Cowan says they have to understand the problem before they can solve it.
Here's a loaded question: If President Obama sent a Black agenda to Capitol Hill, how DOA would it be? According to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, it would have no chance in the House, but could make some traction in the Senate.
It was one of many targeted questions posed to a group of Senators during a Thursday session with African-American reporters. But, the topic that came up most frequently was finding solutions to the disproportionately high Black unemployment rate.
Sen. William "Mo" McCowan, who's been temporarily filling the Massachusetts seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry, believes that before lawmakers can solve the problem, they need to first understand what it is.
"I think there should be particular attention to the challenges the Black community faces," he said. "As I tell my colleagues, you actually have to talk to your constituents and understand the issues so you can develop a policy. Go into those communities of color; talk to people. See what the challenges are and whether they feel it's discriminatory conduct in hiring and advancement or an inequitable distribution of resources."
Lawmakers have to know the problem to solve the problem, he added, otherwise they're just flying blind.
Cowan also said that America's racial history continues to be a factor. Policymakers cannot forget that not everybody has benefited from the opportunity this nation promises.
"As we promulgate rules and regulations and policies to encourage job growth, job development, economic prosperity, if we're not reaching every community in this nation, we are failing our responsibility," he said.
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(Photo: Darren McCollester/Getty Images)