The Congressional Black Caucus' Mission:
Uphold the Right to Return, Rebuild and Remain
By: Glen Ford, Co-Publisher of The Black Commentator
In a few days, the Congressional Black Caucus will hold their gala weekend, in Washington, DC. This event takes place at a time of great crisis, requiring every exertion of our political powers. Yet another wave of Black Exodus is occurring in the United States an ethnic cleansing disguised under cover of natural disaster.
There is nothing natural about the dispersal of untold numbers of Gulf state residents to points unknown. There is nothing natural about the deliberate federal policy of emptying the region of the Black and poor, without even the right to know their own destinations. It is a peculiar torture for a Black person to be directed to a plane, only to be told, once airborne, that she is headed for Utah.
What are her rights in this matter? Does the dispersed Black majority of New Orleans have any rights in deciding the fate of their city, in its new configurations? Of course they do, but these are rights that the Bush regime feels it is not bound to respect, recognizing as it does only property rights, not human rights. The Congressional Black Caucus must take a stand for humanity, if it is to maintain any just claim to be the conscience of the Congress. The coming weekend will be their great test. The Caucus should know that it is being held to the most urgent account. They must affirm the human and political rights of those who have been displaced, and resist the corporate flood that is as we speak inundating New Orleans and much of the Gulf.
The people of New Orleans and the swelling Diaspora have the Right to Return. They have the Right to Rebuild. And they have the Right to Remain in their region. They have more rights than any speculator to shape the new communities that will be rebuilt on the federal tab.
Who are these people? George Bush and his militarized Homeland Security apparatus don't seem to want to know. They just want them gone. The Congressional Black Caucus must demand that a comprehensive list be drawn up of all those who lived in the battered region, so that they may be enabled to effectively exert their will their political and human rights on the direction of the hundreds of billions of dollars that will ultimately be spent in the Gulf states. They are the one's who have the Right to Rebuild. They must be counted, enumerated, and empowered. It is these stakeholders who have the moral and political right to approve all reconstruction plans and contracts.
And, once returned, and in the process of rebuilding, this population must be afforded the sustenance to remain, as the democratic project is done. We must think of this project as a new social contract for America a redefining of citizenship. The United States has not had much of a social contract, heretofore. Let us create one now, out of the floodwaters. The Congressional Black Caucus is the proper vehicle for this national reawakening.
Iraqis in Des Moines and Detroit were allowed to vote for the new government in Baghdad. The people who have been displaced from New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama should certainly have the same right, to direct the Reconstruction of their region. They have the Right to Return, the Right to Rebuild, and the Right to Remain. We demand that the Congressional Black Caucus treat these as inalienable rights.
Glen Ford served as Capitol Hill, State Department and White House correspondent, and Washington Bureau Chief for the Mutual Black Network, where he also delivered daily radio commentaries. He also created the national radio syndication Black Agenda Reports, featuring five daily programs on Black History, Women, Business, Sports and Entertainment, produced the national radio series Black History Through Music, and founded Rap It Up, the first national Hip Hop radio show. He has been a newsperson at many local radio stations.
In print, Ford was political columnist for Encore, the Black news magazine, served as editor and reporter for a number of newspapers, and published Africana Policies and, with Peter Gamble and Susan Gamble, The Black Commentator.
He is author of The Big Lie: Analysis of U.S. Press Coverage of the Grenada Invasion. (International Organization of Journalists, 1985)