Obama: A symbol of change
new era has dawned in America. The nation’s attitudes about race have
significantly changed. Now, with the end of 2007 fast approaching, is a
good time for African Americans to re-evaluate strategies for racial
Those stuck in the thinking of the civil
rights era insist on pursuing the policies of those times until the
last vestiges of racial discrimination have been erased. They seem
willing to commit the full resources of black opposition to that
effort. A mistaken understanding of the status of blacks in America has
made that approach seem wise.
However, the present attitude toward blacks is far less hostile than it
was in decades past. Those who oppose this view point to the racial
abuse that still exists to support their position. The memory of
decades of discrimination often induces many blacks to conclude that
little has changed. It would take a major event to erase the emotional
impact of this history.
Such an event has occurred, but its full effect has not yet fully
impregnated the psyche of blacks. The general response to the
presidential candidacy of Barack Obama has established that racial
discrimination in America has certainly ameliorated. Whether Obama wins
or loses is not the issue. When thousands of whites turn out for his
campaign appearances and stand in the rain, it is clear that many
people consider Obama a serious contender for the Oval Office. Earlier
campaigns of black presidential candidates made a political statement,
but Obama’s campaign is seriously directed toward victory in 2008.
Now, an African American has an unprecedented opportunity for the one
position that has greater status than any other: President of the
United States of America. Also, a number of blacks hold coveted top
executive positions in Fortune 500 companies. Clearly, discrimination
in employment is not chronically debilitating.
All these opportunities share a common prerequisite: exceptional skills
and talents honed in institutions of higher learning. The strategy for
future African American progress must be to motivate the young to
pursue academic achievement. Anything that detracts from that objective
should be carefully scrutinized.
One disadvantage of the full fledged, civil rights era style campaigns
against racial discrimination is that they perforce create the
impression once again that blacks are victims. That is certainly not
the mindset for youngsters to have as they strive to succeed in school.
This is especially true if the assertion of the activists is that the
schools are substandard.
With racial hostility declining in America, the black leadership seems
not to have answered the question, “Has racial discrimination declined
enough so that African Americans are able to succeed in education and
employment?” An even more significant question is, “What strategies
should be employed to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination without
creating the impression that blacks are perpetual victims?”
One fact is clear. The road ahead will require substantial self-effort
more than opposition to discrimination. Unfortunately, there are too
many who have built their careers on the strategies of the civil rights
movement. The end of the year assessment of progress is a good time to
evaluate a more relevant strategy for future advancement.
“It’s a new era.”