Democratic candidates discuss ways to help Blacks in South Carolina
BY WILLIAM J. FIGHTER
In the context of a presidential forum held here in Charleston, South Carolina over the weekend, four of the 23 Democrats running for president shared with an attentive audience their plans to address the economic challenges faced by the black community—if elected.
Cory Booker, the black senator of New Jersey, his colleague Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, a little town in the state of Indiana, and former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke took the stage on Saturday to address such important issues as increasing access to capital for minority-owned businesses, creating affordable housing, and a host of strategies to lower the stubborn wealth gap between Blacks and Whites.
Warren, who took some in the audience by surprise with her powerful remarks, first paid a well-received tribute to the shooting that occurred at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church here in downtown Charleston four years ago, taking the lives of nine innocent church members. (The forum coincided with the shooting’s fourth anniversary.) The senator from Massachusetts stated one of the policies she has advocated previously on the campaign trail: her plan to cancel student debt for many young people, and fund historically black colleges and universities. She stated her awareness that the American dream is an elusive aspiration for African Americans. The senator referred to her own family’s economic struggle while she was growing up, and stated: “It’s about building an America where not just those who are born in privilege can succeed.” She also mentioned one of her newest “Big Ideas”: fostering minority entrepreneurship by offering federal grants to aid the launch of new businesses.
Taking the stage, Texas Democrat O’Rourke elaborated on his plan to increase procurement by the federal government of goods and services from minority-owned businesses. The former Texas lawmaker, who proved a formidable challenge to Republican iconic Senator Ted Cruz during the recently-held senatorial race in Texas, stated the need to build more affordable housing in the country. He felt white Americans should have more awareness about the real story of black Americans, and drew an ovation by stating: “Those kidnapped from Africa literally built the wealth of this country.”
Pete Buttigieg, or “Mayor Pete” as he is fondly called by the people of South Bend, Indiana, cited his “Douglass Plan for Black America” as he discussed his plan to change the federal government’s procurement of resources to benefit minority-owned businesses. (the plan is named after Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895, an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman who, after escaping from slavery in Maryland, became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings.)
The last orator to take the state, Senator Booker of New Jersey, quickly connected to the audience, drawing a standing ovation when he described his experiences living in a low-income community in Newark where he previously served as a mayor. He elaborated on one of his “Big Ideas,” a piece of legislation aimed at creating what he termed a “baby bonds” program aimed at giving lower-income children a sizable nest egg (of nearly $50,000 in some cases) by the age of 18 that they could use for wealth-building purposes such as a down-payment on a house, or college tuition. Like other candidates, Booker called for more affordable housing. “If you are going to start singing the song ‘Home of the Brave’ (a phrase from the American national anthem) we have to make sure working Americans have a home and a roof over their head and for their children.”