There have been a lot of articles lately about how Kerry needs to do a better job of mobilizing black voters. Apparently he has taken that to heart, and so he gave a civil-rightsy speech to the Rainbow/PUSH conference yesterday. Most of it is very predictable—no Sister Souljah moments for him—with praise for the Civil Rights Act, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and … Jesse Jackson, his host. There’s the obligatory quotation of Langston Hughes, equally obligatory attack on the Bush administration, and then a shift to education policy, with a call for “an education revolution, a GI Bill for the new century, and the next economy.”
What’s interesting, though—and even heartening—is that, while Kerry tries to make the ensuing program proposals sound very minority-specific, they’re not. He wants more federal aid for tuition, but the proposal doesn’t seem to be limited to minorities. He wants continuing education programs, but that’s open to all adults. His ideas to improve high-school curricula and to address the “college completion crisis” likewise are aimed at “underprivileged students”—an economic, not a racial, category. And his program for “building the math, science and technology workforce of the future,” while calling for more minorities and women, includes sex-exclusive (“all-girls math/science schools”) but not race-exclusive initiatives.
Now, I hasten to add that these proposals are likely defective in other ways, and would no doubt be implemented by Kerry-appointed bureaucrats in a discriminatory fashion, and are certainly served up with plenty of victimization blather and identity politics–but it is still noteworthy that even the Democratic nominee-apparent, and even in a speech in Jesse Jackson’s house, is willing to promise only programs that are means-tested, not melanin-tested.