Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Black youth, not Obama, are key to Dr. King’s dream

January 21, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has all the characteristics necessary to make people feel comfortable voting for him: He is educated, articulate, handsome, charming, with a picture-perfect family. His closet for now appears to be relatively skeleton free, as long as you don’t count the admission of youthful drug experimentation, and these days, most people don’t. And oh, yes, he is also African-American, not just in the sense of politically correct terminology; Obama is, as they would say in my Irish family, ”first generation,” the son of a Kenyan father and an American mother who hailed from Kansas.

His candidacy has put race front-and-center in the country’s dialog while kicking up a cloud of dust that many thought had settled long ago. Over the past week, we’ve watched the Democratic Party, which relies heavily on a base of black voters, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has been the favorite of many black leaders, shoot themselves in their feet as they sparred over which one of them better understands the needs of the black community and who supposedly insulted Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy. Watching black leaders divide into Hillary and Obama camps as they made the television talk show circuit was painful to see. Now it appears from the very polite discourse exhibited during the Jan. 15 Democratic debate that the rhetoric has been dialed back and a truce declared just in time to celebrate the life and teachings of Dr. King.

One wonders what he would think if he could walk among us today. Many of the hopes expressed in his famous ”I have a dream” speech have come to pass; ”With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together.” Today, black and white children attend the same schools, their parents work side by side; the black middle class is successful and growing.

Yet, there are ghosts from the past still to bury; there is a specter of violence that haunts the lives of many black children. Their fear no longer stems from white men in white robes; it comes from within their own neighborhood.

In a column that appeared in The Morning Call on Oct. 18, 2007, Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, an African-American, wrote, ”Today’s young black males kill more young black males in a year than the Ku Klux Klan killed in its entire history.”

Page is not alone in his angst over the decline of black culture and the increase of the murder rate. In attempting to address the problem, Bill Cosby, one of America’s most beloved entertainers, along with co-author Dr. Alvin F. Poussant of the Harvard Medical School, recently published a book, ”Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors.” Cosby and Poussant call on the black community to place a higher value on education, family and role models, especially as it pertains to young boys. It says, ”Black boys who do make it to high school drop out more often than they graduate. Without a working dad in the home, or in their lives, most of them fail to learn the basic hands-on skills that would help them find an entry-level job.” The book goes on to say that black boys are twice as likely to be suspended as white boys and this does no one any good except the neighborhood drug dealers.

So, here we are in 2008 looking at the very real prospect of something many of us who lived through the civil rights movement thought we might never see in our lifetime; a person of color as president of the United States. It is more than the embodiment of Dr. King’s dream, it is a pinnacle of achievement. But, if Dr. King’s vision for America is to be truly realized, there must be more than one black man who is held up as a shining example. There needs to be thousands of young black men that are mentored, parented, and educated.

Dr. King said, ”We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

Now, there is a message that the candidates and their surrogates should be delivering to the voters.

Written By Pamela Varkony

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