Research Paper: Disparity Issues in the Black Community

Pages: 10 (3348 words)  ·  Style: Turabian  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Government  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] While all that helps a great deal, it can only go so far. Once they have reached the limit of what they are capable of doing, that is as far as they can go because they do not have permission to move forward with larger projects. They also do not have the funding that would be needed to advance projects that are large in scope, as those kinds of changes require a lot of money (Barnes, 2005; Billingsley, 1999).

The way to get that money -- and to actually see the work get done -- is to get the community interested in and lobbying for the project. From that point, the community needs to elect officials who believe in the project and who are interested in making the community a better place (Cavendish, 2000). With a large number of church attendees, the opportunity to change the political landscape is a real possibility (Chaves & Higgins, 1992). However, the church has to get a significant number of community members as congregants, and also has to get them all to agree regarding the proposed projects that are important to the community (Billingsley, 1999; Brown & Brown, 2003).

From that point, it needs to be determined which projects are the most important to the people in the area and which of the people running for an elected office believe in and support those projects (McClerking & McDaniel, 2005). Then, the focus can be on ensuring those people get elected, so the projects can go forward with the right backing and the level of finances needed (Wood, 2002). Until these things all come together, even the largest black church will not be able to make significant strides in its community.

The Impact on Elections

Studies have shown that the black church can have a significant impact on elections in the community where it operates (Wood, 2002). City leaders are aware of how this works, and many of them will attempt to get on the "good side" of large black congregations so they can remain in office. People who are seeking office generally find out what is important to the black church congregations in the area and then focus on those issues in an effort to garner support from the churches at a high enough level to get elected. There are questions as to the honesty of this particular practice, of course, because it would imply that people who want to become elected officials in a community should only cater to the influence of the black church. However, elections have always been about the candidates who cater to the largest number of people. In black urban neighborhoods, that is generally the church congregations. In other types of neighborhoods, other kinds of groups would be most commonly seen as having the strongest influence.

In black urban neighborhoods, the church has a significant say in who is elected, because congregants will vote en masse for the candidate they feel supports the projects that are important to them (Barnes, 2005; Billingsley, 1999). If enough people attend the church, the candidate supported by that church will be the one elected. For much smaller congregations, there might not be enough influence or enough voting members to ensure that the "right" person is elected. That can be frustrating, but it is a frustration that is not often shared by the larger congregations. The focus of interest for black urban neighborhoods can be very different across cities and states, as well (Wood, 2002). This can affect elections, because the goals of a black church in the south may not be the same as the goals of a black church in the Midwest. Different goals mean a different style of community leader or elected official may be sought.

The circumstances in the neighborhood, church, and surrounding town are different based on size, income, location, current infrastructure, and many other factors, and these all have to be considered (Wood, 2002). Each one of those factors can have an impact on the projects that are important to the congregation and the neighborhood, so they can also have an impact on who gets elected. When people are running for office they generally say what the people want to hear, because they know it will give them a better chance of getting elected. However, it is also important to take a careful look at the track record of the person who wants the elected position. If he or she has a history of lying to get into positions, or if he or she has a history of not following through with promises, there are no guarantees that electing him or her to another position would change any of that. This is something which black church congregations must carefully consider. Electing the person who promises to get the important projects done is important, but only if the person will actually do what is promised.

It is impossible to know if a person, once elected, will really do what he or she said would be done. Black church congregations must take chances with this, just as other groups of dedicated people would do when electing someone. Those who do get elected also need to know the political and professional climate of a particular neighborhood or community, so they have a higher level of awareness about what they must do to keep the job and be successful in it (Day, 2002). Those who do a good job can get re-elected, as well, while those who do poorly are going to find that they are quickly voted out at the next election. It can be argued that this will happen if they do not follow the will of special interest groups (i.e. The church), but it can also be argued that the church congregation represents a significant number of people in the community and, therefore, cannot be considered a special interest group (Barnes, 2005). In that case, the congregation would be representative of the community as a whole.

Elected Officials and Accountability

One of the most important issues for any elected officials, but especially those who have been elected in black urban communities, is accountability (Cavendish, 2000). If the black church gets its congregation together to vote for a particular person, and he or she does not do what was promised, it will be made known that is a problem. Elected officials can and should be held accountable, and black congregations in urban areas understand the importance of that (Wood, 2002). They are generally not afraid to speak their minds and call out elected leaders who are not doing what they promised they would do during their campaigns. Sometimes this is out of the leaders' control, but if it is simply a change of heart or a lack of desire to really do what is right, pressure will be put on the official to do the right thing. That can galvanize an elected official into action and help ensure that he or she continues to move forward with projects that are important to the community (McClerking & McDaniel, 2005).

Of course, it is important to note that black church congregations do not always have the influence for which they would hope. Some are much larger than others, and some neighborhoods and towns see the church as being central to their existence more than other areas do. In highly religious places, like the southern states, there is more influence from churches in black urban neighborhoods (Barnes, 2005). More secular states can see far less influence from black churches outside of their direct neighborhoods and communities. This is often not enough to get a particular individual elected. Whoever is elected, though, must remain accountable to the entire community into which he or she was elected and entrusted with doing the right thing for everyone involved (Wood, 2002).

Conclusion

Overall, the influence of the black church in urban neighborhoods is significant when it comes to elected officials (Wood, 2002). Getting an entire, large congregation to vote for a particular person can easily push one candidate for an elected office ahead of others, allowing that person to win and begin to make the right changes to a city, town, or neighborhood. Black urban neighborhoods are often underprivileged and have poverty and crime issues that extend beyond what would be considered "normal" based on the number of people in close proximity to one another (Barnes, 2005). Officials who are interested in helping the poor and making the area safer -- and who have real plans to do these things -- will generally be more likely to get elected to office by the people in these communities. That can allow them to work for real change and help the people in the communities who need assistance and are fearful for their safety. True change can be made, but only if communities elect the right people and if those elected to office actually work for the good of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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