Presented by The Black Commentator
April 29, 2004
Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney is running to
recapture her Atlanta-area congressional seat. She
delivered the following speech to the Georgia Tech
Globalization Forum, April 22.
Tonight we are here to talk about globalization.
During my grad school days, I sat through a few econ
courses. And I remember that my teachers could draw
elaborate diagrams on the board, and write mathematical
equations that went the length of the chalkboard; and
they would always add at the end, "if all things are
And so I emerged from graduate school a true believer,
that free trade was fair, if all things are equal.
But as I left the world of academia and entered the
world of politics, my first lesson learned was that all
things are not equal.
I think I would like to start my remarks by remembering
a comment that Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez,
makes in the documentary, "The Revolution Will Not Be
Televised." In that film, he says that the people who
are labeled anti-globalizers are really not that at
all. That they are the true globalizers because they
care about the world and all its people.
The most glaring effect of globalization that I have
confronted is the impact on the lives of real people
for whom I am responsible.
My first encounter with people whose lives were
impacted by what we call globalization came as I sought
to represent Georgia's old 11th District that swept
through Georgia's poor and rural black belt. Those
most up in arms at the time were our farmers who were
agitated about NAFTA. Those not up in arms, but who
bore the brunt of NAFTA, were in one case, the women of
Sparta, Georgia - Hancock County. There, single
mothers held families together with their low-wage jobs
in the textile plants. There, single mothers lost
their jobs when the plants moved away. I watched
desperate families endure desperate times. "All things
being equal" didn't take the women of Sparta, Georgia
into account. As a caring single mother, who also
happened to be an elected official, I had to. That's
when I drafted legislation to take away tax breaks for
corporations that locate their plants overseas. It
wasn't a sexy subject at that time, but it was
definitely a problem that I saw firsthand, affecting
real lives and real people.
Now, more people are paying attention to globalization
because at first it was just "them," now, it's a whole
lot of us. Globalization used to be perceived as
something that happened to poor workers or the
environment in faraway places like China. Now
globalization has come home.
So the first effect that I would like to mention is the
effect that these economic policies have on careers,
creating uncertainty for real people as they watch more
and more jobs being sent off shore.
Estimates run into the millions of jobs that have been
lost since George Bush was sworn into office. How does
one measure the anxiety level of American workers who
need these jobs; watch them leave the US; realize that
some companies even continue to get tax breaks when
they leave; and then find that their careers have been
In all of my econ courses, I don't recall any of my
professors ever adding that to the equation.
Secondly, I am concerned about the worsening gap
between rich and poor; not just globally, but in our
own country, too.
Globally, as many as 1 billion people fail to meet
life's basic requirements as defined by the UN. About
three-fifths of the world's population in developing
countries live without sanitation. About one-third
live without safe drinking water. One-fourth lack
adequate housing; one-fifth live without modern health
services; one-fifth of their children don't make it
through fifth grade; an equal number are malnourished.
Water shortage and contamination kill nearly 25,000
people a day. Diarrhea kills nearly 4 million children
every year. In Bolivia, when the US multinational
Bechtel tried to privatize the water supply, a
revolution was sparked. Now, we can add Bolivia to the
list of countries that don't like our policies.
In addition to global inequality, the United States is
also experiencing domestic inequality. According to
the US Census, more than 34 million Americans now live
below the poverty line. That's almost 2 million more
impoverished than in 2001. Over 16% of our children
live in poverty, almost double the figures for 2001.
The Veterans Administration estimates that on any given
night 300,000 veterans sleep on America's streets. The
VA estimates that during the year as many as half a
million veterans experience homelessness.
Conservatively, one out of every four homeless males
who is sleeping in a doorway, alley, or a cardboard box
in our cities and rural communities has put on a
uniform and served our country. Surely America must
remember them. But while our country spends one
billion dollars a week for war, we can't find money to
provide our vets shelter and a warm meal?
In addition to the highest unemployment in a decade and
persistent health care challenges for those Americans
who do have jobs, a permanent underclass is being
created and that is not sustainable.
I'll just recite for you the findings from several
studies published this year:
United for a Fair Economy: 'State of the Dream, 2004'
report states that on some indices, the racial gap has
actually widened since the murder of Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. Sadly, it will take 8 years to close the
high school graduation gap; 73 years to close the
college graduation gap; 581 years to close the per
capita income gap; and 1,664 years to close the home
The New York Times informs us that nearly half of all
black men aged 16 to 64 in New York City are
The Chicago Sun-Times tells us about a Hull House
Report entitled, "Minding the Gap: An Assessment of
Racial Disparity in Metropolitan Chicago.' According
to the Sun-Times, "the report describes two completely
different cities, documenting disparities in income,
education, housing, transportation, health, and
According to the Hull House report researched by Loyola
University, it will take 200 years for the gulf that
separates black quality of life from white quality of
life to close entirely.
One example cited in the report: "Whites are 125% more
likely to use marijuana than blacks; 181% more likely
to use cocaine; 431% more likely to use inhalants; 516%
more likely to use LSD. And yet blacks account for 79%
of all drug arrests."
A University of Cincinnati report shows that African
Americans are stopped more often, frequently receive
unequal treatment after being stopped, are stopped for
longer periods of time, and are searched and arrested
A Harvard University study finds that the quality of
health care varies by race and at a recent seminar on
the subject, one of the star panelists recommends that
blacks see black doctors to escape racism in health
Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, in his series
"America Beyond the Color Line," informs us that a full
40% of all black children are living at or beneath the
The Washington Post tells us that hundreds of children
tested at least 47% higher than the national average
for lead poisoning.
The most recent report comes from the National Urban
League, which reports on the State of Black America,
2004. It reminds us that over "216 years ago, the
authors of the US Constitution counted enslaved African
Americans as 60% of a white person. According to the
total of the 2004 Equality Index, the status of African
Americans today is 73%" that of their white
Over 200 years of American progress equals 73%. No
wonder the National Urban League reports that 40% of
blacks feel little or no improvement in economics or
Clearly this is a situation that is not sustainable.
Thirdly, I'd like to talk about a situation that is a
growing problem: sexual slavery and human trafficking.
One major side effect of extreme poverty throughout the
world is the growing crisis of sexual slavery and human
trafficking. A recent U.S. Government estimate
indicates that approximately 800,000 - 900,000 people
annually are trafficked across international borders
worldwide and between 18,000 and 20,000 of those
victims are trafficked into the United States. This
estimate includes men, women, and children who are
trafficked into forced labor and sexual exploitation as
defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of
2000. Girls as young as 13 are trafficked as mail
order brides. Children are trafficked for domestic
work. In Lithuania, children as young as 11 are known
to work as prostitutes. The Government of Azerbaijan
wants to crack down on child traffickers who are
believed to take children abroad and sell their organs
This is a human tragedy borne out of worldwide poverty.
In fact, human trafficking is the ultimate form of
globalization: people doing anything to generate
commerce. And while this Administration speaks about
the scourge of human trafficking, it has done nothing
to end the lucrative Pentagon contracts that go to
DynCorp, in particular, a company whose employees are
known to have engaged in sexual slavery, and are
reported to still be doing so, even today.
Globalization without a moral compass is what we're
experiencing today. Here's what John Kennedy had to
say at his inauguration in 1961:
'The world is very different now. For man holds in his
mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human
poverty and all forms of human life'. To those new
states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we
pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall
not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far
more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find
them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to
find them strongly supporting their own freedom - and
to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly
sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up
'To those people in the huts and villages of half the
globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we
pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves,
for whatever period is required - not because the
communists may be doing it, not because we seek their
votes, but because it is right. If a free society
cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the
few who are rich.'
Now, I'll end this as I began it. One vision of
globalization has put our entire planetary ecosystem at
risk. I do not share that vision. However, a
different leadership can inspire us to have a very
different vision. I have a global view and I care
about the world and all its people. John Kennedy said
it right; this Administration and those who think like
it get it wrong.