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Are Black Issues Getting a Fair Hearing?

Black America Web.com, Commentary, Deborah Mathis Posted: Dec 21, 2009

Its one thing to assume a post-racial posture if the society is, in fact, post-racial. Or if you are speaking wishfully and prospectively.

But when the gaping disparities between whites and non-whites continue even at this late date in our history, even with a black man in the Oval Office, even as the populace grows blacker and browner by the day declaring this a post-racial era seems post traumatic.

I dont think its unfair to say that black Americans had hoped, if not assumed, that the advent of a black president would usher in a long-overdue focus on and sensitivity to black pain and struggle.

At long last, someone who got it would preside over the nation and see to it that law, policy and maybe even sensibilities would be considerate of people who had not been invited to the social and economic parties of the 1980s and 1990s, when the American middle class and the wealthy both enjoyed off-the-chart boons.

These are the people, primarily African-American or Latino, who have been stalked by double-digit unemployment perpetually, though the alarms just started sounding when the national figure meaning white folks included reached 10 percent.

These are the ones with the lowest household incomes, the lowest high school and college graduation rates, the lowest home ownership rates, the lowest life expectancies, highest incarceration rates, the highest single parent household rates.

These are the folks you dont see when the local news does stories about hurricanes wrecking yachts at the marina. They are lucky to have ever been in a bass boat.

They are the ones who dont know Euro from Uno because they dont travel abroad. Many have never left their home counties.

You didnt see people like them in that sad number conned by Bernie Madoff since they never had any extra money laying around for things like investments, legit or not. Their only danger was the smiling predatory lender who charged them obscenely exorbitant interest rates on little fixer-uppers that were upside down from the get-go.

They are not having nanny troubles or sweating the see-sawing stock market or worrying about their childs position on the private school waitlist. Rather, they fret over their son being profiled on a trip to the mall or their daughter being denied a job because she wears cornrows, and the only stock prices on their minds involves a can in the soup aisle of the grocery store.

Is it societys fault? Not in every case, certainly. Personal failures laziness, blown opportunities, a lack of priorities, the pleasure principle, misbegotten values - might, in any single instance, be at play.

But the demographic norms suggest that this goes way beyond personal responsibility and lands at the feet of public policy. In other words, theres a system afoot, and it has historically, continually and currently made life-altering opportunities either extraordinarily difficult to attain or altogether absent for certain people.

You know who I mean.

And so does the president of the United States, whether he publicly acknowledges it or not.

Lately, black political leaders have begun taking Mr. Obama to task for his negligence in addressing the color line. In a recent statement, the Congressional Black Caucus demanded that policy for the least of these must be integrated into everything that we do.

No doubt, visions of re-election are dancing in the presidents head, and we cannot begrudge him a certain cautiousness about subjects that tend to alienate voters.

But Barack Obama is a smart man. And, I still believe, a conscientious man. Surely he will not allow this bird in the hand to slip away for want of another in the bush. It has taken more than 200 years of nationhood to have someone at the pinnacle of American power who could give a first-hand account of the black experience and to insist that the barriers to equal opportunity be dismantled.

Our president, uniquely, is in position to lend credence to the long-held complaints of black America and to shake the country out of its daydream about colorblindness and other nonsense that is so conveniently whitewashed by the election of the first black president. After all, we werent pulling for a black chief executive just for the visuals. It was supposed to mean that issues of particular concern to people of color would, for once, get a fair hearing.

But how can they hear without a preacher?

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