The election of America’s first Black President in 2008 ushered in what many believed to be a post-racial America. A country historically embittered by racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia could finally boast a grand success in the realm of identity politics. On the fateful night of November 4, 2008 the United States of America seemingly reached the apotheosis of racial progress. As Senator Barack Obama calmly walked across the stage on that cool night in Chicago’s Grant Park, civil rights leaders wept, people of all backgrounds held hands and sang they were proud to be Americans. Ostensibly, we could finally close the book on civil rights. If Barack Obama could make it anyone could right? Wrong, in 2010 just two years after his election racial animus is at an all time high, and Blacks continue to lag behind their fellow cohort groups in almost every quality of life category. Such gaps exist where 48 percent of Blacks are incarcerated; where the Black/White wealth gap is now 14 to 1; where Whites own homes at 70 percent and Blacks at 45 percent; where health gaps in major illnesses persists and Blacks disproportionately do not have health insurance; and where poverty reigns at 30-40 percent for many folks.
Blue doesn’t like Black
Although the Democratic Party has been the political home for Blacks since the New Deal, it seems like the foundation is just as tenuous as it was back in the 1940’s. Empty promises made on the campaign trail at Black churches in the South seem to be part of the Democratic playbook. Moreover, public censuring by leading Black Democrats about that degradation of Black social mores has become a perennial reminder of how the Moynihan Report still seems to exist. “Pull up your pants campaigns” sometimes overshadow the pull up the graduation rate campaigns. We have too many liberal elites that wave their finger at Pookie instead of asking him why he feels dejected and disenfranchised. The mishandling of the Shirley Sherrod incident was viewed as low point for the Obama administration. They clearly jumped the gun in a situation where more investigation needed to take place. However, their handling of racially charged incident is merely indicative of the way many liberal elites have handled racial issues.
Red doesn’t like Black
Ever since Blacks started shifting over to the Democratic Party in large numbers, the Republican Party has made little to no effort to get them back. Every election cycle they run candidates on platforms that espouse small government, free market principles, and increased security. The Republican Party’s refusal to address the inherent racism in some of America’s institutions (criminal justice system and education) speaks to their lack of willingness or concern of addressing the plight of marginalized people. The xenophobic movements that stigmatize immigrants and reduce their humanity have become a political weapon by the right. Honoring things like Confederacy Month is not the way to attract minority voters to your party. Giving it a “hip-hop makeover” won’t do it either.
I’m not writing this post to cast blame on political institutions, politicians, media, or even American citizens. Rather, this post is meant to expose the flaws that exist in both of our two major political parties. While most Americans are aware that no one party has all the answers, I’m afraid that our polarized political environment has stifled real dialogue on the efficacy of both parties in dealing with racial and social justice. Through this post I tried to shed light on the cowardice of both parties in dealing with issues of race. I support political diversity, however I do not condone the exploitation of any group to score political points. We must stop allowing ourselves to be used by the left and right and articulate our own agenda that speaks to issues concerning us not a party platform.