After causing the longest government shutdown in United States history, Trump has proceeded to another measure to ensure the construction of a border wall between the U.S.and Mexico. Racist notions of drug smugglers and sexual assaulters have guided Trump’s insistence in more border control between the countries. He proposed an executive order to use $5.7 billion to build the wall, which has since been met by scrutiny from politicians. The divisiveness over the border wall heated up partisan and political party lines after a compromise was made, which involved devoting money toward sending more troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort to increase security. In spite of this agreement, Trump has refused to back down. Instead, he has used his executive power to issue a national emergency, allowing him to take federal funds that are reserved for national and urgent issues and use them to fulfill his own political and personal agenda.
If all it takes to allocate federal funds to national moments of crisis, it should be used for real emergencies — not perceived ones. The Black community has endured many issues that have been worthy of political attention and assistance. Yet, they have been ignored and neglected, leaving more importance to be granted to issues affecting white folks, such as the opioid crisis. As Black people continue to survive without governmental help, we applied Trump’s criteria for national emergencies to various issues affecting the Black community that are deserving of immediate solutions. Here are nine national emergencies that could use Trump’s urgency right now.
1.) There’s still no clean water in Flint, Michigan.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the lead contamination of Flint’s water supply. Since 2014, no one has been charged for the effects of lead poisoning in the city. The water pipes have not been repaired. Twelve people have been confirmed dead by state health officials, with a possibility of 119 additional deaths waiting to be confirmed. Currently, Black people make up 56 percent of Flint’s population. With the city making their residents pay for their contaminated water and no signs of fixing the water pipes, it’s about time that the government makes swift execution to rectify the problem they caused, and restore this basic need for the people.
2.) Black folks are still being criminalized and held in prison for marijuana charges.
Many states, such as California and Colorado, have made efforts to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. However, just because it’s legalized doesn’t mean that people are still not getting criminally punished for possession — marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Even in states that have moved to expunge marijuana sentences, there is still leeway when considering whether they can be thrown out due to the lack of federal support. Considering how Black people are four times more likely to serve sentences for marijuana possession, getting the drug decriminalized will stop the hurt and impact that these arrests have on Black neighborhoods.
3.) Black trans people are still being killed at high rates.
Last year alone, the U.S. saw a high rise in the killings of Black trans people, mainly Black trans women. More than 24 trans people experienced violent deaths, further contributing to the constant fear and trauma that they face in their daily lives. As many police officers misgender the victims, it’s also likely that this estimate doesn’t even begin to cover how many have actually died under these circumstances, completely disrespecting their existence. With the lack of acknowledgment from any sitting president on the issues facing the transgender community, this amount of targeted attacks on trans folks, particularly Black trans women, is cause for alarm and high political attention.
4.) Black women, unfortunately, have to say #MeToo to be heard as sexual assault survivors.
The collective allegations against Harvey Weinstein brought a platform for women to start having public conversations, sharing their stories about surviving sexual assault. Originally created by Tarana Burke in 2006, the #MeToo movement picked up momentum after actress Alyssa Milano capitalized on this phrase, using it as a similar call to action via social media, to encourage other survivors of sexual assault to come forward. Ultimately, their collective efforts helped to create a brave space for women, so they could see that, unfortunately, they were not alone. Additionally, it also demonstrated to men how prevalent sexual violence is in our society. Although a step in the right direction, there’s still evidence of toxic masculinity and its influence on society, even after the public recognition of #MeToo throughout mainstream culture. The government’s role in its heavy influence on rape culture can be seen from the dismissal of sexual assault allegations made against Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court nomination to minimizing claims of sexual assault made against the president himself. If Trump really cared about eradicating rape culture in the United States, he would use his executive power to provide resources and support for survivors, and reduce the conditions for perpetrators rather than encouraging them.
5.) HBCUs are being targeted for closure.
Historically Black colleges are slowly becoming closing their doors due to the loss of accreditation. Five HBCUs have closed down over the last 20 years due to financial hardship. A few HBCUs are struggling to keep their school running after losing their accreditation. Recently, Bennett college lost its accreditation, in spite of raising more than the amount of money they needed to receive federal funds. In order to keep their accreditation temporarily, Bennett College had to issue a restraining order against their accreditor, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSC). With more HBCUs in fear of receiving the same fate, Trump can use the federal funds from declaring a national emergency on the lack of quality education given to Black students in the United States.
6.) Black neighborhoods are being targeted for gentrification.
From Inglewood to Brooklyn, neighborhoods with significantly high populations of Black people are being renovated with new complexes and businesses that are highly priced. The gentrification of Black neighborhoods leads to the destruction of Black communities and spaces that preserve the culture and legacy of its people. Black people already make up 40 percent of the homeless population, so this just adds to the constant cycle of displacement and homelessness. The specific breakdown of Black neighborhoods could really use some genuine investment from the government in community development and Black ownership.
7.) Black women are dying in childbirth at alarming rates.
Studies have shown that babies born to Black mothers are twice as likely to die in birth than white babies. Black women are also more likely than any other racial group to experience death during childbirth or pregnancy. Serena Williams spoke about the near-death experience she had while giving birth to her child Olympia. Beyoncé has also highlighted her near-death experience in an article for Vouge. While pregnant with her twins, she was required to undergo an emergency C-section after being diagnosed with preeclampsia, a high-risk pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure. The potentially fatal, maternal condition statistically affects Black women more than mothers of other ethnicities. From Serena to Bey and every woman in between, these examples represent the neglect of reproductive care and maternal health given to Black women. If Black women want to live to see their offspring, they’ll need help from the president to sponsor more maternal health training given to doctors on how to listen to women who experience pain, and contribute more money to help change in the healthcare system, enabling it to provide adequate prenatal care.
8.) Black immigrants might soon be facing deportation and are being denied asylum.
Often, Black people are excluded from conversations about immigrants in the United States. Yet, Black immigrants are more likely to be deported when facing criminal offenses. 21 Savage’s possible deportation highlighted how the criminal justice system can separate families and break apart lives. Trump has already set in motion the deportation of Haitians from the United States. He has until July to reverse it and declare the separation of families as a national emergency.
9.) Black sex workers are being criminalized for making an honest living.
Anti-sex work legislation, as well as stigma, has blocked many avenues for Black sex workers to get their money. FOSTA-SESTA legislation caused many digital outlets used by sex workers to safely vet potential clients. Black sex workers, in particular, face the grunt of its criminalization, and are provided little to no resources to help get back on their feet after being released from jail. By declaring this a national emergency, money can be used to release Black sex workers from prison facilities, wipe out records, build education programs that destigmatize sex work, and provide stable finances for Black sex workers to live comfortably.
There are a great number of problems within the Black community. All Trump has to do is pick one (or several) and establish urgency on its solutions. The waste of federal funds and political bandwidth on nonexistent issues can be reapplied to the necessary attention that Black people deserve. Instead of causing mayhem, Trump has enough power to fix what’s going on with our people.
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