Black Community: Empathy and Equity – The Continued Struggle for Social Justice and the Legacy of Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights.

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( The Black community as a whole can never afford to lose empathy for one another. One of the core challenges in maintaining social justice is communicating the need for empathy. It is most critical to be willing to put yourself in another person’s shoes to understand their feelings, plight, and perspectives while using that understanding to guide your actions.

Black Community: Empathy and Equity - The Continued Struggle for Social Justice and the Legacy of Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights.

The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental God-given right that the Founding Fathers deemed worthy enough to recognize, uphold, and protect. In his sworn duty as president, Franklin Roosevelt understood and accepted the need to protect this fundamental right. In his 11th State of the Union address, Roosevelt said, “This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights… our rights to life and liberty. As our nation has grown in size and stature, and as our industrial economy expanded, these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.”

He explained, “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” To assure equality in the pursuit of happiness, Roosevelt spoke of having a second Bill of Rights. During his address, Roosevelt added, “We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race or creed.”

From empathy and concern for others, the second Bill of Rights included: the right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation; the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; the right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living; the right of every businessman, large or small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; the right of every family to a decent home; the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; the right to a good education.

Each of these rights becomes a personal milestone that a person strives to achieve regardless of their background and station in life. These rights, when fulfilled through determination and hard work, can allow individuals and families the opportunity for prosperity, success, and upward mobility. They represent a part of the American dream and the true inspiration behind the Declaration of Independence.

Social Security, as we know it today, is a byproduct of Roosevelt’s second Bill of Rights. The establishment of the Social Security program came from the understanding and compassion that the elderly should be able to retire and spend their later years of life with dignity and financial security. In seven months, the American voters will choose who controls the White House, the U.S. Senate, and the House of Representatives. In making those critical choices, we also decide the long-term future of Social Security and Medicare.

For years, Social Security and Medicare, as safety net programs, have remained the target of Republican budget attacks despite how the programs help their constituents. In keeping with the spirit of Franklin’s second Bill of Rights, defenders of Social Security and Medicare have again sounded the alarm. House Republicans have proposed a budget for fiscal year 2025 that Democratic lawmakers have described as being an attack on seniors, veterans, and the middle class.

Pennsylvania Congressman Brendan Boyle, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, released a statement after the Republican Study Committee announced its 2025 budget. He wrote, “The House GOP has now gone further than ever with their attacks on Social Security and Medicare as we know it, and making trillions in devastating cuts that would raise the cost of living for working families.” In contrast, Congressman Boyle and Senate Budget Committee chairman Sheldon Whitehouse have introduced the Medicare and Social Security Fair Share Act. The legislation will indefinitely extend the solvency of Social Security and Medicare by making the nation’s highest earners contribute their fair share, as verified by the Chief Actuaries of the Social Security Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Social Security is especially important to people of color because they are less likely than white Americans to have pensions or retirement savings. As a result, Social Security is the sole source of retirement income for 33% of Blacks compared to 18% of whites based on a National Academy of Social Insurance study. A growing number of Black voters are becoming frustrated with President Biden and are more open to voting against him. Many voters who are undecided between Trump and Biden may not depend on Social Security and Medicare as do others. Can those same frustrated voters accept that all people don’t have the same privileges when it comes to the elderly and retirement? Can those same frustrated voters have empathy and respect for others when making critical election decisions in November?

Written by David W. Marshall

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