(Photo courtesy of VanJones.net)
NORMAL - Former adviser to President Obama, author, CNN contributor and civil rights advocate Van Jones will speak at this Friday's Martin Luther King Junior Dinner at Illinois State University.
That's a long title, so I wasn't sure where to begin our discussion on Monday. I started with the subject of his book "The Green Collar Economy," because evidence of the surge in green energy surrounds Central Illinois. Wind farms are just part of the overall equation for green jobs and infrastructure, but they are certainly hard to miss when you drive home.
We also discussed the "uncomfortable" status of race relations in the U.S. and what its effects are on politics. He really got my attention when he brought up the long-term effects the recent mortgage crisis has had on the American Dream for African Americans. This is a subject I've been trying to keep on the front burner for listeners because there is so much misinformation and finger-pointing about who's to blame.
Much of the middle-class was negatively affected by the recession and decline in property values.
Jones said the black perspective was particuarly devastating as more and more families found themselves in the foreclosure process, either from unscrupulous lending practices or an unexpected job loss.
"There's a big cultural bias in our community toward home ownership. For a long time, African Americans weren't allowed to own property. So, it's a big source of pride," said Jones.
"Depending on who you ask, 60 to 80 percent of all African American wealth was wiped out in the housing bust. Basically, we lost a whole generation -- or two -- worth of wealth-building. We haven't talked about that as a country."
Jones said that would be one of the topics he discusses at the MLK Dinner on Friday.
One question I heard from several listeners who called in or emailed the show and identified themselves as conservatives was, "Why is ISU paying a communist to speak at the MLK Dinner?"
We didn't get into that subject in great detail because Jones has often discussed the political allegations against him that helped lead to his resignation from the Obama administration. He actually has a whole section on his website entitled "Truth vs. Fiction About Van."
“Some people experimented with drugs and alcohol, I experimented with world-views and philosophies and I was an angry young guy, I was on the left side of Pluto. The great thing about America is, you can think whatever wacky thing you want to think, and you are free to change your mind once you get older.”
Bottom line, all opinions are welcome on the midday show on WJBC 12-3 p.m. The phone lines are always open and you are invited to call in to disagree, argue or Philosophize about the topic of the day. (877-591-9370 or email@example.com)
I'm guessing the same applies to ISU. All opinions are welcome ... you wait long enough and someone you agree with will be a keynote speaker. But, maybe it's the people we disagree with that we should challenge ourselves to pay attention to in 2013.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.