Roland Martin talks wiht Rev. Al Sharpton about some of the critical issues and the most important issue facing African-Americans in 2013.
MR. MARTIN: Reverend Sharpton, first of all, welcome back to “Washington Watch.”
REV. AL SHARPTON: Thank you.
MR. MARTIN: We are living in many would say very interesting times. When you look at what’s happening with the economy; you look at what’s happening in terms of African-Americans and employment, [the] criminal justice system – and so when you look at some of those critical issues, what jumps out to you to be the most important issue facing African-Americans in 2013?
REV. SHARPTON: The fact that we still are the most economically neglected and the most economically impacted community in the country. We’re doubly unemployed. We lead in foreclosures. We have the economic challenges more than anybody in the country.
MR. MARTIN: One of the things that, when you talk about that, when you look at the wealth gap, when you look at the study that came out from Brandeis University showing a $230,000 gap exists between whites and blacks when it comes to the wealth gap, one of the issues they talked about was the issue of home ownership.
REV. SHARPTON: Yeah.
MR. MARTIN: We’ve seen 53 percent of black wealth wiped out in the last five years because of home ownership. I’ve looked at multiple programs the Obama Administration has put forth. Should there be in this country a foreclosure – excuse me – a moratorium on home foreclosures and more done to deal with that? Because that’s really where Americans have their wealth – in their home.
REV. SHARPTON: I think that there ought to be a moratorium on home foreclosures, and I think we need to go after those large financial institutions that are behind a lot of the disparate income problems in terms of home foreclosures and those dealing with home ownership.
One of the things we want to come out of this conference with is targeting the private sector on that. See, what I think the neglect has been [is] the overwhelming majority of African-Americans make their living in the public sector. The reason that we’ve seen unemployment go down, but black unemployment remain where it is is they’re cutting in the public sector: states’ agencies, federal agencies. They’re not cutting in the private sector. The private sector has recovered, but we haven’t addressed the private sector.
What we need to do is go at the banks and go at others and say, “Hold it. We’re going to do like we used to do: start targeting you with selective buying, or you’re going to freeze these foreclosures. We’re going to start dealing with your advertising, your service contracts, your employment.” We want to see what the data is, because the private sector’s been able to fly totally untouched, while we put all the pressure on the public sector, and the public sector is where the Republicans can cut the jobs. They can’t make us buy products.
MR. MARTIN: Now, what’s interesting about that is that when you raise that point, when you talk about trying to do those things, what often happens is folks will say, “Well,” you know, “that’s old-school. That’s really not going to work. You’re talking about boycotting. You’re talking about having some of these targeted programs.”
And so how do you get the people to understand that’s really how you effect change and get people to, frankly, fall in line?
REV. SHARPTON: Because, you know, when we started in the late ’90s, a lot of marching and mobilization, they said, “That’s old-school.”
Well, that’s how we got the guys out of jail in Jena. That’s how we got George Zimmerman a trial right now, in Sanford, Florida. So, all of this trickery about “old-school” – well, tell me what new-school stuff works? ’Cause we’ve tried all this new-school stuff – of electing black mayors and all that – and it hasn’t worked.
So, the fact is there is no new school. There’re some new classes that’s flunking in the old school. So, you can call it old, new. Let’s talk about what works. What has worked is every time we put a campaign on a private-sector entity, it has worked. Every time we mobilize, it has worked. When you went through grassroots organizing, mobilizing, marching last year on voter ID and all, that is what was the whole basis of Obama’s being reelected. He won Florida because people, old-school, put lines out there, and people stayed seven hours on line – and Ohio.
So, I think a lot of people are trying to, in this kind of age justification, take themselves out of the ballgame. The ballgame is what works – old or young. If I need to go from point A to point B, I’m not concerned whether the car is old or new. I’m concerned whether the car can ride. And I’d rather have an old car that can get me there than a new car that can’t crank up.