A Domestic Marshall Plan to Transform America’s ‘Dark Ghettos’
By Ron Daniels
Feb 23, 2007, 13:55
Black America must revive the concept of a Domestic Marshall Plan to reverse the deterioration of the nation’s ‘dark ghettos’ – most immediately, to restore New Orleans’ exiled population. Dr. Daniel’s suggests the campaign be called the Martin Luther King-Malcolm X Community Revitalization Initiative, a mobilization to begin on April 4. The guiding principle behind the campaign must be the idea that oppressed people should exercise the power to control their communities and the conviction that every person in this country is entitled to enjoy certain basic human rights, as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“We will call this proposal the Martin Luther King-Malcolm X Community Revitalization Initiative.”
This article is based on a presentation made by Dr. Daniels at the Black Family Summit Policy Institute convened February 1, 2007, by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century at Howard University. It is a discussion piece which is intended to assess interest in and commitment to launching a bold initiative to compel the American public and the government to confront issues of racism, poverty and inequality in this country as dramatically exposed by Katrina.
In January at the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) “State of the Black World Forum” in Washington D.C., during discussion on creating a “New Force in Black America” to revitalize the Black Freedom Struggle, New York City Councilman Charles Barron remarked that neither the Democratic Party nor the Congressional Black Caucus has clearly signaled what explicitly “Black issues” they are prepared to advance since Democrats took control of Congress. In this regard it is important to remember that the Six Point Democratic Program for recapturing control of Congress did not include Katrina/New Orleans. Moreover, Katrina/New Orleans was completely absent from President Bush’s State of the Union Address.
While there was no noticeable outcry from Black leaders protesting this disgraceful omission, Capital Hill insiders indicate that the Congressional Black Caucus is focusing on aid/assistance for New Orleans and the Gulf as a major priority. With Blacks once again demonstrating unflinching loyalty to the Democratic Party in the critical mid-term elections, however, there is still the overarching and compelling question as to what “race specific” initiatives will be advanced by the Democratic leadership in Congress to address crucial Black issues and concerns. Black America needs an answer to that question, and I believe that one of the responses ought to be to revive the concept of a Domestic Marshall Plan targeted at rebuilding New Orleans and America’s “dark ghettos.”
“The Six Point Democratic Program for recapturing control of Congress did not include Katrina/New Orleans.”
I presented this idea at a recent Policy Institute convened by the Black Family Summit of IBW at Howard University. In so doing, I reminded the assembled organization heads, scholars and activists that it is important to realize that Katrina is a metaphor for the disaster wrought on Black America’s urban and rural communities by years of benign and blatant neglect. This was/is manifested by the almost total abandonment of pro-active and corrective policies for problems of inner-city and rural communities by Democratic and Republic administrations. The toll on Black America, especially on Black working class and poor people, has been devastating. Many urban inner-city areas are like zones of desolation and despair, racked by chronic unemployment, underemployment, poverty, inadequate health facilities, environmental degradation, poor performing schools, the infestation of drugs, crime, gangs, the illicit economy, fear, police occupation and terror – all feeding a prison-jail industrial complex where Black and Brown people are the primary fodder. As depicted on the television series “The Wire,” life in America’s dark ghettos can be deadly and destructive of the aspirations of a people; the tragic consequence of broken individuals, families and communities.
Most importantly, contrary to the exhortations of “America’s Dad,” Bill Cosby, this is a fate which is not of our own choosing. Nor are these the same “ghettos” that past generations grew up in around the country. As William Julius Wilson observes, in the face of globalization, massive de-industrialization and the calculated shrinking of ameliorative public programs and services under the guise of creating a more efficient government, the most disadvantaged of our people are living in communities where “work has virtually disappeared.” Moreover, there is an almost total collapse of supportive community based institutions like settlement houses, health care centers, hospitals and viable schools. And, African Americans in past generations did not grow up in communities where guns and drugs were so readily available and violence and deadly force was endemic to daily life.
“Ethnic cleansing is afoot in New Orleans.”
Currently there is no acceptable response to our plight by policymakers in Washington. Total neglect or the conservative mantra of “blame the victim,” is the order of the day. To the degree that there has been a response, it has been by developers moving in, aided and abetted by local governments, to displace Black working class and poor people from their neighborhoods, scattering them hither and thither as Whites have decided to recapture the “Chocolate Cities” of this nation. Gentrification has become the “Negro removal program” of the 21st century. It is precisely this kind of “ethnic cleansing” program that is afoot in New Orleans as local developers attempt to remake this African city to create a Disney World, theme park environment.
While we must continue to urge our people who are imprisoned by these conditions to do all they can to assume responsibility for rising above and overcoming the pathology which now afflicts them/us, we must be clear that the racist and exploitive policies of government are primarily responsible for our plight. Ultimately we must compel the government to rescue and transform this nation’s dark ghettos. And this will require a massive allocation of resources, not only to improve the physical environment but to heal and restore broken lives and communities. The transformation of America’s dark ghettos demands nothing less than a program equivalent to a Domestic Marshall Plan.
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