It’s 2016 and election fever is in full swing. (I’m amped up to vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary). Sadly, that means the Obama era is at an end. This was a once in a lifetime experience! Even if it doesn’t take another 220 years to elect the second Black president, Barack Hussein Obama will always be the first.
Of course, even though a lot of people tout Obama’s presidency as the beginning of a postracial era it was nothing of the sort. Instead, it put a magnifying glass over tensions that had been left to simmer for years. Minorities and women getting ahead is okay as long as the economy is booming, but the Great Recession exposed America’s true colors. But I think the time has come for Black people to have some real talk with themselves.
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t absolve white people of their responsibility to act like decent human beings. There is no excuse for racism, the same way there is no excuse for rape. But if we’re waiting on white people to collectively apologize for slavery or issue some kind of reparations, it’s not going to happen. The fact that many white people are awakening to the reality of racism and bias in various areas of life is a victory. a lot of folks denounce Bernie Sanders as not being enough of a progressive because his platform is based on class and economic issues. Well, guess who makes up a disproportionate share of the poor in this country? At this point, it’s like we’re cutting off our nose to spite our face. As vindicating as it would be to get reparations, it’s a pie in the sky dream.
The Oscars boycott is a recent example. The Academy Awards have been “so white” since day one. But what are black celebrities doing about it? I’m a firm believer in DuBois’s Talented Tenth theory. The best of us have a responsibility to reach back. The African American Film Critics Association was founded in 2003, but most of us have never heard of it. Last year, the BET Award for Best New Artist went to Sam Smith- a white singer who didn’t even attend. Granted, most of us don’t have the resources of the 1% to affect policy and invest in our communities on a large scale. But Oprah, Will & Jada, LeBron James, etc. do. In addition to pushing for governmental policy changes, we should be demanding our own give back. It would be more productive to encourage our own people to create opportunities for those who come after, than to continue to beg the establishment for recognition. Essence magazine is no longer black owned and it’s basically 100 pages of ads for Walmart, lotion, and hair care products along with 3 articles on how horrible it is to be a black person. Yet when the sale happened, we didn’t boycott.
Things need to change. We need to build bridges with other people of color and stop playing Oppression Olympics. The experience of every minority culture in America is unique, but Blacks, Latinos and Asians share a common struggle of being treated as lesser than the white majority. We need to get out and vote–not every 4 years for the president, not every 2 years for Congress, but every. single. year for the mayor, city council members, comptroller, superintendent, whatever. So much policy is made at the state and local level–sales tax, property tax, school districting, zoning laws are all decided every year by old white people, because the rest of us (not just black people, but EVERYONE!) don’t vote.