Some commentators have even suggested that an Obama presidency ushers in a new ''post-racial'' era that lowers the urgency and takes the spotlight off the need for equal opportunity and economic justice for urban and African Americans.
I strongly disagree. This may be a time for celebration, but it's no time for complacency. While it is true that for the first time in a long time, African-Americans and other minorities can feel like we have a real friend in the White House, we must also understand that President-elect Obama can only be effective if the same extraordinary coalition of white, Black, Hispanic, Asian-American, and Native American voters that elected him, now works together to support his agenda for change. In my view, the Obama presidency marks the beginning of a new
''multi-racial'' era in American governance that empowers and employs more of the growing diversity that is America's great strength in solving our common problems.
The thing that impressed me the most about the Obama campaign was its ability to bring so many heretofore disparate parts of America together in common purpose. Candidate Obama liked to say that this election was not so much about him as it was about us. He stressed that change comes from the bottom up, not the other way around. That means that we as citizens and advocates must take an even more active role in governance at all levels.
Our voices must continue to be heard from City Hall to the halls of Congress to the White House. I am encouraged that the Obama transition team is putting a high degree of emphasis on building, as Bill Clinton did, an administration that ''looks like America.''
But looks are not enough.
We still have a lot of work to do. On the one hand we now have the ultimate successful role model in Barack Obama. On the other hand, we see that fewer than 50 percent of African Americans graduate from high schools in many major American cities. We see a financial crisis with huge numbers of African Americans losing their homes, jobs and life savings.
We see an unemployment rate that's double that of whites, and wide academic achievement gaps. Our prisons are disproportionately populated by African American males. Taken together, these facts underscore the reality that the first black president does not mean we can now all close up shop and go home.
People like you and organizations like the National Urban League are more important than ever
to lifting up our communities and moving this country forward. In the coming weeks, I will talk about some of the most difficult challenges facing the emerging Obama Administration – from the needs of our children to the growing importance of minority businesses -- and suggest ways we can work together to move our empowerment agenda forward.
In 10 weeks, we will have a new president who campaigned on the promise of change. It is now up to us to help him keep that promise.
Marc Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.
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