Last week, Congress passed the bipartisan Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act. The bill which was originally introduced in July 2019, was brought by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, with support from Democratic Senators Kamala Harris, Calif., and Cory Booker, N.J. and a companion bill was presented in the House by Florida Democrat Frederica Wilson.
It all started months before George Floyd was killed and the demonstrations began all around the country in protest of his death and a system that has been criticized as being weighted heavily against Black citizens. It passed with overwhelming support — individual votes were not recorded from the Senate, but the House recorded 368 “yeahs” to one “nay.” Both of our own Congressmen, Roger Marshall and Ron Estes, were among those voting yes.
The commission will consist of 19 appointees picked from the Senate and House leadership, the Congressional Black Caucus, and experts on issues affecting Black men and boys in the United States from the fields of education, justice and Civil Rights, healthcare, labor and employment and housing. Others will be appointed by leaders from a host of other U.S. Commission, including Civil Rights and from Equal Employment Opportunity, as well as from the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Labor and from the Attorney General and the President of the United States.
Additionally, partisan parity will be a top priority, and measures will be taken to assure there is no imbalance. This is all going to happen over the next 90 days. House, Senate and Congressional Black Caucus appointees will serve initially for two years, with all others going forward serving for four year terms. Once the commission is formed, it will meet within 30 days, and from that point forward, quarterly.
We hope this indeed turns out to be a positive development as the country continues to wrestle with issues of race and fairness. It’s important to note, however, that formation of a commission is only one step in what is likely to be a long journey. Right now, people are still wrestling with just what is meant when the words Black Lives Matter are expressed. Some are beginning to understand that it is a cry for help, not a declaration of exclusivity.
Take some time to learn what all the fuss is about if the continued protests reported on the evening news are too much to bear. Some easy to access resources include “13th” on Netflix, and the book “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.” Get the Hoopla app from the Great Bend Public Library and find the abridged version of “The Color of Law” on audio. Both are quick and concise documentaries that shed some much needed light.
Good people don’t turn their backs when their fellow man is crying out for help. It’s time to be brave, to listen, and to learn. The Congress has indicated it’s ready. Now, how about us?
‑ Veronica Coons