Professor Michelle Alexander, author of the book The New Jim Crow, was a recent guest lecturer at Hamline University. On the present administration, she said in her book, “As the United States celebrates the nation’s ‘triumph over race’ with the election of
As in 2008, Barack Obama has again won the votes of a majority of Americans. The re-election of the first black president has made the history books and water cooler conversations. And now is the time for black Americans to ask how we fit into the ephemeral vision called the American Dream.
Black president or not, those of us who look like this president continue to face issues of race and class injustice on a daily and intergenerational basis.
However much we may like him personally, it is a fact that President Obama failed to address the plight of black America during his first four years in office. Unemployment, wealth gaps, and the achievement gap are but a few disparities President Obama has not publically addressed for Black Americans. This is evident by many Black churches organizing against the president because of his views on same-sex marriage and no attention paid to the many overwhelming disparities of Black America. Many of us that fight for justice daily realize that this fight is sometimes against some of our own people -- those in positions of power and influence who have convinced themselves that the poor, unemployed or homeless among us are members of a caste not worth dealing with, and who refuse to recognize and to fight against what Alexander calls “the new Jim Crow.” A great example would be the large number of nonprofits in north Minneapolis who continue to benefit from perpetual funding streams while north Minneapolis and it’s people having disparities that have grown exponentially without any hope in sight. The current president is a man of great acumen and tremendous problem-solving skills. And we must not let politicians of any color lull us into complacency, or into accepting broken promises and inaction with empty messages of hope and change.
This is the time, Black America, for us to demand that our “Black Messiah” start dealing with the issues germane to us as a people. We must refuse to let those who oppose our interests call us “racists” for calling attention to the entrenched, structural manifestations of racial inequality in this society. The president is well-known for having engaged in targeted outreach to the GLBT and Latino communities (though his attention to the latter came very late in the game). Why, then, does he consistently refuse to address the specific needs of black people? The Democratic Party of America has made many promises to Black America - jobs, economic development, education and use of the American Dream. But what it all boils down to are many broken promises and a “caste” of people.
Evangelist Tom Skinner, who molded an entire generation of black evangelical leaders, and was a champion on addressing race, racism, while talking about the struggle of Black Americans, laid down the core issues we (Blacks) face in America today. Skinner said, “We know, in order to put dinner on our family’s table we have to be an expert on White society. We cannot graduate from school without reading White people’s literature, studying white people’s music and art. We cannot make it without understanding White people’s history. Every day that an African American wakes up he/she has to make judgments about what white people are going to do today simply in order to survive. White people do not have to understand or know what black people are doing in order to survive.”
Many significant objectives for our communities are on the line with the broader goals espoused by President Obama: creating jobs, stimulating economic development and improving public education. But there are also a host of other issues, such as bringing an end to the oppressive system of mass incarceration, eliminating discrimination in housing and employment, and addressing the problem of severely underfunded urban schools that hit black Americans particularly hard. Ninety-three percent of us voted on Election Day to send Barack Obama back to the White House. Let us make sure from here forward that our voices are heard, and that neither he, nor any other politician, takes our votes for granted.
The president wanted four more years, and now he has it. The question is will Barack Obama finally give Black America some consideration?