Race in America: What Goes Around Comes Around Again

“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.”  ~W. E. B. Du Bois, 1903

“In short, we, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation–if we are really, that is, to achieve our identity, our maturity, as men and women.  To create one nation has proved to be a hideously difficult task; there is certainly no need now to create two, one black and one white.  But white men with far more political power than that possessed by the Nation of Islam movement have been advocating exactly this, in effect, for generations.  If this sentiment is honored when it falls from the lips of Senator Byrd, then there is no reason it should not be honored when it falls from the lips of Malcolm X.  And any Congressional committee wishing to investigate the latter must also be willing to investigate the former.  They are expressing exactly the same sentiments and represent exactly the same danger.”  ~James Baldwin, 1962

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.  ~Barack Obama, 2008

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