By now I’m sure you’ve had the time to digest and discern the October 3rd Presidential debate. Whether you’ve thought about it on your own or were forced to think about it due to the endless media coverage it received, there’s a good chance that your reactions from the debate may have been along the lines of, “Wow, Mitt Romney looks energized!” Or, “Mitt Romney actually looks like a viable candidate.” Or maybe it was, “You know what? Mitt Romney might have actually won this thing.”
I like to give credit where credit’s due. Mr. Romney did look energized. After all, he didn’t have to be a candidate and the leader of the free world at the same time. I also might have to agree that he looked more like a real candidate than he has as of late – not too difficult a task considering the past couple of months of his campaign. And while I can understand how some may have scored one in the victory column for the former Massachusetts Governor that night, I am not one of them.
The thing about President Obama is that we’re used to him giving the speech that brings us to our feet. We’ve become accustomed to him being the coolest guy on the stage. We’re used to him being all about style. I mean have you heard the man sing “Sweet Home Chicago.” But as I reflected on the debate the question became, is that what we should be looking for?
A Presidential debate at its simplest form is a spoken exchange of ideas, policies, and visions for the country. It’s about who has the best plan for our country and who will give us that plan in its purest, most honest form. If those are the criteria by which we judge the outcome of a debate, President Obama won by way of knockout.
The President laid out his plan in a clear, methodical way, talking policy like the seasoned incumbent he is. He talked about averting a global depression, about saving the ailing automobile industry, about fixing our broken healthcare system. He laid out a real plan. A plan that will help the middle class thrive. A plan that will bring down our deficit. A plan that will help move the country forward.
What did Mitt Romney do? Well, let’s just say that the fact checkers haven’t had a day off in over a week. Now, I won’t go into some of the falsities and half-truths Mr. Romney gave the American people that night because quite frankly, that’s not the point.
The point is that when we take out the political theatre and spin, the outcome of a particular event fundamentally changes. I’m not saying that those things aren’t important – they do have a role to play in our world. What I am saying is that when we separate the substance from the style, we develop a much different perspective of that world around us. I encourage you to do that for the upcoming Presidential debate.
I encourage you to remove the theatre and politicized style. I fully expect President Obama to take a page out of Vice President Joe Biden’s book and take an offensive stand against the plans that the Romney/Ryan ticket has for this country. I encourage you to actively listen to President Obama as he demonstrates how this administration’s policies are working and how the policies of a Romney/Ryan administration would take us back to the very same ideas that got our country into this mess.
Most importantly, I encourage you to listen WHAT President Obama and Mitt Romney are saying rather than to HOW they are saying it. I encourage you to do this because at the end this campaign, we will be left only with the substance of what was said. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be around when the substance of what Romney and Ryan are selling is here to stay.
Dallas S. Jones is the President/CEO of Elite Change, Inc. a public affairs and political consulting firm with offices in Houston, Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Washington, DC. He resides in the 3rd Ward community with his wife Angela Lopez Jones.
Much of my writings are inspired by personal life happenings that ultimately translate to bigger life meanings. On Sunday as I sat through church service I had the fortunate opportunity to hold onto my infant nephew, William, through the entire service. As the altar prayer happened and so many walked to the front in hopes of laying their burdens and cares upon the altar in search of spiritual resolution, I looked down at William and began to weep. I know it seems a little dramatic, but the combination of the spiritual awakening that was taking place with the innocence of what sat in my arms, I found myself overwhelmed. I found myself inspired.
Here was the little boy of one of my best friends since childhood sitting in my arms. I could not help but to think of all the woes his father, uncle, and I had gone through to become the men we are today. Through single mother homes, higher education, and even being victims of violent crime we managed to survive to contribute something meaningful to the world, and for William’s father he was the result.
You see, I thought about the fact that I too was that size, that inquisitive, and that innocent. I also realized that one day I would hold my own child in my arms with the hope of protecting them from all that would come to harm them. I wondered what my parents thought when I too was that size.
William will grow up, as we all do. We hope that as he does, we will have overcome so many of the problems that plague African American young men in our country. We hope to overcome disproportionate incarceration rates where African American men, according to the DC Based Sentencing Project, now constitute 900,000 of the total 2.2 million incarcerated in this country, and 1 in 6 African American men have been incarcerated since 2001.
I hope we will overcome the educational gaps that exist. Gaps where 33% of African American students attend high poverty high schools. The rate at which
African American males drop out or get placed in special education far exceeds the rate at which they are graduating and reaching high levels of academic achievement. We hope we can create a society where African American men are pushed to state institutions filled with books instead of bars.
I hope we will begin to change the cycle of what we teach our children. We won’t cloak them in old stereotypes filled with hate and bigotry. We can begin to teach them that justice and fairness for all doesn’t only apply to people that look and think like them. We can teach them that we as a society are only as strong as the weakest of us and only together can we progress. A society where we learn it’s ok to strive to be all that we can be and playing small should never be an option.
I believe we can get there. When that altar prayer happened on Sunday, and young William looked at me I forgot about myself, and this was my prayer for him and for my children to come. We deserve to create this society for our young black men. If we don’t, we will continue to lose them for generations to come. We can do more for our little boys.
Dallas S. Jones is the CEO of Elite Change, LLC a public affairs and political consulting firm with offices in Houston, Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Washington, DC. He resides in the 3rd Ward community with his wife Angela Lopez Jones.
A true passion of mine for some time has been the ever-prevalent issue of food deserts. I’ve heard many speak about it, and have listened to various elected officials talk about the need to eliminate this problem in communities of color. However the issue remains, as many suffer from a lack of access to quality foods and products. The key word is QUALITY.
I recently visited our local neighborhood Fiesta Supermarket, located on the corner of Wheeler and San Jacinto, as I frequently do in the evenings to pick up a quick meal. On this particular occasion, I purchased a package of fresh ears of corn that was cut by the store and placed into the packaging with a price sticker on top. The ears cost a little more than my usual frozen corn on the cob, but I figured it was worth the increase in price for fresh food. I didn’t know that once I got home I would open that package to find corn that was molding with an expiration date that was five days away.
Houston’s lowest income citizens are forced to consume foods that are of lesser quality so that grocery stores can simply save a dollar. It’s time for us to stop talking about this problem and force those that have the power to change this to act. Studies indicate Houston has 440,000 residents that reside in food deserts. Texas currently has fewer supermarkets per capita than any other state. Supermarkets have contended in the past that there is not enough money to be made in low-income communities to sustain decent grocery stores. This argument perpetuates the same corporate greed that broke down our country’s financial system on Wall Street. More importantly the people, and those elected to serve them, should demand more of these companies that profit daily off the backs of poor people.
Some companies have begun to open pantry and discount stores in low income communities. Although this gesture offers some hope, it still represents a lack of social equity in business practices. The same company will create high profile stores complete with nice buggies for children, specialty items, and restaurants under their corporate brand, while offering low-income residents a lesser shopping experience under a different name. A true commitment to eliminating food deserts includes creating a solution that not only provides access to fresh fruits and vegetables, but also creates a sense of dignity and community in the process. Together is still not equal when we serve a lesser product for a lesser price yielding the same profit margin.
There are many organizations that have taken a proactive approach to this problem. Groups such as Target Hunger, SHAPE Community Center, and the Houston Food Bank have really stepped up to the plate for citizens. It’s not enough to place nonprofit food pantries in these communities and expect them to carry the work of solving a major social problem. In 2011, PolicyLink issued a report regarding alleviating food deserts in our communities through a comprehensive approach that includes four strategies - develop new grocery stores, improve small stores, start and sustain farmers’ markets, and connect local farmers to low-income consumers.
It’s time for government to get serious about addressing one of the most pressing moral issues of our generation. We can’t continue to allow corporations to make excuses for under-serving citizens. There have been numerous studies that link poverty to the disparate impact on low income communities in the areas of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and many forms of cancer. Food, and the lack of access to it, contribute greatly to these realities. It’s time for our community to launch an unholy war against these stores, a war as unholy as the food they serve. If the community doesn’t stand up, a generation will be impacted. It only takes a small committed group to say, “Enough.” We call on everyone to stand with us.
Dallas S. Jones is the CEO of Elite Change, LLC a public affairs and political consulting firm with offices in Houston , Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Washington, DC. He resides in the 3rd Ward community with his wife Angela Lopez Jones.