What excuses now? For years, some have made their living by being the ones that people looked to for answers for the underlying causes of certain things happening in the black community. Most would conclude the residuals of having once been slaves in this country-followed by Jim Crow laws and then the fight for civil rights-had led to this or that type of behavior. And for the most part, I have agreed with that analysis.

But now we have a biracial man who is president of the United States and he has been embraced by the black community as one of our very own. We now have someone as the leader of the free world who looks like us, whose wife and children are the descendants of enslaved Africans. Barack Obama didn’t come from that mold. Still, he’s managed to break the mold and for that, all of America, no matter your ethnic or racial background can be proud.

America has always been seen in terms of black or white, especially through the eyes of black Americans. If you are not black in this county, you are given the “token white pass.” I am always amazed at other ethnic groups who proclaim themselves to be a minority, yet they move freely in the white world. When the City of Cicero was known as an unfriendly place for black people, other “minorities” lived, worked and played there. Black people have watched as every other ethnic group arrived at our shores, stood on our backs, and climbed the ladder to the American dream. For many of those individuals, commonality with language and culture has played a role in their ability to navigate the American experience.

They used those bonds to build themselves a common dream and hope without regards to America’s racism. For black Americans, our common language and culture was based on our shared history of slavery. That experience of the many different African tribe members were merged into one group called Negro. Simultaneously, they were being separated into segments known as “house Negro” and “field Negro.” Add into that mixture an identity based on skin color and hair texture. Our history has not been one of a unified people. But what we did manage to do in spite of everything was to unify.

We had light-complexioned blacks who fought for the rights of their darker skinned brothers. We had dark-complexioned blacks accepted lighter ones without question. Every ethnic group who came to this country has established their own neighborhoods and businesses, overcoming the majority of roadblocks black Americans seem to always encounter. Perhaps it was their “no-speak English” response or closed society that allowed them to prosper. Whatever the secret, black America, which at one time knew how to prosper, now seems lost since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which has caused us to lose in terms of the black business community than what we gained. But back to the question I asked at the beginning.

As we embark into the era of Obama, at what point does the rest of the black community look at his accomplishments and begin to ask of ourselves, “What excuses now?” Obama’s father abandoned him at an early age and he was reared by grandparents. He grew up being the “only” black kid in many setting, yet managed to overcome that because he subscribed to the audacity of hope even before he knew what it was.

From young black men walking around with their pants beneath their butts, to the profanity-laced speech of many individuals in public, what are the excuses for the behavior now? Every morning when I read the paper, I am assaulted with another story of a young person murdered on the streets of Chicago. Want to be embarrassed by the behavior of our young people? Just drive past many public schools as children are being dismissed. What excuses now?

Or look at the continuous filth up and down the streets here on the West Side. What excuses now? We have all voted, putting the ability to launch a nuclear attack that could end the world, and our lives, in the hands of one black man. Yet, as I drive around the black community, we won’t establish and support businesses owned by black people. We have put the entire economic future of this country into the leadership of one black man, but how many of you refuse to use black-owned banks? What excuses now?

As we traverse our future with our new president, the black community has overwhelmingly supported Obama’s message of change. We know his election doesn’t mean racial problems have been eliminated. But for the black community, let us make the changes that will make a brother proud.