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We Are The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For

By on April 3, 2011
Group of Young Men

 It’s no longer 2008 and Barack Obama is President of the United States. But the extent of publicly made personal attacks reminds me of why President Barack Obama is a different type of political leader. Hope still trumps fear and hate! Even as Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly discuss Obama’s birth certificate and members of the GOP fuel unpatriotic sentiment toward our president, I am obliged to recall how our nation came to choose Obama over Clinton and McCain. The “Yes we can” slogan resonates today more than ever as President Obama plans for his 2012 re-election bid. 

Black men no doubt are not valued as white males in the USA as evidenced in pop culture and the judicial system. If there were ever a time to circle the wagon with this president, I think it is now. In many ways it’s unfair to use a single man, President Obama as a marker for black men in general but it’s very much unavoidable. I mean if African Americans do not feel any specific support and/or prosperity under this president, then when? Consider the rise among affluent whites after Reagan and Clinton left the White House. Even George W. Bush, before leaving office managed to secure the wealth of the top 1% with tax breaks while failing to send a timely federal response to Hurricane Katrina victims. Given the scale of the health discrepancies of black males in college vs. prison, dying in the custody of law enforcement, and the health disparities that continue to grow since their original measure in the 1970’s, we must examine the outlook for black men under the Obama administration.

According to Dr. Sandra Gadson,  research reflects that “black males have the shortest life span of all racial or ethnic groups in the nation — a fact that has remained unchanged for at least the past 100 years. In fact, today, the average American can expect to live 5-10 years longer than a Palestinian—unless that American is a black male, in which case he can expect to die three years sooner. “ 

Even as we live during the age of President Obama and his new brand of civil politics, black males face some of the most dire and uncivil behavior in our nations institutions. Consider the recent controversial execution of Eric King in Arizona, put to death by the state with a veterinarian drug. Never before done in the state. As Mr. King was put to death on March 29, 2011 there was no guarantee he didn’t suffocate needlessly.

The breakthroughs are also significant as there has been more diversity in political, business, financial, and social leadership. From NASA Chief Charles Bolden to Attorney General Eric Holder, black men can be found in leadership roles they were not a decade ago. Great news!  But the fact remains that black males as a population continue to experience disproportionate biases in the judicial system, over representation with life threatening health disparities, and endemic levels of stigmatizing media prejudice in my opinion.

So a reasonable question for our modern time from future history books is that after hundreds of years of slavery, Jim Crow, and continued racism, when America elected its first black President, “How could so many black males continue to suffer?”  The answer is undoubtedly complex and reflects the value of a nation for sure.  This is not to place responsibility for a segment of population only on the president but it’s important to ask the question for us all. If we collectively value the health and prosperity of African Americans, what other time in history is better suited for pushing for CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN?

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