Please forgive me for hitting the "pause" button on your celebration, but a reality check may well be required in these exciting times. The reality of politics and race are such that having a black President will mean little if there are no changes in the material conditions of Black America.
I hate being the skunk at the party, but the reality of politics may be lost on some. Politics is about dividing government resources to competing interests. Those resources could be about who gets tax cuts and who doesn't; who goes to prison and for how long or who gets a second chance; who gets a student loan and who doesn't. Please remember this as you celebrate the historic and earthshaking election of Barack Obama as our president. Politics is serious business and an election is just the start of the fight.
Obama's election will prove to be a grand, yet symbolic, achievement if there are no changes in public policy that has hurt Black communities around the country. The list of issues is legion. The tax and fiscal policies that have only expanded the gap between rich and poor, home lending policies that saddled African Americans with a disproportionately high levels of subprime loans which removed billions of dollars of wealth from black households, and prison-industrial complex crime control policies that warehouse African Americans are but a few of the issues that must be addressed. The over incarceration of black people (and, oh by the way, black women comprise the fastest growing segment of America's prison population) is having a devastating impact on black communities and all the personal responsibility talk in the world won't fix the problem if the policies remain the same. We must focus more attention on diversion programs and other efforts that give people real second chances.
Some will say, "he's the president of the United States, not the president of black people." I absolutely agree. There are far more things that unite us than divide us. We all want safe streets, fair taxes, good schools, clean air, and no war. However, there are issues that have particular impact on various communities because of their religion, geography, or race and we shouldn't ignore those issues because they are too complicated or will put our brother, the president, in a difficult position. He works for us too and we owe it to ourselves and future generations to make sure that he fulfills his promise.
Rather than stick our heads in the sand and act like we are all the same, I would prefer that we acknowledge, respect, and embrace our differences. That's what really makes us who we are. Let's hope that reality, not delusion guides our public policy going forward. Keep your eye on the ball.
Peace and Love,