Black America loses gamble in electing first black president
By Phillip Jackson
February 12, 2010
In 2008, black America placed most of its political capital, spiritual energy and financial resources into electing the first black president of the United States. Black community leaders - political, spiritual and media - led us to believe that electing a first black president was a natural extension of the civil rights movement.
They were wrong. In fact, electing the first black president might well have ended the civil rights movement. Black America mistakenly traded the future of its young black men for a black president.
Young black men in America are beyond living in a "state of emergency." Many of them range from "barely surviving" to "no longer existing." This tragedy can be seen in prisons and jails across America, where black men make up 50% to 80% of prison and jail populations although we are less than 7% of the total U.S. population. Despair also can be seen in our families, where more than 70% of our children are born into single, female-headed households, and in colleges and universities, where black male populations on many major college campuses total a mere 1% to 3%.
Granted, these were all problems before the first black president took office; however, the bottom line is that this president has not committed himself in any way to directly address these issues. In so many ways, the energy used to support a first black president was energy that should have been used to educate black children, rebuild black families and economically revitalize black communities. As a way of saving our struggling communities, black America took a gamble on supporting a first black president. But we lost.
Over and over, the black community has reached out for help from this first black president, and over and over, he has said, "No!" This first black president has been clear that his job is not to help black Americans but to help all Americans. All Americans do not need the same help that young black men need. We need only walk down any city street in almost any predominantly African-American community to see residue of the human wreckage of millions of young black men nationwide. Few leaders - those same political, spiritual and media leaders who advised us to campaign for this black president - engaged in proactive measures to prevent this "silent genocide." The mass destruction of young black American men has been effectively ignored by almost everybody - the government, the media and much of the philanthropic community. And even most black faith leaders stand by and watch this preventable, ongoing, horrific loss of our young black men.
Too few of us are asking: Who are young black women going to marry? Who will be good fathers to tens of millions of black fatherless children? Who will anchor strong families in the black community? Who will build and maintain the economies of black communities? Who will young black boys emulate as they grow into men? Will black America be a viable and valuable community in 20 years?
This demise of black America is happening in front of our eyes because so few of us - black, white or other - really care about these young black men.Electing America's first black president seems to have cleansed the conscience of most Americans for destroying many past generations of black people. What a cruel hoax to believe that if a black man can become president, then young black men do not have any problems that America is obligated to address.Correcting the problems of young black men in America will require a comprehensively structured, sufficiently financed, professionally managed, ethically led and committed multi-pronged effort to systemically address and shift the cascading negative outcomes for black men and boys. Simply telling black men to "man up" will not work.
The real shame of this catastrophe is not that America can't save young black men; the shame is that America won't make the effort to save young black men! Compared with massive government bailouts and frivolous expenditures, the resources required to save America's young black men are minuscule. Saving young black men is an investment in America! A successful effort to save young black men must also address habits, attitudes and behaviors of these youth that have pushed them to the precipice of irrelevance, obsolescence and nonexistence.
To date, precious little has been put in place to stop the ongoing destruction and annihilation of young black men. When our first black president has been asked about helping black men in America, his retort, "I will do what is best for all Americans," is woefully insufficient to address the endangered status of millions of black males in America. The president must do the best for both, not just for America. In fact, doing what is best for young black men is what is best for America!
Phillip Jackson is founder and executive director of The Black Star Project in Chicago. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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