(NNPA) The reality is that race still matters in America in 2011. For all of those who would rather not prefer to admit this fact, it important to continue to keep stating the truth that institutionalized racism is alive and well in the United States. Yes, there has been remarkable progress attained as the result of a very long, difficult and protracted struggle for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment. We should all be proud that we now have President Barack H. Obama as the President of the United States. Black Americans, in particular, however should avoid falling into the anti-reality pitfall that we are now living in a “post-racial” society and world.
My purpose is not to dissuade or discourage anyone. I just do not think it is healthy for Black people to not face the hard facts that we still have a long struggle ahead of us to ensure that the next generation of Blacks in America, and African people throughout the world, will have a better quality of life in the future. The world is changing but race remains a determinative factor in too many areas where social and political decisions are made on a daily basis.
I have posited before that the “hop-hop generation” has done much to transcend and dismantle racial prejudice in the mindset of millions of people. Of course hip-hop culture arose out of the crucible of African American and Latino American struggle against abject economic, racial and social oppression in the South Bronx more than 40 years ago. Today hip-hop is a global cultural phenomenon that has united more than a billion youth who share common aspirations for freedom and empowerment beyond the boundaries of race, ethnicity, nationality, language and geography.
But the fact of the matter is that racial discrimination and injustice in the United States glaringly persist in employment, housing, education, environment, finance and criminal justice. In other words, the systems of injustice are still in place even though there has been some progress and social change for the better. The entire pseudo theory of a “post-racial” society in America is itself ahistorical and at clear variance with reality. The progress that has been attained should be an indication that we need to keep on fighting for freedom and to not stop prematurely. Yet reform sometimes creates an illusion that the goals and objectives of the movement for change have been realized without verification from facts and relevant statistics. Numbers are important, but this is really about the quality of life in our communities. Today there are too many of us who live in poverty, who are in prison unjustly, and who are unemployed with a sense of hopelessness. Thus, this is not the time to consider lowering our voices or actions away from demanding the changes that will be necessary to advance the political, economic, social and global interests of our families and communities.
Even within the growing “Occupy Wall Street” movement throughout the United States, there are noticeable tendencies where the various and sometimes different public utterances of opinion are given a range of value by the established media based on the race or class-orientation of those who are routinely called on to issue public statements about the intentions and goals of that “diverse” movement for social and economic change. The point is Blacks and Latinos should willingly continue to join other diverse multiracial and multicultural coalitions for social change. But we should not permit the interests of Blacks and Latinos to be triaged in those broader coalitions. We have to vigilant and remain focused on those key issues and objectives that will bring about the greatest progress for the largest number of those who continue to cry out for a better way of life in our communities.
You can be assured that the forces of opposition against the re-election of President Barack Obama will be using racial stereotypes and racism in all of its disguises in an unsuccessful attempt to derail President Obama. The politics of race cannot summarily be replaced by the politics of class, particularly in a nation with a history of racial oppression and discrimination. The current actions in many states to suppress the Black and other minority vote in 2012 through requiring new voter ID cards in addition to other forms of state-issued identification is just the latest examples of how far we have not come toward full and complete racial justice for all people.
I am optimistic because I am witnessing a generation of young, courageous and conscious African America leaders emerge on the streets and college campuses across the nation who know what time it is and who will be active in helping once again to get the largest young voter (18-30 year-olds) turnout in American history for the November 2012 national elections. Yes, race still matters in a positive proactive sense if we do our homework, roll up our sleeves and continue to fight for freedom, racial justice and equality for all.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Education Online Services Corporation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN).
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