Op/Ed: Where Do We Go From Here: From A Dream to Reality
Will an Obama Presidency Really Change Black America?
(BALTIMORE - November 8, 2008) - President Barack H. Obama has made one man’s dream a reality while answering the prayers for millions of others. Can he make good on his “Promise of Change” to those with hopes of him becoming a success as America’s first African-American president? Will this historic election be the greatest achievement of an ongoing civil rights movement since the days of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech? While November 4th has proven to be a monumental day in presidential politics, just how relevant will it be throughout America’s black communities?
Since the late 1700’s, black political leadership has been evident throughout this country. From the formation of the African Union Society of Newport for the Moral Improvement of Free Africans to Marcus Garvey’s Negro Improvement Association, the power of blacks competing and thriving in a democratic capitalistic society has been unparalleled. And if the chance wasn’t given, then it was taken by whatever means necessary (i.e. Malcolm X) that were appropriate and effective from organizing to protests to intense legal battles.
However, since the successes of the modern civil rights movement from Brown v. Board to the Civil and Voting Rights Acts of the 1960’s, we, as a community, have faded and settled for the empty word promises given by phony politicians drunk on their own rhetoric and power. Centuries worth of progress, with the lessons and values that carried an oppressed people from slavery to freedom, suddenly seemed in peril. So, we must really ask ourselves the question of whether an Obama presidency alone can really change the current crisis of a black America?
When you begin with the most critical piece of the puzzle, the cornerstone to any successful society, you have to start with education. For years now, the urban educational system has tended to push our children through by labeling them “hard to educate” and having them receive empty diplomas. Some have called this the “soft bigotry of low expectations” and I tend to agree.
Now that we have a Harvard educated black man in the White House, will we actually witness a fulfilling education for all of our youth? Will Mr. Obama put a stop to the tide of failure that continues to rise, drowning soul after young soul? Will his presidency decrease the seventy-two percent of black men who have dropped out of high school and are either unemployed, no longer looking for work or behind bars? What about the nearly half of our young black children starting kindergarten in the bottom quarter of general knowledge? How about the increased population of our youth who spend more time watching television (i.e. B.E.T.) rather than studying or doing their homework? When will we, as a community, excel in education, proving wrong the notion of “separate but equal” with the victory of Brown v. Board of Education? It will take more than just one man!
Since this country seems to be in the greatest “economic tsunami” since the Great Depression, let’s see how an Obama presidency will affect the black economic system. Despite the economic gains and incredible increase of a black middle class since the beginning of the civil rights era, there are still lots of poor lower class blacks living the American nightmare alongside Obama’s American dream. As the President-elect speaks almost solely to the middle class and of a system that will “spread the wealth”, how will he address a community that is the largest spender on depreciable products and the worst financial planning group of individuals throughout America?
While two-thirds of black Americans and nearly the same percentage of whites (71 percent) already believe people are overly dependent on the government, what affect does he believe his “hand-out” system will accomplish? I don’t see how taxing the top percent of folks in our nation’s economy and giving it those less fortunate actually helps an unskilled and less educated individual. In fact, our nation was at its strongest in 1996 when President Bill Clinton and Congress designed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act coupled with an Earned Income Tax credit that got more than nine million people off of welfare while helping four million more working class poor get out of poverty.
I firmly believe that waiting on government programs (welfare checks/subsidies) to get out of poverty can kill the human spirit and is the quicksand pulling poor blacks under, suffocating them by encouraging them to surrender any dream of getting into the economic mainstream of American life. So, will it be another mesmerizing Obama speech that gets us out of this mess or will it be through education and job skills? I say, the principle of hard work leading to success shall empower the black community in these tough economic times.
When you look at all the intangibles that came out of electing President Obama, certainly the greatest story has to be the rise of the younger generation and the elimination of the political apathy that has held us back for so long. The message of a can-do self-reliant attitude that has rejected the view of today’s black youth as lazy political weaklings and waiting for others to do for them that which they could do for themselves, will most certainly lead to generational stage of leadership, determination and success.
There are many other issues facing black America today such as crime and the Prison Industrial Complex, reparations, the state of the black family and more. However that will be discussed in part II of this article.
Hassan Giordano is a political analyst and advisor from Baltimore who has worked on various local, state and national campaigns. He may be reached at email@example.com or www.myspace.com/comradehassan.