Commentary: A Shutdown That Cripples Many Black Households Needs to End

When will sensible leadership prevail in the House of Representatives?

Posted: 10/09/2013 04:50 PM EDT
Commentary: A Shutdown That Cripples Many Black Households Needs to End

The continued impasse in Washington on the government shutdown is an embarrassment for the country and a grievous inconvenience for many American citizens. And as this stalemate continues from one day to another, from one week to the next, it never seems to dawn on the leadership of the Republicans in the House of Representatives that they are imposing horrendous times on hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Many of those citizens are African-Americans, who are bearing a disproportional brunt of this senseless government shutdown.

Over the years, African-Americans have done quite well in securing employment from the federal government. Although Black Americans account for 13.6 percent of the United States population, they account for nearly 18 percent of the federal workforce. Latino workers account for 8 percent and Asian-Americans nearly 6 percent. Together, workers of color make up more than a third of the federal workforce.

So when nearly 1 million federal workers are furloughed, that directly affects the economy of Black households around the country. It affects the ability of families to pay their rent or mortgages, to provide food for their families, to pay their children’s tuition, to purchase gas and clothing.

For some reason, all of this grief and inconvenience is perfectly acceptable to Republicans, who have shut down the government because of their desire to kill comprehensive health care for Americans who have difficulty securing insurance. And desire is fueled by a renegade group of Tea Party zealots. How insane is that?

First and foremost, the Republican leaders in the House need to accept that fact that the Affordable Care Act is now the law of the land. It was approved by Congress and deemed constitutional by the United States Supreme Court. It is an act that brings health care to millions of uninsured Americans – many of them Black and brown.  

Thankfully, President Obama and the Democrats in the Senate are holding firm on that. All of that makes the Republicans' strategy even more perplexing. Obamacare is going nowhere.

Of course, all of this could be resolved swiftly if only the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, would simply lead. Boehner continues to call for talks between the Republican leadership and the Democrats. There have been no shortage of conversations in the last few days. Speaker Boehner has spoken with President Obama. Republican leaders have met with Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

The speaker continues to refuse to conduct a vote on resolving the issue, an irresponsible strategy that is nothing more than an attempt to appease the Tea Party contingent.

It’s time for Boehner to recognize that his position is damaging to millions of Americans, with those living at the margins bearing the brunt.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht / The Commercial Appeal/Landov)

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