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Why we are marching

October 1, 2010

by Benjamin Todd Jealous and Alice Huffman

We are living through a very particular moment in American history. It is one in which diversity is increasing, while prosperity is decreasing. Barring great social movement, this is a formula for a battleground.

Some see this moment for what it is and try to hasten the battle by pushing our nation down and attacking diversity. And so they attack the Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment itself, the constitutional amendment that guaranteed equal rights to all. They try to make racial profiling state law – from Arizona to Alabama.

We, the NAACP and more than 300 more organizations, see this moment for what it is and are coming together on 10-2-10 to revitalize our nation’s great movement for common ground. We are doing this by putting our shoulders to the wheel and pushing up towards prosperity. We did this months ago by helping to win the battle to make healthcare more affordable and accessible. We did it a month ago by saving more than 150,000 teachers’ jobs. We did this a couple of weeks ago by helping finally to get the small business new job creation tax cuts out of the Senate. We are focused right now on ending the Bush-era tax giveaways to the nation’s wealthiest and passing the Dream Act, which gives a pathway to citizenship to hard working immigrant students who have lived in America all their lives.

And we will be together on 10-2-10 for the One Nation Working Together march in Washington, D.C. We will be Black, White, Asian, Native American and Latino. We will be old and young. We will be Christian, Muslim, Jewish and secular. We come together as One Nation to pull America back together and put America back to work.

We must be bold and aggressive in turning this situation around and we cannot remain quiet in the face of such clear and imminent danger to our nation’s progress. If we want change to continue, if we want to stop those who would roll the clock back in our nation, now is the time to get everyone off the benches and back onto the field.

Our faith tradition teaches us to run and not get weary, walk and not faint. We have made great progress and many strides, but we must press forward because our work is not simply for us – but for the future of our children and their children. On Oct. 2 we will march for hope and for progress.

One measure of keeping hope alive is to put America back to work. But we are facing a Congress where a faction of the Senate rebuffs measures to do just that. The Miller bill which would create 1 million jobs is stalled in the House. We all remember the Senate’s chorus of No when attempts to extend unemployment benefits over the July 4th holiday failed. President Obama’s initiative to invest funds in local and state governments to stem layoffs of teachers and other critical personnel was also greeted with the No chorus. Now these same forces want tax giveaways to the millionaires and billionaires growing the deficit and further harming the economy.

One measure of keeping hope alive is to put America back to work. An employed workforce is the answer to the economic crisis – not more subsidies for the wealthy.

An employed workforce is the answer to the economic crisis – not more subsidies for the wealthy. Families with jobs spend money. As consumers, their buying power increases, which fuels businesses that can then expand and hire more employees. Rather than a trickledown theory where the wealthy get all the goodies, it makes sense to create jobs and financial security for the middle class and working families and watch the economy grow. The trickledown theory has resulted in a nation where the top 1/10 percent of Americans hold 976 times more income than the bottom 90 percent of our nation’s families.

The trickledown theory has resulted in a nation where the top 1/10 percent of Americans hold 976 times more income than the bottom 90 percent of our nation’s families.

Critically related to bolstering our economic outlook is a commitment to ensure that every child in the country has access to a good school and a quality education. Instead, too many states are resegregating their schools, returning to the days of separate and unequal. Until our children are given an opportunity to get the best education available, we will never be able to compete with workers from other nations, where far too many of our corporations are relocating to get both cheap and skilled labor.

We must harness our multiracial majority and make our narrative of hope and unity a renewed battle cry for change. The plight of the unemployed cannot be consigned to a whisper nor can we stand passively on the sidelines, waiting invisibly for change.

Simply put, we have come too far to be turned back now, or give in to those who want to tear our country apart.

Benjamin Todd Jealous is president and CEO of the NAACP, www.naacp.org. Alice Huffman is president of the California State Conference of the NAACP, www.californianaacp.org.

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