Tag Archives: Congressional Black Caucus

Tech Diversity Still a Struggle

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) payed another visit to Silicon Valley last week with the intent of holding tech companies feet to the fire for more diversity. Apple, PayPal, Twitter, Square, and Airbnb were on the schedule. The CBC has made this trip twice before but this time they expanded the number of members on the trip to include Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Waters said during a panel discussion at Lyft,  “I’m not urging, I’m not encouraging. I’m about to hit some people across the head with a hammer.” Waters, referred by some CBC members as the “The Enforcer”  said, “I’m talking about some regulation. I’m talking about using the power that our voters have given us to produce legislation and to talk about regulation in these industries that have not been talked about before.”  Waters threat can only be considered valid if the Democrats regain control of the House and Senate in November.

Diversity numbers for tech companies are stagnant at best. But some companies have shown improvement. Uber showed that its corporate workforce (excluding drivers and support contractors) consisted of 2.6 percent black employees in 2018, up from just 1 percent in 2017. Twitter reported having 3.4 percent black employees in 2017, compared to 3 percent in 2016.

But Uber’s Chief Brand Officer, Bozoma Saint John, believes the key to diversity in the tech sector is held by white men. Saint John believes it is up to “white men to look around in their office and say, ‘Oh look, there’s a lot of white men here. Let’s change this.'”

According to CNN Saint John asked; “Why do I, as the black woman, have to fix that?There’s 50 of you, there’s one of me…I want white men to make the noise.” Saint John labeled the idea that diversity problems are rooted in a lack of suitable female and minority job candidates as “bullshit.” She believes the problem lies with hiring practices that favors what is comfortable to those doing the hiring.  In January Uber hired its first Chief Diversity Officer, Bo Young Lee.

The CBC also made other requests of Silicon Valley companies during the visit. In addition to the demand for more diversity the CBC asked that tech companies help fund more affordable housing for communities in need and combat the impact of gentrification. Other legislation the group is also considering includes the Community Reinvestment Act requiring financial institutions to meet the needs of the low-income communities. CBC members are also raising money to assist girls, people of color, and the poor receive STEM educations. 

Breaking It Down

Although I applaud the efforts of the CBC to improve diversity I don’t believe this is the right way to do it. Threats are not going to change a lot in this situation. Especially threats that are toothless unless the Democrats flip Congress.

If blacks and people of color are to make gains in tech employment we need to focus on creating a rich pipeline of candidates. Yes, there are plenty of talented black software engineers and project managers in the job market. But we need to incorporate Silicon Valley companies into the education process. I would urge Rep. Waters to introduce legislation that would benefit tech companies who invest in black campuses as teachers. Encourage them to create programs that move a talented student of color progressively from the classroom to an internship and eventually full time employment. Find a way to gently conjole these companies into recruiting and training capable candidates for jobs that may not have considered.

My anger with this issue, and I have said this before, is that major sports companies can go into the worst schools in the nation and select the next great linebacker or point guard. But tech companies ignore this business model. Its right before their eyes and yet they remain blind. Rep. Waters, if you read this, that is where you need to be. Don’t threaten them but show them the way.

 

 

 

Kenneth Chenault Joins Facebook

Kenneth Chenault

American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault has joined Facebook as its first African-American Board member. Chenault will officially join Facebook on February 5th after 16 years as AmEx CEO. 

Chenault, described by the Wall Street Journal as “one of the country’s most prominent African-American corporate leaders,” will become the first non-white member of Facebook’s board of directors. 

This move by Facebook is an effort  to address the diversity issues that face Silicon Valley. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer told the Congressional Black Caucus in October that Facebook would hire a black board member “in the foreseeable future.” 

Chenault has been a recruiting target for Facebook years according to Mark Zuckerberg. In a Facebook post Zuckerberg wrote, “I’ve been trying to recruit Ken for years. He has unique expertise in areas I believe Facebook needs to learn and improve, customer service, direct commerce, and building a trusted brand. Ken also has a strong sense of social mission and the perspective that comes from running an important public company for decades.”

Facebook, the worlds largest social network, is fighting to clean up its image when it comes to race. The company has faced withering criticism around its ethnic affinity marketing technology that allowed marketers to exclude minorities from ads related to housing. It is unclear how the Chenault hiring will impact this area.

 

 

Facebook Shuts Down Its Redlining Machine

Redlining – The practice of denying services, accommodations and opportunities  either directly or through selectively raising prices or targeting advertising to certain people based on the racial or ethnic identities.

Facebook has shut down its powerful redlining machine innocently known as affinity marketing. A ProPublica investigation revealed that advertisers have been using Facebook’s “multicultural affinity”  tool to avoid advertising to people of color. As the world’s largest social network Facebook has 2.1 billion users and brings in $36 billion in annual revenue.

As early as last week ProPublica reported that Facebook was still allowing advertisers to exclude African-Americans and other minorities. Facebook had promised to crackdown on racist ad targeting but the practice continues. Part of the crackdown involved asking advertisers to certify that they are not using race as an advertising parameter.

But in mid-November ProPublica purchased dozens of rental housing ads from Facebook. ProPublica investigators asked that ads not be shown to African Americans, mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina and Spanish speakers. The ads were approved in mere minutes.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 specifically states that it’s illegal to “to make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” But redlining also pertains to banks that deny capital to minority businesses.

In a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg stated that this type of ad targeting is common in the industry. Sandberg wrote that there are “many legitimate uses for this kind of marketing.” She acknowledged that Facebook’s tools are being used by advertisers to discriminate against people in the areas of housing, employment and credit loans.

As a result Facebook has temporarily disabled the option that allows advertisers to exclude multicultural affinity groups from their target audience. Sandberg wrote in her letter to the CBC that multicultural affinity groups “are made up of people whose activities on Facebook suggest they may be interested in ads related to the African-American, Hispanic-American, or Asian-American communities.”

Facebook issued a statement last week saying it put “safeguards” in place following the ProPublica’s original report but blamed a “technical glitch” for the continued problems.

“This was a failure in our enforcement and we’re disappointed that we fell short of our commitments. Earlier this year, we added additional safeguards to protect against the abuse of our multicultural affinity tools to facilitate discrimination in housing, credit and employment. The rental housing ads purchased by ProPublica should have but did not trigger the extra review and certifications we put in place due to a technical failure.”

To Facebook’s credit its technology has stopped millions of race exclusive ads from appearing on its network.

Facebooks Vice President of Product Management Ami Vora, said in an email,  “The rental housing ads purchased by ProPublica should have but did not trigger the extra review and certifications we put in place due to a technical failure.”

Vora added what Facebook has said in the past; that Facebook will now begin requiring self-certification for ads in all categories that choose to exclude an audience segment.

Breaking It Down

What is really happening is that Facebook has gotten too good and too big for its own good. Affinity marketing is a legitimate advertising practice. No argument there. Facebook has gotten so good and so big it can find a target market for snow shoes in Fiji. But Facebook is failing in this battle because it is offers the tool for the wrong purpose. When Facebook said it was temporarily shutting down the function to advertisers it was really saying we’ll try again. Certain advertising should never have been offered the use of the feature in the first place. Sure when it come to clothes, chewing gum, cars, and furniture allow advertisers the ability to more precisely target its audience. But when it comes to things that Facebook knows are covered in the anti-discrimination laws those advertisers should not have that option. Facebook knows the rules and so do the advertisers. So as Facebook faces more heat for its affinity marketing power it needs to ask stop making excuses and eliminate the tool for certain advertisers. Facebook is playing dumb but they know the difference.

Want to get Politically Active? There’s an App for That

In the first days of Donald Trump’s presidency the flames of political passion were, and continue to be, intense. People of both political parties are calling for change and make no mistake, no one is completely happy. Black people especially are unhappy with the rehetoric and the people in Trump’s administration. We need to get politically active and make our voice heard. There’s an app for that.

But before we start talking about technology and political activisim we need to identify who our elected representative is, how to contact them and how to influence them.  African-Americans need to speak out, be heard and vote! Get Yo Black Ass Out and Vote!

To determine who is representing you locally, at the state level and in Washington visit CommonCause.org. You can enter you address and find out in seconds who is speaking for you. The information includes their names, phone numbers, web pages and email addresses. You can also check USA.gov. There are numerous websites dedicated to finding this information just search and you shall find.

The best way to get in contact with your elected representative is still a good old fashioned phone call. You can email them, write a letter or you can make an appointment to see them. Its their job to answer you.  The Constitution gives you the right to “Petition the government for redress of issues.” That means your represenative is obligated to answer your questions. Another effective way to make your voice herd is to write to the editor of the local newspaper. Learn more about how to influence your elected representative by visiting the Congressional Management Foundation website.

But if you own a smartphone you can easily contact, track and weigh in on what your representative is doing. The Countable app is a news and information app that allows the user to understand and vote on the bills being considered by their representative. Countable explains the issues in plain english and sends your “Yay” or “Nay” directly to your representative. Countable is free and available for Apple and Android devices.

 

 

Another app for tracking bills is called TrackBill. This app not only follows what is happening in Washington but also in your state capitol. Available for Apple and Android.

 

 

 

Brigade – This app is a combination social media platform and political information resource. You actually take a quiz on the issues that allows the app to profile your stance. It also helps you find you representatives. But keep in mind, like any social media forum, you are going to get a lot of partisan viewpoints. Hey, its politics. Brigade is available for Apple and Android.

 

 

One of the things all black people should focus on is local politics. Remember, these are the issues that affect you directly. Right there in your city, county or neighborhood. OpenStates website helps you accomplish this by using your smartphone position to tell you exactly who to contact about an issue. The site is easy to use and reader-friendly with outlines of local bills that are being considered and one that have been passed.

 

 

We are all looking for a non-partisan answer to the issues that impact us. Its a nice dream but not so easily attainable. But Ballotpedia tries to be that nonpartisan reference guide breaking down the results of elections and providing an overview of bills that are currently being debated. It also provides details about elected representatives for all levels of governmant. The website also can send you email updates. You can find a fact checker on the website as well called “Verbatim.In case you want to check those alternative facts.

Now you know.

Racism Online: Facebook Profited From Racist Ads

Facebook-logo-PSDFacebook has allowed advertisers to discriminate against people of color. As simple as that. The world’s largest social media site is also the greatest collector of personal information in the history of mankind. To profit from this data Facebook allowed companies to advertise to certain groups while excluding others. The result is that African-Americans and people of color couldn’t learn about certain jobs, housing and financial opportunities; i.e credit.

Facebook has labeled its ultra targeted advertising capabilities as “Ethnic Affinity” marketing. Concern has grown among policy makers and civil rights leaders that marketers have used “Ethnic Affinity” marketing to discriminate against minorities. 

Facebook assigns users an “Ethnic Affinity” based on the pages and posts they have liked or engaged with. Facebook claims it bans advertisers from discriminating against racial or ethnic groups. 

Advertising that excludes people based on race, gender and other sensitive criteria are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment. Yet Facebook has made it possible and profitable. According to The Verge last year Facebook posted revenues of $17.93 billion in revenue in 2015 up 44 percent from 2014.  Almost all of it came from advertising. Facebook earns $13.54 for every user, up from $9 in the same quarter last year and that includes African-Americans and other minorities.

Facebook’s “Ethnic Affinity”marketing has come under fire from federal lawmakers for permitting advertisers to restrict its ads. This is known as red lining and it was common during the pre-civil rights era.

Pro Publica, a non-profit independent news website, exposed the practice after it placed an ad for a housing-related event that deliberately excluded African-Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is responsible for enforcing fair housing laws acted by engaging Facebook with “serious concerns” about this discriminatory program.

Facebook users have filed a lawsuit seeking class action status against the social media behemoth. The group asserts that “Ethnic Affinity” marketing is discriminatory ad-targeting technology that violates the Fair Housing Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California stated; “There is no mechanism to prevent ad buyers from purchasing ads related to employment/housing and then excluding based on these illegal characteristics.”  Facebook says the lawsuit is without merit and it will fight it.

However, Facebook has responded to the complaints and modified the discriminatory advertising program. Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy Erin Egan told USA Today, “We are going to turn off, actually prohibit, the use of “Ethnic Affinity” marketing for ads that we identify as offering housing, employment and credit.”

Facebook’s decided to change after discussions with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Illinois) and the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and the  Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Egan added that Facebook’s changes, in part, came from “constructive dialogue” with advocacy groups such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Brookings Institution and Upturn.

Regardless of what Facebook says, it isn’t killing “Ethnic Affinity” marketing altogether. Instead, the company claims to be building tools that will automatically disable the targeting for ads that involve housing, employment or credit.

Egan went on to say that “There are many non-discriminatory uses of our ethnic affinity solution in these areas, but we have decided that we can best guard against discrimination by suspending these types of ads. We will continue to explore ways that our ethnic affinity solutions can be used to promote inclusion of underrepresented communities, and we will continue to work with stakeholders toward that goal.”

Breaking It Down

First of all I am a Facebook user. Ok so who isn’t? But I have some serious issues with Facebook and it’s totally corporate behavior. By corporate behavior I mean that Facebook has engaged in a behavior that it had to know was wrong at best and illegal at it’s worst. But by being a corporation it got away with this racist practice as long as it could, took the profits before getting caught, and then saying “Ok, you got us. Sorry. We’ll fix it.” This is blatant corporate behavior and it it was deliberate. How can a company like Facebook, with a genius at the helm and literally thousands of very intelligent employees not see “Ethnic Affinity” marketing being misused? I’m not saying that Facebook designed the program to be discriminatory but it was being used that way and they had to have seen it. But as long as the money was rolling in and no one was complaining then lets keep it going. This is simply inexcusable. Yeah sue ’em! Make em pay! This cannot be tolerated!

Race and Technology – Digital Discrimination

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Courtesy David Castillo Dominici

Neighborhood websites have become the newest communication tool to inform communities. Community homeowner associations use websites for disseminating news and information and individual neighbors are using the Internet to communicate and address issues. They also  use the Internet to alert each other of various events like street paving or crime. These neighborhood websites also have become havens for rumors, accusations, petty grievances and, oh yeah, racism. 

The primary complaint about community websites is that African-Americans and other minorities are often labeled as potential criminals in their own neighborhoods.

Next doorNextdoor.com provides private social networking for neighborhoods. The company has recently acknowledged that its services has  been used for racial profiling. Complaints of racially charged posts have compelled the company to re-examine certain aspects of its site. 

Nextdoor recently began testing a system where users who report suspicious activity or individuals are asked to describe suspects’ clothing “from head to toe.” This is a departure from the previous method where users used racial descriptions.  Users can also flag posts they think are guilty of racial profiling.

Nextdoor also requires user to use their real names when registering and verifies their home address before approving their profiles. By doing this Nextdoor is directly confronting the nastiness of anonymous posts that plague social media.

Using neighborhood websites for racial profiling has another unfortunate effect. These unfounded reports often become a drain on police manpower. Racial profiling has become an extremely sensitive issue with law enforcement. As a result police have become wary of social media reports that hint at someone being out of place based on race alone. On the other hand police are still called and have to respond to citizens complaints.  Responding to unnecessary calls draw police away from more serious calls.

AirbnbDigital discrimination follows people of color from their homes and neighborhoods and into the market place. One website that has been singled out for digital discrimination is Airbnb. However it is not Airbnb that is the source of racist practices on the site. That comes from the people using the service. In one case a North Carolina host using the Airbnb service was banned after cancelling a reservation then attacking Shani C. Taylora black female investment banker with racial slurs.

She is not the only black person to experience racism from an Airbnb host, Read; “I’m a black man. Here’s what happened when I booked an Airbnb.” According to studies discrimination on Airbnb is rampant.

In its defense Airbnb has taken action and proclaimed its objections against this type of racist activity.  Discrimination in public accommodations illegal. The Congressional Black Caucus is pointing this fact out in a letter urging Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to take action against host racism and discrimination on Airbnb’s platform.

YelpIt is not uncommon for minority owned businesses to be treated differently on the Internet. Airbnb is not alone when it comes to people practicing digital discrimination on its site. Yelp.com is another website that has its reviews tainted by racism. A study by City University of New York revealed that black neighborhoods and business suffer greater scrutiny and negative reviews than white businesses.

 

 

 Breaking It Down

Racism has found its way into the cyberspace. Yes, the universe of bits and bytes and 1’s and 0’s is also very black and white. Black people are not really part of the digital economy as owners and full participants. Instead we are a source of income and profit to be abused and exploited. Racism that appears online is the direct offspring of the racism that African-Americans suffer in the real world. In other words nothing has changed. The same people that are discriminating against blacks on the job, in business and commerce are simply using the Internet now. Black people are denied more and pay more and suffer more just because we are black.  Its not just the Internet its everywhere. I have no other answer and neither do they.

 

 

Congressional Black Caucus Talks Diversity in Silicon Valley

CONGRESSIONAL-BLACK-CAUCUS_2_20Members of the Congressional Black Caucus Diversity Task Force traveled to Silicon Valley on Sunday. The objective of the visit was to meet with executives from some of the Valley’s biggest companies to discuss ways to get more diversity into America’s technology sector.

Making the trip were CBC Chairman G. K. Butterfield (D-NY)  and Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). The group met with representatives from Apple, Bloomberg, Google, Intel, Kapor, Pandora and SAP.

“Our goal for this trip is to encourage and partner with these organizations to implement a diversity plan that will place more African-Americans in the tech pipeline,” Butterfield said in a statement Thursday. “This will potentially lead to a wide range of opportunities, from student internships to positions on the boards of tech companies.”

In May the CBC launched a five year program intended to expand recruitment of African-Americans at every level of the industry. According to a CBC TECH 2020 anouncement the tech industry will produce 1.4 million tech jobs by the year 2020. Seventy percent of those jobs will go unfilled. As part of the TECH 2020 initiative the CBC has announced specific goals and principles for tech diversity.

Efforts to bring more blacks, Latinos and women into the technology industry were highlighted by the efforts of civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson who persuaded companies to release their diversity data. The data uncovered that only African-Americans and Latinos were less represented than women in the valley. The percentage of people of color employed in the tech sector were in single digits; the low single digits.

The numbers measured from 2014-2015 indicate that after a year diversity among the biggest tech companies has not improved. Google’s 2015 report showed only 2 percent black employees and 3 percent Hispanic. Google has decided to spend $150 million dollars on improving diversity. That money will not all be spent in house. According to Google half of the money will go to ouside organizations.

In a blog post earlier this week Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg said one of the most important things companies can do to promote diversity in the workplace is ”to correct for the unconscious bias that all of us have.”

Apple computer’s diversity report shows that its workforce is made up of 11 percent Hispanic and 7 percent black employees. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, who is on the record as being unsatisfied with the diversity of the workforce, has dedicated $50 million to improve the companies diversity and inclusion.

Rev. Jackson has asked that tech companies create specific, measurable recruitment goals and report their success in meeting those goals.

The executives of Pinterest claim to be the first in the industry to honor Rev. Jackson’s request by publicly announcing their diversity goals.   Pinterest is expanding the number of universities where it recruits, instituting an internship program. The company is working to identify students from underrepresented backgrounds and setting up Inclusion Labs at the company to experiment with new ways to improve diversity. The company has also taken a page from the NFL rule book, the Rooney Rule, that requires that a woman and a minority candidate be interviewed for leadership positions within the company.

Intel, the worlds largest maker of computer chips, is also laying claim to being the first to publicly announce their diversity goal. According to a post from Rosalind Hudnell, VP of Human Resources and Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Intel, the company set its goals out in May of this year. Hudnell also announced a $300 million effort by Intel aimed at increasing diversity in the company. Intel is using some of that money as an incentive for it’s employese to get into the diversity act. Intel will dish out up to $4,000 in bonuses to employees who can recommend a minority or women candidate that can increase the diversity of the workplace.

The most recet report on Silicon Valley diversity was published by Fortune.com on July 30th and it compares the diversity of some of the valley’s biggest companies ranked by gender and ethnicity. You can see the report here.

Related stories

Silicon Valley Cash? Not for Blacks and Women

Congressional Black Caucus to Talk Diversity with Silicon Valley Leaders

 

 

 

Websites that Empower Black Voters

Get Yo Black Ass Out and VoteElection season is here and on November 4th African-Americans are again offered the priceless opportunity to vote and flex our political muscles. And in this upcoming election cycle that is exactly what we need to do. The black vote is the key to Democrats holding the Senate.

According to a Washington Post report President Obama received a dire warning about the upcoming mid-term elections. A political pollster predicted  “crushing Democratic losses across the country” if the party did not do more to get black voters to the polls.

“African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well positioned to do so again in 2014,” Cornell Belcher, the pollster, wrote in the memo, dated Oct. 1. “In fact, over half aren’t even sure when the midterm elections are taking place.”

“Anybody who looks at the data realizes that if the black vote, and the brown vote, doesn’t turn out, we can’t win. It’s just that simple,” said Representative Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, referring to African-American and Latino voters. “If we don’t turn out, we cannot hold the Senate.”

“It’s pretty clear that the black vote can, and does, decide elections.” 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau black voter turnout has surpassed that of white voters. African-Americans were the only race or ethnic group who’s turn out at the polls increased in 2012. Most of the increase was in the Midwest and Southeastern U.S. At the same time the number of white voters declined for the first time since 1996 despite an increase in the population.

Pew Black VoteResearch by the Pew Research Center showed that black people are turning out in greater numbers and this is not linked to a population increase. Pew Research also revealed that the black voter turn out had nothing to do with black candidates or President Obama. “Unlike other minority groups whose increasing electoral muscle has been driven mainly by population growth, black’s rising share of the vote in the past four presidential elections has been the result of rising turnout rates,” the report stated.

Even though black people have made great political progress over the last 50 years we still have the problem of fighting voter apathy. President Obama was asked about the efforts to restrict the voting rights of minorities. According to a report published on the TheHill.com President Obama believes that it’s voter apathy not voter ID efforts that is the greatest hindrance to minority voting.

“Most of these laws are not preventing the overwhelming majority of folks who don’t vote from voting,” Obama said during an interview with Rev. Al Sharpton. “Most people do have an ID. Most people do have a driver’s license. Most people can get to the polls. It may not be as convenient, it may be a little more difficult.”

The President went on to say; “The bottom line is, if less than half of our folks vote, these laws aren’t preventing the other half from not voting,” Obama said. “The reason we don’t vote is because people have been fed this notion that somehow it’s not going to make a difference. And it makes a huge difference.”

But being politically active requires more than just voting. Black people need to pay closer attention to what is happening in Washington D.C. as well as locally. Not only do we need to vote but hold our representatives accountable for their actions. It makes a difference in every aspect of African-American life.

There are many online resources for empowering the black voter. These sites get our message to our elected representative as well as monitor what that person is doing, how they vote and who is putting money in their coffers; black representatives as well as white.

In May of this year the AACR reported on a new website named Countable.us. Click here to see that report. Countable.us is a powerful website that monitors the bills currently working their way through Congress. Once you register the site will show you your representative if you don’t know who they are. Countable.us  will give you a short synopsis of the bill, the argument for and against, what it is is designed to do and who is sponsoring it. Countable.us gives black voters the chance to vote “YEA” or “NAY” on the bill and send that information directly to your elected representative via email. You can also find your elected representative by going to the U.S. House of Representatives website and entering your zip code.

Like all voters African-Americans have the right to see our elected representative. These people are there to represent you and they are obligated to at least acknowledge your view. So black people speak up. Its easy to get face-to-face with these politicians. You can get a lobby visit which is a meeting where you express to your elected representative  how you feel about about a certain issue or bill. And you don’t have to go to Washington either. Members of Congress may have one or more offices in their congressional district depending on its size. Your representative may not be there often but there are permanent staff members at each office with whom you can meet.  Elected representatives often visit their home districts during Congressional recess and often hold town hall meetings and office visits during this time. For more detailed information about meeting your elected representative visit the ACLU website.

Black voters have the right to know is who is putting money into the coffers of our elected representative. Lets be real; money equals access. If you want an elected representative to really hear you you need to speak in dollars and vote. It’s the reality of our democracy. You can get a good idea who is spending money and influencing your representative by visiting the OpenSecrets.org website. All the money that comes into political campaigns must be reported. You can see who gave what to whom just by searching that person’s name at the Federal Elections Commission website.

Other websites that expose the influence of money in politics include Maplight.org and Campaignmoney.com.

MapLight Big Social Logo 3

So who is your representative listening to? You can see who influences your representative and his campaign by visiting the SunlightFoundation.org website. This site offer a listing of websites that can help you track every dime your representatives takes in. The information is also available from the Federal Election Commission.

Another great site for black voters is Corporations.org. This website will reveal the campaign contributions and voting record of your elected representatives. As black people we don’t automatically trust politicians not even the black ones. That’s being real about it. So if you want to know who gave your representative money and how that money affected his or her vote then check this site. You can can see your representative’s voting record there. Govtrack.us is another site that allows you to see your representatives voting record. This site is up to to date and will show you the last major vote and who voted how. You can search votes by your district by entering your zip code.

Other sites that allow you to track and research your representatives voting record include;

Washington Post U.S. Congress Votes Database

The Library of Congress Thomas Roll Call Votes

OpenCongress.org

Elected members of Congress are held to a higher standard. Even the most junior member of Congress holds an immense amount of power and influence. But are these people trustworthy? Not always and that is why politicians are seen in such a negative light especially by black voters. All voters, not just African-Americans, need to know who is misbehaving in Washington. There are websites for that as well. You can see what representatives were, or are currently, being investigated for ethics violations by doing a little research at the Citizens for Responsible and Ethics in Washington or CREW website. Right now this site reveals on its homepage 17 members of Congress that are currently under investigation. The list contains 10 Republicans and 7 Democrats and some pretty well known names like former Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann and Democrat Bobby Rush, civil rights activist and former Black Panther. By clicking any of the names you can get a synopsis of the charges and who is doing the investigating.  You can also see the latest legal filings by CREW aimed at members of Congress.

Other site that keep track of Congressional investigations include;

OpenCongress.orgGovtrack logo

Office of Congressional Ethics

House Committee on Ethics

Govtrack.us

 

The bottom line is you need to “Get Yo Black Ass Out and Vote!” Black votes count! It’s really too important to ignore when you see what is happening to black people everyday. Think about what we go through even to this day. We have a black President but is that really enough? We see how he is treated and dis-respected almost everyday. Part of the blame lies with us. What politician would dare do and say the things they have said about the President of The United States if they truly respected black voters? We are not asking  to be treated special just fairly. And the only way to get fair treatment and respect as citizens is to vote. Do you need to be reminded of the beatings and murders that took place so black people could vote? So why don’t you “Get Yo Black Ass Out and Vote!”?