The challenges of the past 20 years have reshaped our nation, from 9/11 and the Great Recession to the election of the first African-American president and the Era of Trump. The tragedies of 2020 have stretched us even further – and it is only the end of May.
The protests throughout the nation have been a scary part of that. Of course, violent confrontation has always been of American history, from our earliest times to our more recent past in towns such as Oxford and Boston.
The same is true now. As I said before, people are afraid of losing their liberty.
There will be a lot of analysis done over the coming days concerning the upheaval we see in places including my hometown of Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and even Salt Lake City. There will be articulate calls to end racism. Some fear that there is no way out of this cycle. There are those who will seek to make this civic dilemma a political football.
All of that is true. Yet, this particular challenge also has roots in public policy. Any way out must have a plan that addresses the short-term angst and the long-term ills that have weakened this country. Actually, any plan must strategically recognize that American racism is a national security risk that makes the United States vulnerable on military, geo-economic, technological, geopolitical, and domestic fronts, especially considering the modern interconnectivity of the global economy and the recent impact of COVID-19. Therefore, a Black agenda can remedy these points of vulnerability while living up to the most-moral credos of our founding documents. It can bring equality to the most-historically oppressed segment of Americans. It would strengthen our nation and drastically reduce these national security risks, restoring America to becoming the shining city upon a hill in a most true sense. A Black agenda is an American success story in moral strength and global leadership if done correctly.
Yes: I do believe that this agenda should be a conservative-influenced agenda. Yet, I also know that any one agenda offered may not be the agenda in totality, just as any one politician should never be deemed as the savior for any movement from either the left or the right. However, a plan where we lead with a vision that creates healing, trust, and partnerships is vital right now. The nation is rapidly losing hope in American Exceptionalism in an infuriated manner that blends the worst of the 1960s with the lack of self-esteem from the 1970s.
Thus, (A) Black Agenda for America – one roadmap with goals:
Economic Empowerment. Adjust or repeal legislation that restricts the free market flow of capital to under-served communities and their budding entrepreneurs. (This could be done through opportunity zones. This could be done through additional adjustments to existing legislation.) Encourage partnerships between historically-owned and -operated Black banking institutions with Fortune 500 companies and other economic generators to bolster these institutions. Incentivize capital investment in Black start-up businesses and afford them the onboarding resources (including time) that others receive. Reinitiate the drive to increase Black homeownership – this time, without the derivative-driven mess that collapsed the economy – as homeownership is a major driver in overall household wealth.
Education Equality. In the short-term, provide Education Savings Accounts to address the ever-expanding education achievement gap, now exasperated by the pandemic. Expand school choice options throughout America, encouraging both state-driven and federal initiatives that prompt tax-credit scholarships and other programs designed to immediately provide more quality academic options for students. Address the funding formula that entrenches the disparities in public schools. Incorporate STEM-related skills into physical education and recreation for elementary students. Incentify African-American high school and college students to pursue STEM-related job fields as well as jobs in education and public safety. Increase the academic effort with a goal to close the racial achievement gap within 1-2 generations, done in conjunction with economic empowerment.
Constitutional Citizenry. Deconstruct inhibitors to civil rights protections, including a redress of qualified immunity to address the most egregious of circumstances. Address and eliminate inconsistencies in civic and social practices under the color of law, including de-facto 4th Amendment violations in the Black community, arrests, prosecutions, and sentencing lengths. Encourage stronger processes and protections that bolster the strength of our diversity within hiring practices, work environments, and other aspects of everyday society, making our diverse citizenry become embraced as “fully American”.
Quality of Life Enhancement. Bend down the cost of healthcare through more market-driven options. Provide cost benefits for insurers and more Americans for more pro-active approaches to healthcare, such as encouraging fitness memberships. Expand decriminalization of Americans where they take formal steps to discontinue life-altering vices. Encourage employers to provide more paid-time-off to increase productivity and overall vitality. Increase tax credit incentives for married-with-children families, with a lesser incentive for parents that are separated yet both parents maintain a regular and healthy tie with their child(ren). Increase violence-prevention, drug-prevention, and unwanted pregnancy-prevention programs in grade schools and high schools through partnerships with non-profits and churches.
A blog on a website cannot cover every policy idea, nor would every aforementioned one be new. Some of them have been pursued or enacted by recent presidential administrations and state legislatures. In fact, some of them are reasons why I enjoy my work in the Keystone State so much. Yet, despite all the good work that we do to improve these conditions to date, it is hardly all the ground-breaking work that we must do to usher in a safer, stronger, and better America.
Based on what we are seeing from coast-to-coast yet again, there is a tangible role, a historical obligation, and a societal void that conservatives can fill. Yes: we must change our tone, we must find good messengers, and we must have true relationships with more Americans. It may look different than what we are used to. The definitions and applications of conservative thought (and even leaders) will evolve. We must be ok with that, because, in order to save and uplift America, we must be involved – at all levels, in all communities, and with all deliberate speed. Fractured or subjective freedom is an intoxicant for the haughty and an accelerant for the disenfranchised. It’s time for us to be whole – and it’s time for us to follow a roadmap for that journey to wholeness.