland and Portman. P.G.'s analysis-- like Elizabeth Warren's, Bernie Sanders' and Sherrod Brown's-- isn't one they feel comfortable with. And P.G. brought it into his talk at Hope Baptist Church last weekend.
Much of the frustration we’ve recently seen boil over in our inner cities is a direct result of massive unemployment and a lack of opportunity-- and the fact that many of the jobs that do exist don’t pay enough to live on.

The Great Recession may be over in the nation as a whole-- but it’s alive and well in urban America.

Minority unemployment is two or even three times higher than the national average-- and among African-American youth, it stands at over 30%.

Those fortunate enough to find work are often trapped in menial, dead-end jobs that offer only starvation wages and no opportunity for advancement.

Ending the explosions that periodically rock our cities won’t be possible if we continue to ignore what is fast becoming a permanent underclass of citizens who have no hope, no stake in the system, and no way out.

Without justice, there will be no lasting peace.

Once, high-paying manufacturing jobs were plentiful in the urban cores of Toledo, Cleveland, Baltimore and other great American cities.

Today, globalization, technological change, and the shrinking of labor unions have combined to hollow out our industrial base and make good-paying jobs a distant memory.

And many of these problems have been exacerbated by unfair and short-sighted government policies.

Like one-sided international trade deals that have closed 60,000 American factories since 2001 and destroyed 5 million good-paying manufacturing jobs.

Or short-sighted tax policies that encourage companies to off-shore jobs-- and reward millionaires and billionaires at the expense of everyone else.

Today, income and wealth inequality is worse than at any time since the Gilded Age.

Forty years ago, the average CEO of a Fortune 500 company earned just over 30 times more money than the company’s average worker.

Last year, that CEO was paid over 200 times more.

93% of all the income gains since the end of the recession have gone to the top 1%-- and 100% of those gains have gone to the top 5%.

Maybe that explains why the richest 400 people in our country are now wealthier than the bottom 150 million people.

And why the six heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune own more wealth than the bottom 30% of Americans put together.

Now I know there are some who shrug their shoulders at these statistics-- and others who even claim that it is all part of some Divine plan that we mortals are powerless to alter.

But as a person of faith, I believe-- to paraphrase Ted Kennedy-- that when Jesus said “the poor ye shall always have with you,” He meant it as an indictment, not a commandment.

In the Senate, I will fight poverty and wealth inequality with both short-term and long-term solutions.

In my opinion, no American who is willing to work full-time in the richest country on earth should be forced to live in poverty.

And that is why I will work to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 immediately, and to $15 per hour over the next few years.

It is shameful and unacceptable that in constant dollars, the minimum wage is worth less today than it was 30 years ago.

When employees are required to work more than 40 hours per week, I agree with President Obama that employers should be required to pay time and a half wages-- and I will seek more generous child care assistance for parents who want to work but can’t afford the sky-high costs of quality day care.

I will also fight for the right of full-time workers to earn a set number of paid sick days each year.

Right now, America is the only major industrialized country that does not require employers to provide paid sick days.

Well, I say that if all those other countries can do it without hurting their economies, we can too.

And when I become a Senator, I won’t rest until paid sick days become a reality-- not just in Ohio, but for hard-working people all across America.

Of course, higher wages and worker friendly laws don’t matter very much to people who don’t have a job in the first place.

And that is why you can’t talk about an urban agenda without also talking about education-- which is absolutely essential to gaining the skills that are needed to unlock the door to a better life... When it comes to higher education, Job One is making college and post-high school technical training more affordable.

And in my opinion, the crushing burden of student loan debt-- which now exceeds total credit card debt for the first time in history-- is a national disgrace.

That is why I made my “Everyone Deserves A Shot” initiative-- which would save the average college student over $12,000 in interest payments-- the first major policy proposal of my campaign.

And if I am elected to the Senate, I pledge to make fixing the student debt problem one of my top priorities.

...The fight won’t be quick or easily won. Important fights never are.

But as Dr. King reminded us so many years ago, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

Next March, I will be on the ballot as a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.

I need your help-- and I hope to earn your vote.

And if you make me your Senator, I promise you three things.

I will always remember who put me there.

I will always be on your side.

And I will never be afraid to say “Black Lives Matter.”
Alas, it should come as no surprise that the party establishment in Ohio and the corrupt Beltway Democrats under Chuck Schumer are backing Ted Strickland and encouraging his campaign to say as little as possible about any contentious issues. In many ways Strickland and Portman sound exactly like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. That's not the formula for Democratic victory, despite the creaky thinking on this by Schumer, who has been a creature of the Beltway for an uninterrupted 35 years. 

There seems to be a quid pro quo that was leaked last month of a deal between Schumer and Strickland, where in return for Schumer raising $500,000 for Strickland, Strickland has already promised his vote to be the next Democratic leader.
The memo included a paragraph advising that Strickland ask U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, to pledge to raise $500,000 for Strickland in New York City. Schumer would want Strickland to run, the memo said, partly because defeating Portman and electing another Democrat would help Schumer's goal of becoming the next Senate majority leader.

Schumer "will know that by supporting you early, he will be more likely to lock-in your vote for his elevation" to Senate leader, the memo said.
Predictably, Strickland has ducked taking a position on Schumer's pet issue of pursing a right-wing agenda that would lead to a war against Iran. P.G. Sittenfeld has said that he, unlike Schumer, backs President Obama's attempt to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons through the negotiated settlement on the table now.

You can help P.G. stand up against the onslaught from Schumer in Ohio's Senate race here on the Blue America Senate page.

P.G. between Establishment hacks Portman and Strickland

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