The year is 2017 and we as people of color have more opportunities than ever. We have proven that we can compete in the classroom, newsroom, and the boardroom. We have a proven track-record of excellence across many disciplines. Many of these achievements are in fields of endeavor that our ancestors thought would never become open to us. In fact, they could only imagine living in a world full of opportunities like we have today. Ours is truly an amazing story, and an even more amazing journey.
Along the way there have always been obstacles put in our way for us to overcome. There have always been challenges for us to recognize and face. There have always been questions we needed to answer just to become qualified. I think we have overcome numerous obstacles, faced several challenges, and answered all of the questions correctly. Now we must take the next step by defining our true identity.
During our journey, we have been identified in many ways. We have been called many names. We have been given many titles. Our character and worth as a people has been defined for us, and often not in glorious terms. We have been told we are inferior, unworthy, incapable, unlovable, unredeemable, ungodly, unlawful, uneducated, unteachable, unreachable, lazy, and ugly.
Now I ask a simple question: Who said you are _______? Do you believe them?
If you believe them, then they have won. They have defined your character for you. I am here to refute everything they have said. I am here to break every stereotype they can find. I am here to correct every false opinion about us.
Now I ask a simple question: I say you are __________ . Do you believe me?
If you believe me, wake up and seize your victory. Use self-identification to define your true character. Live up to everything I am about to say. Break every stereotype about who you are. Correct every false opinion they have about you.
Who said you are inferior? I say you are superior!
Who said you are unworthy? I say you are worthy!
Who said you are incapable? I say you are capable!
Who said you are unlovable? I say you are lovable!
Who said you are unredeemable? I say you are redeemed!
Who said you are ungodly? I say you are God-fearing!
Who said you are unlawful? I say you are law-abiding!
Who said you are uneducated? I say you are educated!
Who said you are unteachable? I say you can be taught!
Who said you are unreachable? I say you are reachable!
Who said you are lazy? I say you are energized!
Who said you are ugly? I say you are beautiful!
Now that you have been correctly identified, rise up and find success! The year is 2017 and we as people of color have more opportunities than ever. We have proven that we can compete in the classroom, newsroom, and the boardroom. We have a proven track-record of excellence across many disciplines. Many of these achievements are in fields of endeavor that our ancestors thought would never become open to us. In fact, they could only imagine living in a world full of opportunities like we have today. Ours is truly an amazing story, and an even more amazing journey.
Join the Political Debate: a chapter from the book:
Rise Up! 42 Additional Ways to Improve Black America Now, written by Gary A. McAbee
NOTE: this excerpt was written in 2012, when I encouraged all people to get involved in the political process. It was an attempt to get people to wake up, and learn about the ways politics affect our daily lives. Today, the idea that people should pay closer attention to politics is more important than ever. As a country, we need to read and educate ourselves every day to join the political debate…
Now that we have an African-American President, there really is no excuse for black people to doubt the validity of the political process. The system still has subtle inequalities and injustices here and there, but for the most part we can believe that it works. We can believe that our votes are counted and they have meaning. We can believe that our voices, so often ignored in the past, have been heard. Now there is no excuse why we should not be more involved in politics, and issues that shape our communities, and nation as a whole.
How many ways are there for African Americans to contribute to the political process? We can start by voting. Barack Obama’s candidacy energized a new generation of voters while reawakening so many disenchanted ones. Let’s face it: many blacks were turned off by politics until Barack Obama came along. As a result, our voter turnout results were among the lowest of any race people until 2008. This is a trend that can continue if we ride the political wave that we are currently on.
We cannot forget the sacrifices that our predecessors made so that we can vote today. By voting, we can validate their efforts and the hardships they endured for future generations of African Americans like us. Until recently, our heroes such as Fannie Lou Hamer and Frederick Douglass would have been disappointed in us because of our spotty voting history. However, this disappointment would undoubtedly be turned into pride now that we voted en masse and helped to elect our current leader. In the future, we must continue to honor the legacies of those who paved the way for us to vote today by filling the ballot box.
African Americans can join in the political process by remaining aware of the decisions made on the local level. The decisions made by our city councils have long-lasting impacts on the issues currently affecting our lives. For example, I spoke in this book about the amount of bars and liquor stores in my old neighborhood. It takes licensing and zoning laws to operate businesses, so how can we have so many operating in a given area? The answer is because it is legal and allowed to happen. What can we do to change this?
We can start by getting involved by letting our local elected officials know that this is not acceptable. One thing we can do is voice our displeasure so that more of these places are not allowed to open in our communities. Take this action a step further. If we are not satisfied with our local representatives, we can email, call, or visit them! After all, they work for us and we can vote them out. Our strength lies in the fact that they are aware of this. So, if enough African Americans in Jersey City, NJ choose to complain about the establishments in our neighborhoods, changes would surely follow.
Moving on, education must become a part of the debate when joining the political process. Our schools do not place enough emphasis on the workings of government; therefore, we are left out of the loop when it comes to political matters. We can easily overcome this by using a very powerful tool at our disposal: the computer. With the advent of the computer, there is no excuse for a lack of knowledge in today’s society! We can learn about politics, the legal system, and policy formulation all by accessing the internet. As a result, we can be better prepared to join the political debate.
Increasing our knowledge base would lead to more African Americans who can become involved in the political process as candidates. A great way to influence and direct change in our communities is to elect our own officials. Our elected officials are vital to our agenda of better education, better and safer schools, and cleaner communities just by their presence alone. Their voice in government is better than having no representation at all. Therefore, we need to be sure that we are raising our next generation of politicians who will shape the future of African Americans.
This influx of talented minds would help to close the gap of a lack of African Americans on the national political scene as well. We are not visible enough in national politics. An illustration of this point is from studies of the Sunday early morning and daily cable news political shows and roundtable discussions. These are the best opportunities for elected officials to join the national political debate in front of millions of interested viewers. The studies paint an interesting picture.
I am one who hates to use statistics, because statistics can be analyzed from many different viewpoints. However, the following statistics about the lack of African-American viewpoints cannot be denied. For example, during a 16-month study on the Sunday morning talk show circuit, only 1 out of every 10 political figures invited was African-American. In fact, 60% of these shows had no black guests at all during the study. As a final thought, 69% of all African-American appearances were made by only three people: Juan Williams (author and FOX News correspondent), and former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
This lack of representation points to the fact that our underrepresentation must be challenged and improved. Even if these political figures could push an agenda favorable to African Americans, how much impact could they really have on today’s political discussions? Therefore, we need more African Americans in politics to keep issues that affect us on the table.
There is one last point to be made about today’s political landscape. This is a reminder to our people, as well as our politicians, not to get caught up in the typical gridlock in our politics thanks in large part to political affiliations. It shouldn’t matter that Barack Obama is a Democrat. Nor should it matter that JC Watts is a Republican. It should not matter to us that Al Sharpton attracts negative publicity. Nor should it matter that Clarence Thomas possesses conservative views. They are all African-American political leaders that we can learn a lot from if we are open to joining the political debate. Their ideals can help us become more interested and educated about the political process.
The Presidency of Barack Obama was historic for so many reasons. The most obvious is that he was the first African-American to serve as President of the United States. As a black man, I gushed with pride knowing that the ultimate glass ceiling, the office of the President, has been shattered by Barack Obama. Now young black males can look to the example of Barack Obama and dream of one day becoming the second African-American President of the United States. If you do not understand the importance of this, I suggest you think about it and try to find some empathy to comprehend the magnitude of this achievement.
Of course, the Presidency of Barack Obama had to come with a price. The price was the typical back-and-forth debates that happen constantly in Washington. Members of both political parties, Democrats and Republicans, play a significant role in these occurrences. Both political parties would like to limit the power of success of the other, all in an attempt to push their agenda through. It was under this backdrop that Barack Obama took office eight years ago. Naturally, he would be subject to the political wrangling and scrutiny that all Presidents must face while in office. However, upon careful review, I am one person who wonders if the scrutiny President Obama faced was typical, or greater than previous Presidents.
(…if you lean Republican, have conservative ideologies, or possess another motive not to be discussed here, I hope that you continue reading anyway. I am sure that your natural tendency is to immediately dismiss the premise I am about to present. I will give you that. However, I will not give you the right to discharge my point-of-view without at least trying to understand it. Without trying to frame his Presidency within the historical terms of black people in America, It will be difficult for you to accept what I will say next, nor agree with it at all. I only ask that you proceed and make an honest attempt at gaining some understanding…)
Post-election, was there a concerted effort to tear down Barack Obama, his Presidency, and the legacy he would leave behind? Let’s tart from the beginning and see where we go. It is known and proven that leaders of the Republican Party met behind closed doors immediately after the first election of Barack Obama. Their mission was laid out. They would obstruct President Obama at every turn, as well as try to render him a one-term President. I suppose this is normal and a method both Republicans and Democrats use once the other party wins the Presidency. However, was this the first time such a meeting was confirmed to have taken place?
I could be wrong (and feel free to provide facts that will do so), but I have followed American politics closely since the 2000 Bush vs. Gore election fight. I do not recall immediate opposition to President Bush, or at least not a backdoor meeting that went public. Nevertheless, the stage was set for opposition and obstruction of President-elect Obama. This is undeniable.
Now back to my original point: how does it look when the first African-American President faces obstruction and purposeful attempts to “sabotage” his Presidency from day one? How am I, given all of the obstruction black people have faced in America, supposed to feel when I know there are member of our own Government dead-set against this President?
Let’s fast forward to how many times during both of his terms that Barack Obama was “delegitimized” as President. In other words, how many times did his critics act as if he never won, or should have won the Presidency twice? Obama has been called weak at foreign policy, yet a dictator over us about domestic affairs. He has been questioned about his use of executive actions, when he has done this fewer times than his predecessors. He has even been about his vacation time, even though he was away from Washington fewer days than other recent Presidents. Again, these things are always things a President, regardless of political party get scrutinized for doing. But it seems to me Obama got a little more backlash than other Presidents…
Remember in one of his first reception lines, how Russian dignitaries skipped over President Obama by not shaking his hand?
Remember former Governor Jan Brewer, and the time she stuck her stuck her finger in President Obama’s face?
Remember the congressman, who interrupted the State of the Union Address to say the President lies?
Remember when President-elect Trump delegitimized the President by asking for Obama’s birth certificate time and time again…
I could go on and on with example after example of attempts to delegitimize the Presidency of Barack Obama.
Now back to my original point: how does it look when the first African-American President faces obstruction and purposeful attempts to “sabotage” his Presidency while he is in office? All of these slights play out in the public eye, so the world saw and paid attention to these things. Not only that, but people of all races, supporters and non-supporters, friends and foes, also saw the treatment President Obama received. None of these things should have ever happened to the President of the United States. Personally, I do not care who is in office, Democrat or Republican. There is a level of dignity and respect owed to the President at all times.
So what was I to say as I witnesses outward expressions of “hostility” toward the first African-American President? How was I supposed to feel, as a black man, as people tried to tear down President Obama? Please provide me with tangible evidence that warranted this “hostility” as proof that his Presidency was such a disaster. In the meantime, I will share this…
For the record, Obama was reelected in 201, but unemployment did not stay above 8% as predicted by Mitt Romney…
For the record, gas prices did not shoot up to $6.00 per gallon as a result of Obama’s reelection…
For the record, the stock market did not crash during either of Obama’s two terms in office…
For the record, Obama did not plan to suspend the election of 2016…
For the record, Obama did not vow to stay in office after 2016 (if Trump won)…
All of these “stories” were either outright lies, or distortions of the truth to make some people fear the first African-American President even more. What makes this sad is the people responsible for the untruths knew they were lies, yet they told these stories anyway. Their goal was to play of the fears of people who are uneducated about civics and the functions of government. It worked! Yet Obama continued to serve as the President of the United States with dignity and class.
Let’s fast forward to the election of 2016. Even though most economic numbers have improved dramatically during his Presidency, this election turned into an indictment to some degree of Barack Obama. As a result, we saw the rise of Donald Trump and his appeal to those who rejected Barack Obama from the start. President-elect Trump rode this wave all the way to the White House. Of course, he used his platform to bash the President and claim how much he has failed after eight years in office. While this is normal during an election season, who can explain why this happened while the President’s approval numbers are at their highest point right now?
Now back to my original point: how does it look when the first African-American President faces obstruction and purposeful attempts to “sabotage” his Presidency as his time in office comes to an end? Given the treatment of so many of my ancestors (and myself and countless other African-Americans), this feels like the ultimate slap in the face. I understand the nature of politics and the desire to downgrade members of a different political party, but really? President Obama’s successes and failures will be scrutinized objectively by Presidential scholars. This treatment is to come later. Right now, to me it feels as if someone is ready to finish the job of tearing down Barack Obama, once and for all.
A wise man posted this on social media back on November 7, 2016, one day before the 2016 election…
An even wiser man (Van Jones) made a compelling statement concerning the treatment of Barack Obama, especially as a result of the brilliant victory of President-elect Trump. Van Jones could not have said it any better. To paraphrase his comments, he called the victory of Donald Trump (in part) a “whitelash” against President Obama and the demographic shift occurring in the United States. Once again, to fully understand his (and my) point-of-view, you should take into consideration the treatment of black people in America. What are we supposed to tell our children?
See full clip here: Van Jones- CNN November 8, 2016:
As a final thought, I say we should just let this play out. If you are concerned or need to find additional evidence, please stay tunes and watch how soon the attempts to erase President Obama from history start to occur. Remember that you read about it here “first”. Let’s see, repealing ObamaCare, whether you like it or not, is already the first of Obama’s accomplishments in the crosshairs of the new Congress as soon as Donald Trump takes office? What will be next? I am sure it will not take along before we see several additional attempts to tear down Barack Obama. Who will finish the job of erasing the legacy of Barack Obama? Time will tell…
Education: Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers
In the Unites States, we have an antiquated education system. It is another great disqualifier for far too many students. Our current system is still based on the outdated calendar cycle of when crops were planted and harvested. This is because in the past children were needed to harvest crops alongside their parents. The school calendar was created with this in mind. Children would be available to plant crops in the late summer months, and then be available again at the beginning of the next summer to harvest them. As a result, generally speaking the school calendar starts in September and ends in June. Today, although there are plenty of farmers who may still benefit from this setup, the overwhelming majority of American parents do not require their kids to harvest crops. It takes away from the time some students need just to avoid being disqualified because of their lack of a quality education.
In theory, American children could go to school for an extra month during the summer, or the school calendar could be adjusted throughout the year to allow for an extra month for education. Adding an extra month to the school calendar seems like a radical idea because we have all been conditioned to accept the current setup. However, when we look at the steady decline of our educational system as a whole, most people agree that something must be done. Studies show American students are slowly falling behind their counterparts in other countries around the world. This can be traced to the amount of time spent in the classroom. Some countries like Japan require their students to attend school longer than we do in our country. The result is the students in these countries outpace American students in various educational disciplines.
When we look closer at the demographic studies about the American education system, we see that rural and suburban schools generally have better results than urban and inner-city schools. This is called the education (or achievement) gap. Think about it, students who are in urban and inner-city schools are more likely to be behind their counterparts in rural and suburban schools. Because the world is now a global marketplace, this means urban and inner-city schools produce students who are even farther behind their counterparts in many foreign countries. This disparity becomes another great disqualifier, both at home, and in competition against students around the world.
For the sake of analysis, we want to focus on the education gap that exists in America and how it becomes a great disqualifier. If you go to an overcrowded school with limited resources and funding, you are at an educational disadvantage. If you go to a lower-rated school with underachieving students and teachers, you are at an educational disadvantage. If you go to an underperforming school with discipline and behavioral issues, you are at an educational disadvantage. The amazing thing about all of these situations is that many students overcome these challenges. However, far too many students do not. They are disqualified because of their lack of a quality education.
Now let’s look at higher education. Competition for slots at colleges and universities across the nation is fierce. The difference between getting accepted and getting passed over still boils down to academic performance. If a student from an urban or inner-city school does not perform as well as their suburban counterparts, the probability increases that they will be left behind when it is time to apply for college. The inferior education disadvantaged students receive can disqualify them for college, or at least hinder their chances to go to an elite school. Their education also hampers their ability to keep pace should they get accepted into a college or university. Once, again, education can serve as a disqualifier for these students.
We, not government leaders, educators, or school officials must ask why we allow our educational system to disqualify so many students. It is up to the people, not the school bureaucracy or elected officials to ask these questions and start to find solutions. While I am on a roll, I believe we must ask the following questions about the education most of our children receive…
Why was home economics taken out of the curriculum?
Why isn’t a mandatory personal finance and credit course taught in every high school?
Why are schools taking the arts and music out of their course electives?
Why do we make kids take higher level mathematics when few of us ever use those concepts in real life?
Why don’t we add civics back into the curriculum for all students so they can understand how government SHOULD work?
As a final thought, at no point in this post did I mention race. For those who see race in everything, you can rest assured that this is more about education as a disqualifier based on class, not race. Poor people who are educationally disadvantaged come in all colors and ethnicities. Therefore, they are all in the same boat. When they realize this, I think they can come together and influence change. Maybe this change will be at the ballot box. Perhaps it will occur at the PTA meeting. Either way, top-down solutions from our government and educational leaders have not helped enough.I believe that the change our educational system needs will have to come from the bottom-up; parents and students must lead the charge.
Education should not be another one of the remaining great disqualifiers…
This is a follow-up to my original post: Credit: One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers
Be on the lookout for my next post… Voting Rights: Yet Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers
The Presidency of Barack Obama: Bringing Out the Best and Worst America Has to Offer
Although it would be difficult to prove, I believe that Barack Obama will go down in history as the most polarizing president in American history. I am a supporter and advocate for President Obama, but I will not say that he has been successful or unsuccessful, nor does that concern me. Instead, I am looking at the current state of our country and our current situation. We have come to an interesting crossroads in our history, and I believe the Obama Presidency has led us there. In my opinion, Barack Obama has brought out the best and worst America has to offer. The question is: which will be the enduring legacy of his presidency?
Barack Obama’s Presidency has brought out the best in America. His election brought many people together and united our country. President Obama raised the call for service-oriented Americans to sign-up and volunteer. Many Americans heeded the call and accepted the challenge of helping others and pulling together to face the economic crisis head-on. Meanwhile, Obama called for a recommitment to education and continuing to fund educational programs. The objective is to use education as a way for Americans to become self sufficient during these rough economic times. Who can question the positive impact these two initiatives can provide? Both are examples of the best America has to offer.
President Obama’s election and re-election has brought out the worst in America. The amount of internal opposition to his presidency continues to rise one year into his second term. The Tea Party has gained a small, yet influential foothold in American society. Their objective is to limit the role of government, even if it means taking America back 50-100 years to achieve their objective. Meanwhile, militia groups and their numbers have exploded since President Obama took office. It is estimated that militia groups have membership in the thousands, fueled by the belief that the government led by Obama is coming to take their guns and guaranteed freedoms. Both are examples of the worst America has to offer.
Barack Obama’s Presidency has brought out the best and worst America has to offer. When weighing the two issues, I believe that the Obama presidency will be judged more because of the rise of internal opposition, instead of the amount of positive change during his years in office. My biggest fear is that the Presidency of Barack Obama will not be viewed in its proper context until the next African-American President is elected. Then, we will see if the election of the second African-American President brings out the best and worst of America. Until then, this Obama supporter can only hope that fair-minded people judge his Presidency on the results of his record.
This is my opinion. In your opinion, has the Presidency of Barack Obama brought out more of the best or worst our country has to offer?