“Still waiting for our first black president.” Really…?

Just read an article in the June 1 edition of the  Washington Post Opinions by Frederick Harris, a professor of political science and director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University. The title of the essay is “Still waiting for our first black president.” In order to be sure I approached it with an open mind, I read it twice. After the second reading, I was sure it was a crock (in my humble opinion). But not wanting to be a bomb thrower, I mustered up the gumption to read it a third time. Just to be sure.

Now, I’m sure.

When are our academicians going to stop seeing black folks as a special-interest group? The key problems affecting African Americans are the same problems affecting everybody else: economic and social class-ism. African Americans are citizens, fully and completely. Anything any president does on a national level to address economic and social injustice should be done to benefit us and everybody else.

There are white folks living in abject poverty in Appalachia, and it would be great if someone were paying attention to their plight. Imagine what the reaction among blacks would have been if George W. Bush or Bill Clinton, or any other president, had announced that the economic situation of white Appalachian folks was so much worse than everyone else’s and the government was going to do something to help them — just them.

No, President Obama hasn’t let down black folks. All politics is local.

Black folks have been let down by their pastors, elected officials, and other recognized leaders who have had nothing to say about the economic discrimination happening right in black communities. These leaders have had nothing to say to the African-American drug dealers who run amok in African-American neighborhoods. They have nothing to say to their neighbors when resources intended for local services ended up lining their own pockets.

Religious leaders don’t hold vigils until after the blood is in the street. They won’t stand up and say, “Let’s run out the drug dealers. Let’s have a prayer vigil every night on this corner until they are gone. Let’s tell the police who the dealers are, who is sporting guns, and who is breaking into folks’ homes.”

No, the churches won’t do this. Instead, they busy themselves raising money to build bigger barns, I mean churches, or whatever they call them these days. ”Oh, bless me Lord, bless ME, Lord.” That’s all I ever hear.

Why point the finger at Obama when Black elected officials keep on dropping the ball right in their front yards? When it comes time to get elected, they are all over the community. But when it comes time to get into the community, to bring together the community to start affecting change, they are silent and invisible. Local policy makers continue giving us the same sorry excuses for their failures. In the school system, they point the finger at the easy target: teachers. But it can’t possibly be just the teachers. No, it’s a fact that there are leadership deficiencies at the top tiers of our local governments. We can look at the District of Columbia, Newark, Baltimore, Atlanta and Prince George’s County, Maryland, just to name few.

Perhaps, like Harris, local black leaders are looking to Obama to fix their communities’ problems. I sure hope not. If Mr. Obama doesn’t win in November (although, he most likely will), then there goes that plan. If Mr. Obama does win in November, there will be only four years left to get anything done for black America, if we rely on Harris’ logic. After those four years are up, it will be back to business as usual — unless our local leaders are counting on America electing a black man or woman president in 2016. If we don’t elect a black president in 2012 or 2016, then the best-laid plan of these mice and men — the hold-somebody-else-responsible plan — will have gone astray. And we will be screwed.

Then who would be our Moses? I can just hear the the crying, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. “Lawdy, lawdy, who gon’ save us now?”

Harris writes, “The key question is not why Obama, as a black man, isn’t doing more for the black community. Rather, what is he doing for the most loyal constituency of the Democratic Party, a constituency that just happens to be black, and just happens to be in need of policies that are universal as well as targeted to address long-standing inequalities?”

I want to know what President Obama being a black man has to do with doing the right thing for all Americans. I expected every president I ever voted for to do the right thing for all Americans. Segregationists in the south were a loyal constituency. If we follow Harris’ logic, doing what the loyal constituency wanted as opposed to doing the right thing would have resulted in Black folks being disenfranchised even longer than we were.

Black Americans, as well as all Americans, are in this economic and inequality mess  because few want to acknowledge the real  issue. The issue is class. Pure and simple. While the oligarchs steal the cake and run off, the rest of us fight over the crumbs.

The Godfather of Soul said, “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing. Open up the door, and I’ll get it myself.” A couple of generations later, Tupac said, ”If you won’t open the door, that’s okay. We’ll just take it off the hinges … but we comin’ in.”

You want to get serious about addressing social and economic issues in the black community? Deal with the locals. Create change on that level. Hold those on the local front lines responsible. Put their feet to the fire. Success on that level will rise to the national level. If it can’t or won’t get done locally, it won’t get done nationally.

I’m not waiting for a black president. We have one. I’m waiting for some local leadership with backbone, integrity, and guts — in our churches, in our city halls, and in our local governments.


9 thoughts on ““Still waiting for our first black president.” Really…?

  1. Carol says:

    Amen to that. Why is it that people can’t see pass the fact that President Obama wasn’t elected to be President for the Black community? He was elected to be President of the United States. Now we need to stop waiting for him to give us a handout and step up. Stop the whining and get up people. Someone recently asked me what we are going to do here in Romney territory to get President Obama re-elected and to keep Romney out of office. I sent an email, but that was the end of that conversation. Is that President Obama’s fault? We’ve got the Democratic Party here and when I went to volunteer I learned that they can’t seem to get Black people out to volunteer. Is that President Obama’s fault? The were complaints in an article about a month or so back showing all White volunteers in the Chicago office. Is that President Obama’s fault? I agree, we do have our first Black President. Where are the Black people to support and help him with this party of NO that’s against everything that he’s trying to do to help improve the country, not the Black community along?

  2. Sonsyrea says:

    When Al Sharpton finally said – on national television – something like, “If I push you down, it’s my fault. If you stay down, it’s your fault,” I realized “we, as a people” were turning a corner. It’s true that slavery, segregation, and current discrimination have pushed many of us down economically, socially, psychologically, emotionally. But waiting for the same system that pushed us down to lift us up will leave us sitting and weeping a long time. How do we get up? Taking back “our righteous mind,” like the Denzel Washington-portayed debate coach told his students in the movie “The Great Debaters,” might be a good start.

    I totally agree that this change begins at home, in our local communities, and within ourselves. When did we start believing that having a prestigious job, “disposable income,” bigger houses, more luxury vacations, boats, etc. were more important than building character, and flexing it through service to others? When did we begin defining success by who worked at the biggest corporations, reached the highest position in government, could buy the most expensive bags and shoes, buy the biggest boat and most pimped-out SUV.

    Out values have come down to this. But, it’s up to us to pick them up and lift our communities. The latest scandals in D.C. were a wake-up call for me.

  3. Derrick says:

    Current dialogue on facebook regarding this post:
    Joseph Cooke
    no need to retort. 2 ways to be fooled. believe what is not true. or failed to believe the truth. the endless war/ outsourcing war [blackwater]/ bailing out wall street/ unions [saving the car industry was a deal to unions/ no public option for health care. [ healthcare reform. and the insurances co, getting richer. and some jack a– is talking about local preachers. 2 funny. if that is the case why all the hoopla about him. Me and you come from vastly different views, you seemed to take that personal , I dont. the truth is the truth.

    Derrick Davis
    he is on point on many issues, but the biggest one to me is all politics are local and local elected leaders and many churches have let the black community down. i’m from dc and look at the 2 council members who had to step down due to criminal activity instead of meeting the needs of the local community which happens to be black. or churches that fail to meet the needs of the the community they are located in as well as the needs of their parishioners. hell, where is the outcry of the black church with the voter suppression laws?! he’s on point, the issue is class warfare! the haves versus the have-nots! those are the things i find on point! i’m one to believe that the repubs and demos are the same! its all a game and those of us who are activists must find places in the game to effectuate change for the better. there’s a lot for all progressive minded people to do! they must merely find the niche that activates their passion for change and work to make a difference for their community. mine is labor and what i do benefits the African American community! both locally and nationally!!!

    • Well, Mr. Cooke… I do take it personally when folks look me in the eye, shake my hand, steal my money and run for cover. I go after the thief within my reach….

      • Well, Mr. Cooke… I do take it personally when folks look me in the eye, shake my hand, steal my money and run for cover. I go after the thief within my reach….

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