|Dr. Ruben Anthony was in Congresswoman Gwen Moore’s Washington,
D.C. office when the House of Representatives voted on its
“repeal and replace” of Obamacare.
Dr. Ruben Anthony Reflects on The
State of Black America
One important issue area is housing and homeownership in the African American community, initiatives that could be severely cut back or
eliminated in Trump’s proposed budget.
“There was also conversation about homebuyer education and what we need to do to make sure that housing is talked about, that there is still
homebuyer education and counseling so that people can experience the American Dream and that they become credit worthy and do the things
that are necessary for them to be homeowners,” said Dr. Ruben Anthony, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “Just like housing
programs here in Madison, you have to figure out how you continue to direct public policy to help people find their independence by becoming
homeowners, cleaning up their credit and learning about home management. We can’t let them take this out of the budget. We need to make
sure that there isn’t redlining in lending and we have to make sure that people are getting good borrowing opportunities and not have to pay
high interest rates.”
Trump appointed Dr. Ben Carson, an African American neurosurgeon, to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development. While Anthony has
great respect for the man, he questions whether Carson is the right fit for HUD.
“As I talk to people about the appointment of Dr. Ben Carson, we wondered how something like that could ever transpire,” Anthony said. “You
have a brilliant brain surgeon who would probably better serve as the surgeon general or secretary of Health and Human Services. But yet, he
was placed in the housing area. I think that sets us back because you have to have a subject-matter expert, at least someone who has
experience in housing, to hit the ground running. He’s a brilliant enough man that he is going to figure it out. But I think you lose so much time
with him having to learn a new craft. I think we would have been better served if he would have been put in a place where he has expertise
and if we would have gotten someone who has been a part of the housing movement. I just think putting a person who has no tie into housing
allows them to have the autonomy to set us back in that movement, not saying that would be his intent. I don’t think he knows enough about the
legacy of housing and how it has happened over time.”
The right and ability to vote was also a topic among the CEOs.
“We were concerned about justice, voting and civic engagement.” Anthony said. “We are concerned about justice in terms of knowing that
moving forward, we don’t have the same ability to depend on the Department of Justice to resolve issues like we’ve expected them to resolve
in the past, justice in the sense of knowing that we don’t have a Supreme Court to support issues that we’ve had in the past, justice in the
sense of knowing that the national leadership has a different perspective about what is happening to Black boys and what is happening with
civil rights. It’s just a different time, but we need to be a part of the conversation and not sit back and watch all of these things being stripped
away from us.”
During the past decade, environmental justice has begun to be closely tied to the civil rights movement as sources of water and air pollution
are often located near communities of color, causing greater rates of health problems in those communities.
“We need to make sure that we are taking care of the planet and making sure that departments like the WI Department of Natural Resources are
not gutted,” Anthony emphasized. “Even though we support strong economic development, we have to make sure that we are not sacrificing
the environment and the regulations that protect children from asthma, that protect individuals from dirty water like they had in Michigan in
order to move economic development forward. We have to continue to watch to make sure that environmental justice is happening as we
really push for economic development. It’s an urban issue because it’s poor kids who have to drink the lead-filled water. It’s the poor kids who
will have to breathe the air in urban areas where we have more congestion and other things that really affect the quality of life.”
With the many civil rights battles looming and the sense that the civil rights movement has few friends in control of the federal government, it
is easy for people to freeze, to be like deer in the headlights, unable to act. But Anthony emphasized that now is the time to act.
“We have to be willing to work on both sides of the aisle,” Anthony said. “We have to work with those Republicans and Democrats and voice
our opinions. That means we have a lot of work to do. That means we have to make the trips to the Capitol here in Madison and talk to
legislators about how state policy affects us. We have to make the trips to the city council and to the county board and express our opinion
locally about how things work. And we definitely have to continue to go to Washington, D.C. to express our opinions about things. We have to
continue to be active on social media. And when we need to get an opinion out, we need to use social media to tell our story. One of the things
that we all kind of agreed with is that most of what we can accomplish these days, we are going to have to look to local leadership in ways
that we haven’t looked to them before. If we depend on the federal government to solve issues, during this tenure, I don’t know if that is going
to happen. We need to partner more locally to figure out how we can get some things done.”
And by continuously pushing, the impossible will become possible.
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
As President Donald Trump has made his cabinet choices and
unveiled his domestic agenda, the potentially severe negative
impact could have severe repercussions in the African American
and other communities of color. Whether it’s cuts to domestic
programs like Community Development Block Grant, changes in
regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency or changes in
enforcement tactics at the Department of Justice, they could lead
to retrenchment in the gains of the civil rights movement.
And so, it was timely that the National Urban League held its
annual State of Black America conference of Urban League CEOs
on Howard University’s campus May 2-4. During the conference,
the CEOs discussed national civil rights issues within the context
of the Trump administration.