*(Moving into 2011) what black folks need now, is not to be told that somehow President Obama is going to save them. President Obama is a brilliant man, but number one, he sort of has his hands full, and number two, it’s not President Obama’s job to save black folks. That was my mother’s job. Just like everyone else in America, we are going to have to figure out a way to save ourselves, and we can do this.
At a meeting in Washington, DC a few weeks back some of the best minds in black America gathered, at which I was invited to attend. Inspiring as it was, what dismayed me was all the talk about how President Obama “needed to become a black president,” and how he needed to more clearly “show his commitment to the black community.” Huh? The man is not the local councilman of Ward 6 (and asking our local elected leader in Ward 6 might be a problem there too).
Imagine for a moment if there was a Latino president, and this Latino president began openly pitching exclusively for, or even preferably for, the Latino race. What would happen? I will tell you what. My black friends, and in fact some of the same black friends that sat around this table on this day — would be picketing the White House, claiming racism and other perverse preferential treatment with respect to my Latino brothers and sisters.
Respectfully, what we need President Obama to be is not a black president, but simply a very good one (president, that is). President Obama must become a great president, and not just a black president. If he ever simply becomes a black president, he will soon find himself also to be a failed president.
What black America needs politically, is the same thing that the rest of America needs, just more of it; and at the moment that equates to jobs and a stable if not growing economy. As I have often said, “when mainstream America has a headache, Black folks have pneumonia, but we are all sick.” If we solve jobs and the economy for black America, then many other items of deep concern to our community, from crime to incarceration rates, to yes healthcare, to a range of social issues, will either get resolved or be addressed in ways they otherwise would not. If we don’t solve jobs and the economy, well then basically what we are all doing is simply “re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” We can feel good for about 15 minutes, but we are going to be in a real state of hurt for more like 15 years, or more.
Black America’s problems — maybe for the first time since the civil rights movement — are now locked up in and intertwined with the issues of mainstream America, and with respect to solving these problems, this is a good thing. When we are “all in this together,” everyone begins to see that solving problems for the poor and the under-served are also in their own middle-class enlightened self-interest.
Read the rest of this essay at HuffingtonPost.com.