Politics; Stacey Abrams’ ‘Black Men’s Agenda’.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Black men are showing signs of dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party agenda for the midterm election and beyond. The problem first came to light in Stacey Abrams’ campaign for governor of Georgia but is evident in places like New York City under Mayor Eric Adams as well. The concern of working class men is that the Democratic agenda fails to give priority to distinct needs rooted in their historical experiences.

It is well known that urban Black men suffer from higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, and from lower rates of labor force participation, than other ethnic groups. Moreover, in the post-industrial era, a gnawing crisis continues to suffocate and alienate young men from seizing the opportunity to improve their lives. Not only do many not feel any sense of belonging to the economic system, but they also feel estranged from belonging to society itself.

Abrams responded with a set of economic and health initiatives that she is promoting as the “Black Men’s Agenda.” It earmarks $5 billion for investment in small business creation, health insurance, and apprenticeships in the construction and entertainment industries. Most of all it shows that their lives matter beyond criminal justice reforms.

Yet, the initiative has drawn few voices of support within the political parties, when it should be a rallying cry for Black leaders in both the Democratic and Republican camps. If for no other reason that working class Black men are a large voting bloc open to policy appeals.

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Under the Democratic agenda, the primary policy concession has been non-economic reforms in the criminal justice system. An example is President Biden’s recent order to pardon people convicted of petty marijuana possession in the federal system. It may have indirect economic benefits, but is largely a non-economic policy. In addition, Biden made the decision after a sense of betrayal in the Black community over the recent passage of a bipartisan House bill known as the “Invest to Protect Act” that increases funding for police departments.

Stacey Abrams’ “Black Men’s Agenda” should be a springboard for a broader set of priorities on the distinct needs of working class men. Here are some items that political leaders in both parties should consider including in their platforms.

First, the agenda must center the economic mobility of men as key to the survival of the Black middle class. Leaders must campaign for initiatives to improve occupational skills of the group. The urgency to prepare for the “middle-skill” occupations in growth industries was touted in research by the McKinsey Institute. McKinsey’s “The Future of Work in Black America” calls for a broad shift from low-wage jobs to the vibrant sector of technical jobs that require more than a high school education but less than a four-year degree. Examples are x-ray technicians, dental hygienists, heating and refrigeration technicians, aircraft mechanics, heavy equipment operators and the like.

Second, the agenda demands the linkage of the training and hiring of Black men to the vast new investments in the construction trades. Under President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, urban projects will require newly trained workers for an industry that has historically shunned Black men. Biden should issue an executive order to recruit, train, and hire Black men in the array of skilled construction trades funded by the law. It could be a modern version of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Works Projects Administration” for white skilled labor during the depression.

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Third, the agenda must be prepared to counter the dilemma of “mental slavery,” the mindset of internalized worthlessness of an oppressed people. At its worst, it exacerbates the behavior of young men in ways that further the purpose of racial oppression, writes psychologist Amos Wilson in the 1991 study, “Black-on-Black Violence: The Psychodynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in Service of White Domination.”

It means devising initiatives that strengthen the cultural resources of young men such as community centers and social media outreach devised to reduce the appeal of “bling” materialism. Education should be geared to values that showcase respect for living within one’s means, self-improvement, and self-acceptance.

Finally, the agenda must understand that young men have been the target of destruction in American history. They could benefit from youth programs that provide support systems to counter feelings of rage with models of self-control, cooperation, love of family and community. Examples are men’s group programs like President Obama’s initiative, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, which seeks to create an affirming network of support.

Such programs, as Amos Wilson describes it, can help to instill “cultural identity and purpose, independence, self-determination, responsibility, self-knowledge and self-love: education for the attainment of a fulfilling and liberated life.”

Written by Roger House

Official website; http://www.victorystride.com/