Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Obama Administration Shuts Blacks Out of Highway Stimulus Contracts

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The "rising tide" of economic stimulus that President Obama promises will "lift all boats" from the depths of economic crisis, may leave Blacks at the bottom, once again. "Black contractors and elected officials now fear that African Americans will be cut out of the huge, one-time increase in federal highway money under the economic stimulus program passed this year." In a letter to administration officials, the National Black Chamber of Commerce warns that stimulus money is flowing down the "same racist channels" that have denied highway contracts and jobs to African Americans.

Obama Administration Shuts Blacks Out of Highway Stimulus Contracts

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The stimulus money will be directed through the same 'racist channels' that have been denying Blacks contracts and jobs.”

It’s often been said that there would be no first Black U.S. president were it not for the Civil Rights Movement. And that’s obviously true, on its face. But what happens when the first Black president fails to enforce civil rights laws already on the books? The National Black Chamber of Commerce, with encouragement from the heads of a conference of Black mayors and the National Black Caucus of Black State Legislators, charges Barack Obama’s Federal Highway Administration isn’t enforcing key portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As a result, Black contractors in states across the country have increasingly been shut out of federal highway construction work.

Harry C. Alford, the National Black Chamber of Commerce president, dates the problem to the tail end of the Clinton administration. Since then, he says, “many thousands of Black firms and millions of Black citizens” have been denied an equal opportunity for contracts and employment in the transportation sector. The flaunting of civil rights laws has been allowed to “fester” so long, said Alford, “You can take a drive on Interstate 80 starting in San Francisco and drive all the way to New Jersey and there is a good chance you will not see one Black working on a freeway construction project.”

The Black contractors and elected officials now fear that African Americans will be cut out of the huge, one-time increase in federal highway money under the economic stimulus program passed this year. Their letter to administration officials was quite blunt, referring to “money that is coming down through racist channels,” and demanding to “see change” from the administration, and to “see it now.”

The flaunting of civil rights laws has been allowed to 'fester.'”

The Black Chamber of Commerce would be well advised not to hold its breath. President Obama’s well known modus operandi is to run from racial issues, like the plague. He treats civil rights as a done deal, an accomplished fact, for which we should all be grateful and then, collectively, “move on.” Obama hammered the point home, yet again, in early May, when he told a press conference he had no plans to directly address historically high Black unemployment. The president whipped out the old, discredited cliché, that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” and promised that his stimulus program would create that rising tide. But, as the Chamber of Commerce president wrote in his letter, the stimulus money will be directed through the same “racist channels” that have been denying Blacks contracts and jobs. Unless the president puts on the pressure, there is no reason to expect any change at the Federal Highway Administration that Black folks can believe in.

Remember, also, that Obama insisted he wanted to pump additional money into state and federal programs that were “shovel-ready” – meaning, projects that were already in the pipeline and could be put into motion, quickly. By definition, this meant the usual suspects would get the contracts and jobs. If Blacks were shut out before the Obama administration, they would be shut out of the stimulus – it’s as simple as that. Far from ushering in a new era, Obama’s philosophy of governance reinforces the racial status quo which, for Black people at a time of economic crisis, means falling further behind.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.



Direct download: 20090624_gf_TranspoMoney.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:52am EDT