To hear the presidential candidates tell it, the future for African Americans and Latinos will be great. More jobs. Better schools. Affordable housing. Fewer inmates. Less killing. More equality.
But hardly anyone ever asks how they intend to make it happen.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton told a group of black and Latino journalists in Washington last week that she had “proposed a comprehensive new commitment to African American and Latino communities to make serious, sustained investments to create more good-paying jobs.”
But exactly how will she create these “good-paying jobs” just for African Americans and Latinos?
Remember Sen. Barack Obama’s “Reclaim the American Dream” campaign speech in 2007? “It’s time that we had leadership that worried as much about Main Street as it does about Wall Street,” he said. But then he chose to bail out Wall Street instead of Main Street, and blacks and Latinos paid the steepest price of all.
“Now, I believe that President Obama doesn’t get the credit he deserves for leading us out of the Great Recession,” Clinton told those gathered at the journalists’ convention.
That got a round of applause.
“And I like to remind people he had nothing to do with creating it in the first place,” she added.
At the time Obama took office, however, Wall Street had ripped off Main Street to the tune of $13 trillion in family wealth — with African American wealth cut by half and Latino wealth by 66 percent. Relatively little of that money has been recovered — some losses are still being incurred — even though Wall Street is once again raking in money hand over fist.
Telemundo’s Lori Montenegro pushed Clinton to explain why Latinos should trust her on the issue of immigration.
“How will you get immigration reform, something that President Obama was not able to do, so that Latinos can believe that something is going to happen? That their vote, again, is not being taken for granted?” Montenegro asked.
Clinton replied, “It’s a great question.” Her answer: “I am working hard to ensure a victory will send a clear message to our Republican friends that it’s time for them to quit standing in the way of immigration reform.”
In other words, there was no reason for Latinos to believe that something is going to happen.
So what makes Clinton think that she can accomplish what Obama could not?
Her Republican rival, Donald Trump, declined to attend the convention. But that shouldn’t mean he gets a pass on the issues.
In accepting the nomination as the Republican presidential nominee last month, Trump pledged to “rebuild our inner cities.” He declared, “Every action I take, I will ask myself: Does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Ferguson who have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child in America?”
Then what? He, too, must offer more than it’s all going to be great.
Coincidently, the National Urban League held its convention in Baltimore last week, where the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), echoed Clinton’s message before a largely black crowd. This also happened to be the 40th anniversary of the National Urban League’s “State of Black America,” which amounts to a statistical portrait of how little has changed for African Americans the past 40 years.
Turns out, who the president is hasn’t mattered.
Black unemployment: still double the rate the whites. Black wealth: down to one-thirteenth of the average white household wealth. Black teens’ high school dropout rate: five times higher than for white teens. Blacks’ homicide rate: 12 times as high as for whites.
In an essay accompanying the 40th anniversary issue of the report, MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid noted: “But with so many disparities and gaps in attaining the fruits of full equality, Black Americans face the prospect of pressing the next president for the kinds of targeted solutions that were rarely demanded of Obama.”
Clinton also noted the lingering racial disparities for black and Latino people. “For me, these aren’t just economic issues. They’re part of a long, continuing struggle for civil rights. Rosa Parks opened up every seat on the bus. Now we’ve got to expand economic opportunities so everyone can afford the fare, and we have to make sure the bus route reaches every neighborhood and connects families with safe, affordable housing and good jobs.”
Maybe the next president could start with an actual plan of action instead of platitudes.
To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/milloy.