What Did Civil Rights Leaders and the President Talk About?


obama and civilThe African-American civil rights leaders who met with the President came out to the microphones after the meeting, which lasted more than an hour. They said the CBO report on the minimum wage did not come up at the meeting, although they did discuss raising the minimum wage. Here are some of their comments:Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said they presented a document, the 21st Century Agenda for Jobs and Freedom, to the president. He said it’s an outgrowth of last year’s March on Washington, details their priorities on health care, voting rights, education and other issues.”This agenda … aligns in many respects with the president’s agenda,” Mr. Morial said. “We talked extensively about the challenges of unemployment, the challenges of under-employment, the challenges of black and Black and brown unemployment in this nation.””It was helpful to us to hear the president and his team clarify some misconceptions about the Affordable Care Act, one (being) that it adds to the deficit when all the projections are that it will reduce the deficit. …This president’s ear, this president’s concern for our community is as strong as ever.”Mr. Morial said the CBO report did not come up at the meeting. He said his group’s research shows that raising the minimum wage does not cost jobs. “The minimum wage has not kept place with inflation. The minimum wage has not kept pace with the productivity of low-income workers. The minimum wage makes good sense.”Rev. Al Sharpton said of the minimum wage, “What must be weighed in any analysis, CBO and others, is that blacks suffer disproportionately from having to do work and not get the kind of wages that we need. This is a central concern in our community. It’s not just having a job; but having wages that are guaranteed to provide for our families. We had full employment in the black community during slavery. We just didn’t have wages. So we don’t want just a job, we want a job that pays, and pays so that we can take care of our families.”Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the naacp Legal Defense Fund: “We were deeply gratified to hear both the president and the attorney general’s commitment in describing the ways in which they stand united in some of the efforts to ensure that our criminal justice system reduces racial disparities and doesn’t break communities, as our current criminal justice system is doing, by the kind of mass incarceration, over-sentencing, and misuse of the criminal justice system that has been so rampant over the past 20 or 30 years. We think it’s really bold for the attorney general and the president to be making efforts to use clemency power to relieve those individuals who were sentenced before the fair sentencing act…” She said Mr. Holder and Mr. Obama “described in detail” their vision for further reforms to the criminal justice system.Lorraine Miller, interim CEO of the NAACP, said they raised the issue of voter suppression. “Our programs align with each other, and so this was a great moment for the civil rights movement.”Wade Henderson, President, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called the meeting “a substantive conversation.”


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