BLACK OPPORTUNITY MATTERS

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” (Elbert Hubbard)

There is a real and measurable opportunity gap for people of color in Macomb County. Whether rooted in institutional racism or benign neglect, the obstacles for so many people in Macomb County in achieving their aspirations threatens to hamper prosperity not only of those individual lives but also the county as a whole. While all lives matter, there is a need at this moment for well-intended people of all backgrounds to dialogue specifically about how black lives matter and how black opportunity matters here in Michigan and Macomb County.

Consider the following facts:

  • Macomb County demographics are changing rapidly. The number of black people in Macomb County rose by over 51,000 between 2000 and 2010. It is estimated that in 2014 black people represented 11% of the county’s population or about 96,400 people.
  • Less working-age black people in Macomb County are employed and they make less money. In Macomb County, 63.1 percent of black people between the age of 16 and 64 are in the labor force compared to 73.5 percent for white people. Per capita income for black people is $18,574, compared to $28,077 for white people, a difference of $9,503 or 51%.
  • Macomb County government is an organization that employs over 2,500 people. According to data filed by the county with the EEOC in 2015:
    • 5.78 percent of all Macomb County Full-Time employees are black people (2.59 percent male/ 3.19 percent female)
    • 10.83 percent of all Macomb County Part-Time employees are black people (2.78 percent male/ 8.06 percent female)
    • 2.53 percent of all Macomb County Full-Time positions that pay greater than $55,000 per annual salary (generally those in manager/supervisory positions) are held by black people (0.88 percent male/ 1.64 percent female)
To that end, I have been working as part of a group of dedicated people to lift up these issues and dialogue with community leaders in both the public and private sectors. This has led to many fruitful conversations in many quarters but a refusal to engage by Macomb County government leaders.
This week, the group sent a public letter to Macomb County leaders chronicling the work we have done together as well as the multiple unsuccessful attempts to engage the Macomb County government on these issues. At its core, the letter is an invitation to all people of good will to talk about how black opportunity matters in Macomb County. While I was instrumental in developing the letter with the group, I did not sign on for fear that my present campaign for Macomb County Clerk would unfairly jaundice the important issues outlined in the letter.
In recent days, I have been the subject of attacks for participating in this work. Ironically, I believe that those who would tear me down share the same policy goals, namely reforming hiring practices and ensuring equal opportunity for all people in Macomb County. I don’t believe that personal attacks will help advance this important work and will not participate. Instead I celebrate all work being done on these important issues, whether I am directly involved or not. I will not stop working on policy issues important to the community, whether I am holding public office, running for higher office, or as a private citizen. The status quo is unacceptable and untenable.
I am involved in politics to fight for the people I work for, not the politicians I work with. Avoiding criticism has never been a singular objective of mine. If these attacks can elevate public awareness of these issues and add urgency to a response from those in authority to do so, so be it.