Russell Simmons’ Open Letter to President Obama: Don’t Forget Our Plight
Your Black World Reports
I listened to your speech last week at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s 20th anniversary dinner, talking among friends and close supporters. This was an annual African American dinner, a very important one. While I know that any Democrat would have fulfilled their promise to come back if they had won the ’08 election, I also know the significance, and the special burden it poses on you, as the first African American President, at the same time.
Still, I woke up the next day feeling uneasy, not because you didn’t take issues of direct significance to the black community head-on — like the fact that one in three black children go to jail once in their lifetime or that black people have an unemployment rate double the amount of white people — but because nowhere in your deep and thoughtful remarks did you talk about the elephant in the room that affects ALL Americans, irrespective of color: the growing ranks of poor Americans, Americans struggling not just to meet their mortgage payments but to eat, sleep under a roof, educate their kids and pay their basic bills.
As a passionate advocate of yours since I joined your campaign in 2008, there is something you need to hear: in trying to soar above party politics, you risk forgetting your most important commitment to inclusion and empowerment. As you prepare for your speech to the nation tomorrow night, I write this letter to you as a friend and strong advocate.
The rich are already at the table, as are the Democrats, the Republicans, the Tea Party and the unions, the business interests and the moneyed interests. The poor can’t afford for you to forget about them, and you cannot afford it either. Of all Americans, the poor are not just the real victims of this recession; they are the victims of a thirty year campaign of smear and neglect, to strengthen the rich on the backs of the rest of America in the dim and ultimately futile fantasy that the rich getting richer will somehow "trickle down."