WHAT’S THE ASK: What Should African-American Women Ask Of Politicians?

We always tell people that if they don’t get involved in the political process, then they have no right to complain when politicians fail to give them adequate representation. I always say, “If you don’t vote, shut up.” And it can’t just be about voting for the man or woman that you like. We have to be thoughtful, do the research, ask questions and cast our votes, and then hold those people accountable.

So, what should African-Americans be asking of the people we choose to elect up and down the ballot, from President to city council? Here to discuss that is E. Faye Williams, the national chair of the National Congress of Black Women; and Nicole Lee, president of TransAfrica Forum.

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome back to “Washington Watch.”

We always tell people that if they don’t get involved in the political process, then they have no right to complain when politicians fail to give them adequate representation.  I alw- — I always say, “If you don’t vote, shut up.”  And it can’t just be about voting for the man or woman that you like.  We have to be thoughtful, do the research, ask questions and cast our votes, and then hold those people accountable.

So, what should African-Americans be asking of the people we choose to elect up and down the ballot, from President to city council?  Here to discuss that is E. Faye Williams, the national chair of the National Congress of Black Women; and Nicole Lee, president of TransAfrica Forum.

Folks, welcome to the show.

DR. E. FAYE WILLIAMS: Thank you.

MS. NICOLE LEE:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  I – I remember when Pres. Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.  A lot of Black women had attitudes.  [The] Black Women’s Roundtable said, “Wait a minute.  Two Supreme Court appointees, two women.  Was a Black woman even interviewed?”

Some people said, “You really shouldn’t be asking of that,” but Black women voted at a higher rate than any other group in the country.  And so – in terms of the 2008 election; so, I thought, frankly, it was a fair question.

And so when it comes to this election – whether it’s president or senatorial races and other races – for the both of you, what are the issues that you want people demanding of politicians who want their vote?

DR. WILLIAMS:  Well, I guess I don’t use the word “demanding” so much.  I would use the word –

MR. MARTIN:  E- —

DR. WILLIAMS:  — “ask.”

MR. MARTIN:  — now, everybody –

DR. WILLIAMS:  — because –

MR. MARTIN:  — else “demands.”

DR. WILLIAMS:  — yes.  Okay, that’s – [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

DR. WILLIAMS:  — but my “ask” is, perhaps, taken as a demand –

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.

DR. WILLIAMS:  — because I get a lot of the things that I ask for when I ask.

Yes, as a Black woman, I certainly would like to see at least one Black woman on the United States Supreme Court, and that’s one of the things that’s on my “ask” list for 2012.

MS. LEE:  I think – I mean our – our “asks” need to be strategic.  I think –

DR. WILLIAMS:  Yes.

MS. LEE:  — that’s what we need – we need to be saying, and our constituency as African-Americans – we have been, frankly, very excited just to have a president who is African-American, just to have such a good representation of African-Americans within our Congress and now within some of our city councils.  What we have to do now is figure out, “Okay, with all this power, how do we actually wield it?”  What do we actually do to ensure that our power is specific and effective for our communities?  Oftentimes, I think, other communities in the United States have been more effective at this.

We need to be more strategic – not just demanding.

MR. MARTIN:  So – so, in terms of this president, in terms of people who’re running for Congress, what do you want, as the head of TransAfrica, when it comes to your agenda?

MS. LEE:  Well, you know, our agenda is mostly foreign policy, but we think our foreign policy really does have a direct impact on our domestic policy and vice versa.  But one of the things we want to see – while I think that most African-Americans do want to see a second term for Obama, we want to see also second-term results.  And oftentimes in a second term, the President does feel more free to enact things that –

MR. MARTIN:  What are those –

MS. LEE:  — he would not –

MR. MARTIN:  — issues?

MS. LEE:  — have – well, for us, it has a lot to do with militarism in Africa.  Now, we know that Pres. Bush was really the one that started this race, this drive into more militarism, more U.S. troops on the ground, the Afri[ca] Command wa- — was created, AFRICOM.  What – what we need to see now is a rollback of that, and we actually have not seen that in the first term of the President.

Now, E. Faye Williams and I have worked very hard to bring a lot of attention towards what’s going on in Darfur, what’s going on in the Congo; but it really starts at home.  It really starts in how we actually impact the – these countries in Africa through our foreign policy, and unfortunately, it’s not just aid and trade and development.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. LEE:  Oftentime[s], it’s militarism and guns and a stick – and not a carrot.

MR. MARTIN:  E. Faye, what – what else should Black women be asking for?

DR. WILLIAMS:  We- —

MR. MARTIN:  You speak t- — you represent the group.

DR. WILLIAMS:  — yes.

MR. MARTIN:  What should they be demanding of politicians?

DR. WILLIAMS:  Yes, I think we should be demanding, first of all, that we get a jobs bill, I think, from the local to the national level.  We absolutely must work on more jobs for our people.  And, you know, we need to compliment the President, in fact, for the American Jobs Act; but we want him to – to push on that more.  We need to go in and see our members of Congress before the election; because, you know, sometimes as a people, we wait until after the election; and then we say what we should have done.  But we should do that, but we should also be looking for more support of community and technical colleges, so that our people can be ready for those jobs when they do come, so that we’re not just complaining that, “Oh, well, we didn’t get them because we weren’t qualified,” or someone would tell us that.

We also, as women, want that fairness – job fairness.  We –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

DR. WILLIAMS:  — we want that.  We will never catch up unless that’s done soon.  I know the President has been supportive of it.

And then, of course, the Violence Against Women Act.  We want that improvement in that Violence Against Women Act, and we will stand for it.  We are working on voter registration, voter education to tell our people what they – must be done, and they’re working very hard in states such as Florida, because we know that we can make a difference there.

MR. MARTIN:  Well, to your point, you don’t ask after the election.  You ask –

DR. WILLIAMS:  Before.

MR. MARTIN:  — before the election –

DR. WILLIAMS:  That’s correct – yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — whether the politician is Black, or not; male –

DR. WILLIAMS:  That’s –

MR. MARTIN:  — or female.

DR. WILLIAMS:  — correct – yes.

MR. MARTIN:  It doesn’t matter.

All right.

MS. LEE:  [Unintelligible.]

MR. MARTIN:  We appreciate it.

DR. WILLIAMS:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  Thanks so much.  We’ll have you –

MS. LEE:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  — back soon.

DR. WILLIAMS:  Thank you.

MS. LEE:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  You can tell us what your thoughts are on “What’s the Ask?” by logging on to tvone.tv/ask, and then we’ll read some of your comments, like right now.

The person here, Aloma 2 Arts said – wants, “A special stimulus package for rebuilding the infrastructure of inner-city communities in all of the states.  In the past, they called it ‘urban renewal.’  The entire project for African-American communities performed and contracted by local businesses, youth, veterans and seniors.”

GRsuccessful writes, “I would like President Obama to address the needs of the unemployed people who have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits and still have not found a job.”

So, again, add your comments at tvone.tv/ask.  And, again, it’s not just for the presidential race.  Also, what do you want when it comes to the statewide and local races as well.

  • M. Elnetha P Martin

    My name is David T. Martin.  I am a Vietnam Era  Vetran.  I would like President Obama to tell congress to pay me my benefits.  I have been waiting since 1975.  All I get from this Jackson VA in Jackson MS. is we are working on your case, Mr. Martin.  I will tell you why I can’t wait.  I’m  71 now and I don’t have a lot more time.  HURRY UP PLEASE!
    My wife is Dr. Elnetha P Martin. I’m writing on her wall.