Editor's note: Van Jones, a CNN contributor, is president and founder of Rebuild the Dream, an online platform focusing on policy, economics and media. He was President Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009. He is also founder of Green for All, a national organization working to build a green economy.
By Van Jones, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - Tonight, our nation's first black president will deliver the first State of the Union of his historic second term. The time has come for him to say something about the disproportionate pain that his most loyal voting bloc - black Americans - are experiencing today.
Winning two successive elections hasn't just proven that this nation is great enough to rise above the racial discrimination of its very recent past. It's also opened the door to more frank conversations about continuing racial challenges in America.
Just look at the fierce debate over immigration going on in America today. We have progressed to the point where commentators and politicians freely discuss how to court "the Latino vote." They happily and eagerly insist that politicians should court the "Latino vote" and champion so-called "Latino" issues, like immigration reform. Discussing the promise, contributions and the needs of particular, ethnic communities in a big, diverse nation is no longer taboo.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama should acknowledge that while economic pain in today's American is not limited to any one community, some communities are in more trouble than others. Prioritizing broad prosperity for all doesn't mean ignoring the fact that some folks are further behind.
The truth is, the black community finds itself in the worst of all possible situations - both economically and politically.
First of all, a large part of the African-American community is in economic free fall. I am not talking only about those sections of the black community that have been mired in poverty for generations now - of course, they need and deserve more focused support and attention. I am also talking about the African-American middle class that was devastated by the housing collapse, lost 80% of its wealth, and has yet to recover even a fraction of it from those difficult days four years ago.
The private sector is still statistically quite hostile to black job seekers: The national unemployment rate is 7.9%, but African-Americans suffer from 13.8% unemployment. Meanwhile, budget-slashing Republicans are working hard to attack, demonize, and defund the public sector jobs upon which much of the black professional class was built. Add one more problem: sky-high costs of college. These problems collectively constitute an economic emergency for all Americans - and a super-emergency for our black communities.
Second, African-Americans are also in the wilderness politically. One major political party - the GOP - ignores us, and the other simply takes us for granted. For any Democratic nominee for president of the United States to have a chance, he or she must generate high turnout among African-Americans – and usually win more than 80% of our vote. In other words, we are the main pillar of the Democratic Party.
But neither party has made a priority of addressing the excessive unemployment, loss of housing, lack of opportunity, and yes, continuing racial discrimination and over-incarceration that continue to plague the African-American community.
The immigration debate teaches us that these issues don't need to divide minority communities. The leading spokespersons for African-Americans - stalwarts like Ben Jealous of the NAACP - are fully on board with immigration reform. It is remarkable that a devastated community is still willing to stand in solidarity with another minority population. With that kind of mutual care and cooperation, we can make sure every American is lifted by a rising tide.
Tonight, as the president discusses the State of the Union, he should specifically acknowledge the disproportionate agony of the African-American community. The union is only as healthy and strong as its weakest links. He should propose common-sense fixes that meet the need.
Many such steps would help all Americans. For example, in addition to expanding access to home refinancing (which he will do tonight), he should go one step further and support resetting some deeply underwater mortgages to today's fair market value. He should not just talk about small fixes to student debt, but how to ensure every single young person can get the education they need to succeed. He should defend public sector employees and denounce the Wall Street obsession with cuts. Most of all, he should lay out a bold plan to put people back to work right now in the hardest-hit communities.
All of these steps will help all Americans. And yet they would have the additional positive effect of strengthening some of the weaker links in America's chain, including those that exist in the black community.
It is time for all people of conscience to start pushing back against a political dynamic that insists African-Americans participate in the electoral system - but get little or nothing out of it, even in the midst of an economic catastrophe.
When ALL of America is stronger, all of America is STRONGER.
America must have an honest discussion about how to address a continuing economic catastrophe in the black community. And the president should lead the way.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Van Jones.
I'm not ignorant about the history of race relations in America,,but the simple fact is that Barack Obama is half European,
I take pleasure in, result in I discovered exactly what I used to be looking for. You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye
Blacks have the highest abortion rate than any other race in America. Obama has addressed the black community. By funding abortion clinics with tax payer money and promoting planned parenthood, his message is loud and clear to the black community. It's all wrapped up in a bow he likes to call "women's rights." Obama knows that blacks have the highest abortion rates and he's the champion leading the way... making it easy to get an abortion.
Given the increase in household debt among African Americans the past four years, one could say that President Obama is a creditor to his race.
Van – Exactly how are republicans "ignoring" African Americans? That is just made up.
"Most of all, he should lay out a bold plan to put people back to work right now in the hardest-hit communities."
Like what exactly? People are always talking about a jobs plan with no details. If the government needs a service preformed then yes they should create a job, but we already do this. The government can not create make believe jobs. We did this durring the Great Depression but that was because we had 25% unemployment.
Interesting discussions in the thread. I am black but African, not African American. I came to this country with $400, legally might I add. :). After 2 years in a blessed nation with opportunities that abound, I am a manager at one of the big four consulting firms, on a partner track. This kinds of article is indulgent and not encouraging at all, Van Jones. I believe it does the opposite of what you intended it to accomplish.
It is not easy but the opportunities are there. You wrote as though immigration reform is a gift to Latinos and Hispanics; but I argue that it's a policy for all. So don't let's ask for anything special for AA. Let's talk about education reform, job creation for all and everything else for everyone; and let all, including AA be willing to take advantage of the same policies and opportunities. I work with many AA partners and directors in my Firm, ones that have taken advantage of the opportunities.
For those racial comments on this thread – I know the AA community has a lot of work to do, but know that all AAs are not gangsters, athletes, rappers – these exist in every community, so let's make this an intelligent discussion.
Van Jones has it all wrong. GRX has it all right. We live in the country with the most opportunity. Anyone can do it. When cultures value family, education, hard work and the next generation they make it in the first generation. Crying in your soup and demanding a handout generation after generation will never work.
Van, Jackson, Sharpton simply profit and make their livlihoods selling hate. Bottom line.
We all live in a free country. We all lived up until 2001 in a prosperous country with free money for college flowing like water. The failure is the failure of the individual.
Its a giant lie its about the color of anyone's skin. Nobody gives a rat patooie about the color of your skin.
This nation is past that.
Van is Obama's "green jobs advisor"
Like he is or was in charge of that bankrupted govt paid program of obama's. The failure one?
Why would we be listening to what he has to say?
Unless he's serving as a front, smoke and mirrors for obamas next land grab.
EVERYONE is suffering in this economy- blacks are not special.
Stop demanding special treatment and you will be treated equally.
white people have no problem with voting for their own kind and can't understand why black people won't vote for the people they endorse. you are a pure idiot if you think barack obama can do anything for black people without anarchy among white people. perhaps black people vote for black people because they can't be any worse than the white people. maybe black people vote for black folks because it's a vote against white people, who have done nothing for them except build more jails, have stop and frisk, lousy living conditions, welfare, and schools at condemned warehouses while they make sure they always have the best cuts of meat while black folks have to eat pigs feet and neckbones. you hate your own kind that is what your problem is.
their living conditions are of their own doing. their police attentio is their own doing.
Take some personal responsibility for once in your miserable littler life and stop blaming everyone except yourself for your conditions. Your on welfare because you chose to be. you had 5 kids who u cant support because you chose that life. Grow up
nothing but build more jails. If you were not robbing and shooting people in the street would there be a need for jails? Behavior dude. YOUR behavior. Not white people. I will mail you a reality check. Happily. Go listen to Bill Cosby's lecture and get back to me.
"white people have done nothing for them but..." and a long list of sorry conditions.
What, exactly have black people "done for" whites? See, its YOUR life, not someone else's responsibility. Not the govt.
An opinion piece about black Americans, and responses (with one apparent exception) strictly from non-black Americans. Hmmmm?
What's your point?
Oh let me guess...
when you write the check you get a say. I'd say the same harsh things to crackhead west virginia whites. The same harsh things that need to be said. Government never creates it takes. It just took 1.5 million jobs from blacks and gave them to law breaking illegals.
Its about to take 11 million more. AND tax they few of you that get a paycheck to pay for their healthcare. Liket them apples?
I'm telling you whether it is Jones, Sharpton or Jackson talking you always get the same stuff. Its time to 1. tell these people to shut up and 2. it's time for the black community to "Stop" blaming everyone else and take some responsibilty for their own actions. Lastly, this is coming from a black man that has simply had enough of the out of control culture!
The guy who accused the previous posters for "unfair race bashing" then proceeds to bash whites. Very original.
I like the last Paragraph "America must have an honest discussion about how to address a continuing economic catastrophe in the black community. And the president should lead the way". Bill Cosby tried to do this and look how the black community treated him.
Bill Cosby's words should be remembered. But 12,000,000 people are about to make their cries irrelevant. 1.5 million kids just took your kids jobs. Eleven million more will take another chunk out as well.
You've been sold again. But at least this time you understand its about greed and not the color of your skin.
Big Shiz, you are a prime example of the ignorance which is Van Jones trade.
He sells racism and you buy it. It makes him rich (as well as jesse jackson and al sharpton and others) and it has kept YOU and many like you poor.
Racist's always call those who speak out against them racist.
I'm Black, and I hate this type of thing, We are all americans, I hate to see pandering to one group over another, like with whats going on with the hispanics, and Latinos.
All the racist black people who voted for Obama for his skin color are in for a wakeup call! I find it ironic that Mitt Romney spent more time reaching out to black communities than Obama ever has!
I find it unfortunately and infuriatingly hilarious that Romneys comment about the 47% who dont pay taxes are going to vote for him no matter what, was seen as racist and cruel...
yet he was 100% correct and it was even on THIS NEWS STATION a mear month after the election that it was true.
Nobody likes to hear the truth. This country has turned into a bunch of nonstop offended pushovers.
You gonna tell me blacks don't spend their time "smoking meth or shooting heroine"? Maybe it's because they're too busy selling it perhaps? NO RACE should be given special consideration over any other RACE. Stop affirmative action-then we can say things are equal.
Obama to Blacks (we wish)
1) Follow the laws
2) pick up a paint brush and/or a broom and take care of where you live
3) study hard in school
4) speak english correctly
5) respect will follow........
be around to be a good father to the kids you have....that's a big one
Stop shooting everybody.
Why do liberals always want to divide Americans by race??
divide and conquer ploy. Truth would not put them in positions of power. The rich are already represented by the repubs and the middle have to pay all the bills so they are too busy working to support a political party. That leaves the ignorant poor who buy every lie they have been given since, well, since the dawn of politics.
Black America is failing because Black Americans are not living lives that lead to prosperity. All along I felt that Barack would be what Black America needs, a good role model, living in a commited married relationship. Marriage and responsability are two keys to success in our country. The biggest problem in the black comminity is that there are not enough dads/ fathers living with their wives and children and being supportive and good role models for their children. I think the number of children in the black community who are born out of wedlock hoovers around 70%. That is a recipie for disaster. Come on Barack, tell all Americans to live right, otherwise you are sacrificing your children and their children on the alter of selfishness and vice, with no hope of success.
Yes, just redo the mortgages of black families while every other family just has to pay what they owe. How typical of Jones.
Enough. Perhaps the editorial would suggest that we segregate the audience and deliver a message to one group and then to the other. I am sorry, but even though this falls under the banner of "promoting equality" this editorial is fundamentally racist and at the end of the day will serve the benefit of no party. This rhetoric will continue to inflame and divide. Address as as a united front and we may very well become united. Address in a divided manner and rest assured, we will remain divided.
Thank You! The Dems will continue to take the black community for granted until we are ALL treated the same. It's time to think before you act and leave emotions out of the picture. This article does nothing but, once again, split this country into sections/races and that it not what this country needs.
"When ALL of America is stronger, all of America is STRONGER." If Jones had led with this mystifying statement I might have been spared having to read all of his editorial.
Oh year, thanks for the reminder about O's newest chance to run his mouth and say nothing in the SOTUA. Now I can turn off the TV and plan on what movie to go and watch. Doesn't matter what he says. He can talk about the potato crop, the color of his tie or whatever and the media will gush and slobber and report what a miracle he is.
If he addresses AA's directly they are not going to like what he says. There are cultural issues the AA community needs to address. It can be surmised as follows: get an education, don't blame everyone else for your failures, work hard without complaint and don't assume you are going to make it as a rapper or athlete, have a plan B and C too. Embrace a culture of success and pick yourself up by your bootstraps even if you are too poor to afford bootstraps. Otherwise, Hispanics will gladly do all the jobs that you are unwilling to do even while they are discriminated against yet persevere.
Whine much? I know plenty of blacks in my community and neighborhood that have nice homes and nice things because they're willing to WORK and not whine. "Willing to work", meaning it may not be the job you want, but you do it because you have bills, kids and are responsible.
Van Jones is a divisive individual who only cares about black americans. He says he sides with other minority groups to get them on his side inorder to build numbers so he can push his flawed agenda. He says he cares about ALL americans, but that is a bunch of crap. Yes, I know he has a white wife but he does not give a crap for the United States as a whole. He wants to hold ALL white americans TODAY responsible for actions committed by SOME white people in the PAST. Why should people today be held repsonsibel for the actions of those in the past? Two wrongs do NOT make it right. It will only create divisiveness and hostility towards others and it has!
Reset underwater mortgages to today's fair market value??!? What about all the money I've put into my own mortgage? Do I get a refund?
No. You get to join white america in paying for obama's fathers hatred for colonials in africa. Bankers are getting ready to rob the rest of the homes. Face it. Fight it maybe. But just don't fail to see it.
HOWEVER – bankers DID srew minorities more so than others. But if they were made to pay, which is not happening, they have already passed laws that those bankers wil suffer no criminal charges.
Thing is about the crash, we SHOULD have let the banks fail. Only then would everone have suffered and equalized as financial cycles do. Now all we ALL have to look forward to is serfdom.
Immigration Reform is just code for Amnesty. NO AMNESTY and No pathway for US Citizenship for illegal aliens. We need President Obama to start enforcing our immigration laws instead of picking and choosing which laws he wants to enforce. Deport all illegal aliens, secure the border and fine anyone who hires an illegal alien.
I agree with the "more free stuff" comment. I think perks and favoritism should be enhanced a million times over. I would like to give my car to some gang member and my house to some crackhead and anything else remaining to some gun toting murderer. They deserve it, don't you think? Of course they do-they are black!
you cant begin to discuss the plight of the black community without addressing the overwhelming damage the war on drugs has done to this community. this is essentially a pointless article
the war on drugs, not the individuals who use violence and murder and intimidation to live outside the law?
The war on drugs is failed prohibition. It should stop, but during the time it was alive, can you just not recognize the difference between things you should and shouldn't do?
You white folks are amazing. Anytime we get a successful half white half black person than they are bi-racial and white folks try to claim that they are not black. If the average bi-racial person shows up off of the street and has any black in them, they are just all black and you will not let them claim any white. As soon as Obama is done being POTUS, you white folks will go back to the old rule: One drop of black means you are black.
White or Black. We are all originally from Africa.
I think Obummer is a pitiful excuse for a president regardless of his race. Just be proud of who you are and stop worrying about who likes your race and who doesn't. Whine, whine, whine.
Mr Mellow, It's 2013. Nobody gives a chit what color you are. Are you rocking a engineering job or standing on the street corner passing packets of crack?
THAT my friend is what anybody want to know about you, not your color. Look around, this country is highly integrated with millions of successful people. They are all shades.
You really gotta pull the race card man? Everybody is hurting, and sure, some are hurting more than others, but he should be addressing the nation as a whole, not saying "Hey all you African Americans, I am going to only offer programs, stimulus, and free money to you guys!". Such a ridiculous article.
wrong answers....wrong questions.......the question should be, "Why does the black community consistently fail, despite decades of opportunities?".........why does the black community promote a culture of failure........glorifying gangsters, hip-hop artists and athletes?......why does the black community look the other way at local crime, gangs, unwed mothers and drop outs?.......the problem is not America...many other nationalities arrive with little to nothing and make a successful life, the problem is the black community.
Stop making excuses, start living right and be responsible parents.......
Alan, you are right on the money with that!
I agree. There is nothing inherently wrong with black people, or any race for that matter.
We all acknowledge that fact, yet don't address why African-Americans (which technically is an incorrect term) consistently fail at a higher rate than other races. The Scottish were poor. A lot of Germans were poor. Most European immigrants weren't well off and some of them, indentured servants, were pretty much slaves themselves.
Its simple. Break the cycle instead of blaming the cycle for failure. Accept help when offered, but depend on your strength and intelligence for everything else. Stop glorying a culture that only breeds more violence, single parent households and dependancy on the government.
Please, I'm white for the record and if you did any research into this issue you would see that the black community has been under-served and ignored for generations. Schools underfunded, decent affordable housing unavailable, law enforcement and justice system consistently biased. This is what leads to drugs, gangs, violence and a culture of poverty in those communities. Education is the biggest problem. If black communities got proportional funding as wealthier areas, kids would go to college more, would get better jobs and pull their culture up. Its easier to blame the victims and spit on them for not achieving more. Bootstraps bootstraps. You can only achieve with opportunities that are available. If we put our money and ideals where are mouths are, we would see improvement but we have worsened the problem with blame and ignorance. Van is calling attention to that and it is of course unpopular with many.
What is this guy talking about?
Didn't once Obama said that this is not a Blue, White, Black or Red America, Rather This is United States of America.
Instead of "But neither party has made a priority of addressing..." try, African American's haven't made it a priority to address the excessive unemployment, loss of housing, lack of opportunity, and yes, continuing racial discrimination and over-incarceration that continue to plague the African-American community.
He can address AA all he wants, but ain't nothing going to change. You take all of the racist folks still holding AA down, and add in all of the lazy AA, and you will still be left with just a few AA who are smart enough to live a decent life.
He's still only 1/2 black. I would hope they can field better.
C'mon man, how about we view people as equals and stop looking at color? You claim discrimination but throw black people into a bucket. Shame shame shame on you.
So....help those who refuse to help themselves because they are black? Ah...you live up to your racist, communist ways.
Is he supposed to be the president of ALL AMERICANS?
A novel concept but one he might try.
Not according to the like of Van Jones who want to hold white america back for the actions of others in the PAST.
I'm amazed that "Blacks" supported Obama during his last campaign. Haven't they noticed that he did NOTHING for them but add to their misery during his first term as president. Haven't they noticed that he made NO EFFORT AT ALL to win their support, he was so egotistical to assume that they would support him hook line and sinker just because he was also "Black." And guess what, they did!! How sad!
The O man needs to promise more free stuff.
Just a racist cometary....
He is not Americas first BLACK president.... he is Americas first 1/2 White/ 1/2 Black President...........
Better crack and beer than meth and moonshine. "Well hi there buddy! My name's Jim Bob Robert E. Lee III!"
"Better crack and beer than meth and moonshine". Really brought your A material today, didn't you George. Now, hush up while the grown ups talk.
Stop demanding special provisions because you can play the race card. You want the plight of African Americans to take a turn for the better? Look to your young men and women. Teach them about self-respect, the respect of their elders and peers. As well as the importance of an education and hard work. Get out there and work for it! This goes for all the young men and women out there today, and the generations yet to come. Yes, I know that this alone wont bring about change and it's a long road to recovery, but asking the president to make considerations for Black people in this country is not going to bring about a stronger America, it just promotes racial divide and resentment.
That's why this country & world is the way it is because of people like you two, John & "Fair".....geesh!
go read Ben Carson's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast.... please!
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