The election is complete and the inauguration passed with chatter about Beyoncé lip-synching at the event, but the discussion no one is having is where black America is today.
People complain about President Obama and why he is not pushing a black agenda. Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West are two of the most outspoken opponents of the president.
They both feel that President Obama has a duty to pay more attention to black issues and needs, especially considering the record turnout of black supporters to elect him to both his first and second term.
So far, President Obama has been able to ride down a road paved in the blood of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. He is the physical confirmation of the dream King spoke about prior to his assassination.
Obama is proof of how far we have come. Black Americans have made gains; however, they seem to be suffering more than any other group in terms of economic growth, higher arrest rates and prison sentences, and assassinations by other citizens. Black Americans are losing the gains achieved during the civil rights movement in the new American agenda.
The result of the civil rights movement was access to places black Americans had been banned from. That place was public space like bathrooms and water fountains. Blacks now had access to employment consideration and public space and were no longer called to remain in the shadows. They were able to transition from black encapsulated neighborhoods into the larger avenue of opportunities in white America. The gains were a positive result of affirmative action.
Affirmative action works for blacks and other minorities, including women and Hispanics. It has worked so well that minority groups have been able to educate their families and make economic gains. Some have transitioned from lower-class to middle-class families. Some people have flourished, and the group that has grown the most is the Hispanic population.
Hispanic is the new black. In terms of where black Americans were circa 1990 with all the buying power, scholarships being offered to students for college, and job opportunities — some offered perhaps just to meet a quota — Hispanics are the preferred minority now in some respects. They are growing in number at a faster rate than any U.S. population, and politicians and companies are starting to pander to that minority block.
Black access is disappearing. It makes a case for a discussion of the turns of the civil rights movement. Blacks are the group with the least job opportunity right now and the highest unemployment rates. Blacks are attending college less.
More blacks — including females — are being incarcerated. The dream was not to have a black man in the highest position of power in the free world and black people still being murdered in gas stations and on the streets at night. This is far from the dream.
King and Malcolm X did not ask who should carry the torch for black people. They saw the struggle of the people, spoke out about the injustices around them, and pushed forward the movement for black Americans to have the rights they have today.
The leaders who are still alive from that era are aging and it begs the question who will lead us today? Black people seem to be wading through a promised land, waiting for a Moses. Perhaps they imagined Obama would be that; however, he is busy leading all Americans and not just black Americans.
When someone steps up to question Obama’s motives for the black Americans who supported him, they really need to question themselves. Don’t call for Obama to do more. Samuel L. Jackson said it. We voted for him because he was black and we didn’t like what the other guy was talking about.
We need help now, but it won’t come from the President. In the same way that people had to join together, discuss their issues and contact their local leaders in the past, black Americans need to call on their church leaders to do more than preach to them, and their politicians need to occupy more than space.
Black Americans have to be the change they want to see. Don’t criticize Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West for calling for change, for pointing out the poverty, and for demanding more. Ask them what is their solution and how can we help.