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Mr. President: We Had Your Back Last Night, So Now It’s Time to Have Ours

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

The extraordinary win in the tough fought battle for the White House was certainly one for the ages.  In spite of all he’s had to overcome, America’s first black president was able to walk across the stage with his wife and daughters to celebrate another four years in office.  The party started last night, and we can celebrate for about a week.  After that, it’s time to start remembering those who need help in some of the most difficult times in black American history.

One institution that continues to suffer is the African American family.  These families were broken down during the War on Drugs, where millions of black fathers and mothers were taken away to serve dozens of years for drug distribution.  No, dealing drugs is not right, but a person should not be incarcerated for life for a non-violent crime.

We also forget about those who are left behind in this multi-billion dollar slave trade:  The children.  One of our bloggers, Maria Lloyd, wrote a touching open letter about how her family was ripped apart when her father received 14 life sentences for drug distribution in 1989.   It was his first offense and it was non-violent.  Since that time, his son has been murdered and his children grew up without a father.    Sometimes, by stopping the destruction being created in the present, we are creating destructive cycles that will continue in perpetuity:  Many of the children of those incarcerated from the War on Drugs are filling the very same prison cells once occupied by their fathers.

 Many black women can’t find a husband because the man they were meant to marry is in the criminal justice system.  The marginalization of felons keeps fathers out of the home, and communities without their leaders.  This problem affects us all, since nothing good happens when millions of children grow up without stable home environments.  Rather than selfishly pretending that this is not our problem, we might want to realize that if the Village doesn’t come together to help these children, then the village itself is eventually going to go down.

Freeway Rick Ross, a reformed drug dealer from Los Angeles, wrote an article about the need for African Americans who care about mass incarceration to remind President Obama of his duty to the voters who supported him the most.  There is no group more loyal to the president than African Americans.  Our turnout was extraordinary.  We had his back, and he needs to have ours.  It’s time for President Obama to directly confront the epidemic of mass incarceration.

Here is what Ross had to say:

I watched the election from California, a Democratic state, and while I am unable to vote as a felon on parole my support went behind President Barack Obama. This election marked an important decision between poor and rich in a way we had not seen in prior elections. In one article I read it compared the two candidates by saying Obama looked to strengthen the social safety net, while Romney looked to overhaul the program. While I don’t agree with every decision Obama has made in his first term, I do believe he has the interest of the working family at heart. My call to Obama and his administration focuses more specifically on African Americans who turned out in higher number than in 2008 in many areas, and carried him into the White House as part of larger coalitions. There are around 43 million African Americans and we accounted for a large block of the votes that got Obama a second term in office. According to ABC polls, 96 percent of African American voters were predicted to vote for Obama. Obama has energized the streets to take part in politics, leading gang members, drug dealers and hip hop stars to turnout to the polls in hopes of something better to come in the future in ways we had not seen prior.

 But this comes despite a statement by ABC News that, “On Election Day, nearly 1.4 million voting-age black men — more than one in eight — will be ineligible to cast ballots because of state laws that strip felons of the right to vote.”

The policies that create these inequities should be addressed by President Obama in this second term. While I recognize his struggle as clearly stated by the Washington Post in their recent piece, “Obama struggles to balance African Americans’ hopes with country’s as a whole.” The support shown by African Americans should be reciprocated with focused efforts toward their needs in the new term.

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Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. He is also the creator of the Building Outstanding Men and Boys Family Empowerment Series. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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