Never forget how quickly Republicans will capitulate. Never forget the demands of the black collective will ever wane…
28 percent black Indianapolis is illustrative of both of these points. [Black leaders say it’s time to formulate black agenda, IBJ.com, October 4, 2019]:
Black leaders in Indianapolis are frustrated.
The number of black residents living in poverty—more than one in four—has risen, not dropped, this decade. And it’s more than double the rate of whites.
Median household income—at $32,000—is slightly higher than in 2010, but the gap between the income level for black households and those of white households has grown.
The unemployment rate for black individuals has also improved, but at 14% it’s about four times the statewide rate and more than double the rate for whites in Marion County.
And while education attainment in the city is up for blacks age 25 and older, the rate for whites is double what it is for blacks.
“The numbers are abysmal,” said Tony Alexander, assistant pastor at Purpose of Life Ministries. “For us to be a great city, that has to be addressed. We can’t continue to have a blind eye to that.”
That’s why a broad coalition of faith-based groups, black elected officials and civic leaders are turning to this year’s mayoral race as an avenue for bold discussions about these problems.
They don’t blame Democratic incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett for the situation—many of these problems existed long before he became mayor after the 2015 election. But some black leaders ask why they haven’t seen more progress during Hogsett’s first term in office and question whether a second term would be any more productive.
And they say they were surprised and disappointed when Hogsett said he would not be proposing a “black agenda”—a term coined within the African American community—that would outline specific policy ideas and goals to improve the lives of black Marion County residents.
Hogsett and his Republican challenger, state Sen. Jim Merritt, were asked in late August after an IBJ/Indy Chamber debate whether their campaigns would create a black agenda. While Hogsett said no, Merritt said yes.
“I think it’s very, very important that we address this,” Merritt said at that time. “The achievement gap between the two students—the black student and the white student—is an incredible worry of mine. The disparity and poverty is frightening.”
Merritt has yet to release a black agenda but has continued to say he’s working on one and that it will be announced soon.
Hogsett said his overall agenda is inclusive and beneficial for minorities, so he doesn’t need a specific black agenda.
“My agenda is an African American agenda, but it’s an agenda for all of Indianapolis, as well,” Hogsett said. “That’s my philosophy, and if that’s unacceptable to people, then I’m sorry for that.”
Black residents account for only 28% of Indianapolis’ population. But that portion still equals 244,000 residents—a group larger than the entire population of every other Indiana city except Fort Wayne.
“Black Indianapolis, if you were to look at us as a population, we would be the third-largest city in the state,” said Marshawn Wolley, director of community engagement and strategic initiatives at the Indiana University Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “This is a pretty big group having a lot of economic challenges.”
That’s part of the reason black leaders say an agenda specific to their community is necessary. But it’s also because they know certain problems disproportionately affect black residents.
For example, 28% of blacks in Marion County are living in poverty, compared to 13% of whites and 20% of the county overall.
“We have people living in Third World conditions in the city of Indianapolis,” said Democrat Vernon Brown, who is Warren Township trustee and vice president of the Marion County Black Elected Officials Association. “There’s those that have and those that don’t have in Indianapolis.”
And without a targeted approach, black leaders say they worry no progress will be made.
“If you’re going to address the problem, somebody has to be intentional,” Greene said. “We understand things are not going to get better if there’s no focus on the area. We can’t wish our problems away.”
Plus, black leaders argue that, if city officials made a concentrated effort to improve the lives of black residents, the move would actually benefit the entire city.
For example, if the crime rate goes down, that’s a win for everyone. Or if more black students receive a quality education, that leads to more qualified job candidates, which some businesses struggle to attract.
White Republicans will always say “how high?” when asked by blacks to jump, and have no problem supporting a ‘black agenda’… all paid for by the white taxpayer.