A lot has been said by both blacks and whites about the redemptive force inherent in Mr. Obama’s triumph on November 4, 2008. While I cannot argue with such a premise, I must take egregious fault with another that argues as a result, any shouts of pervasive racism being omnipresent in American waters is nothing but the divisive rhetoric of a group whose theatrical production all along has been “Black Rage—a Negro melodrama showing near you.” “Get over it already” has been the binding mantra amongst proponents of this premise, including a sizable number of blacks, since the weeks following this momentous election.
The Negro in America today enjoys certain freedoms only fifty years ago he dared not fathom at the risk of being lynched and having his genitalia cut off. This is a very candid point, one which the much-berated Rev. Wright failed to openly acknowledge and espouse. Today’s 21st century consortium of 50 states contrast so sharply with the hypocrisy of Thomas Jefferson and the colonies of yesteryear. If the word “blessed” and its denotation, a common theme of old Negro spirituals can be freely used here, it is safe to then say from the days of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad till today, the Negro in America has been progressively blessed!
To validate the need for Black Jesus, one must first admit the other premise stated above is so cumbersome in its fallacy that the Negro in America cannot simply afford to “get over it already.” In the Christian Bible, the Jewish Jesus was God-made-man sent to primarily save the House of David: He performed miracles, radicalized, changed and challenged archaic practices and thoughts, proffered hope and grace to His people. It is with this same vigor and intensity that Black Jesus must come to rescue the Negro in America today.
Is Barack Obama this Black Jesus? That question, by the sheer mandate of time we are bound to find out, whether it’s a term we embrace or not.
In conversations and discussions, it is easy to forget the make-up of Mr. Obama’s reality.
This reality is not in any plausible terms the reality of the community from which he hails. Mr. Obama’s existence today is that of a privileged Black man, and that’s certainly nothing to rail against. On the contrary, it showcases the possibilities and achievements the Negro is capable of when blessed with opportunities and resources that have been afforded Mr. Obama.
It is easy to argue if a man from such humble beginnings could pull himself up and become what he has today, what excuse then has the young man standing on the neighborhood street corner. The answer is as complex as it is simple.
When asked in an Associated Press interview, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, 86, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. back in 1957, said on the state of race-relations in America, “Everything has changed and nothing has changed. That’s the paradox in which we find ourselves.”
This can never be truer. The first snapshot of this paradox must be the economic hut in which the Negro lives. This would seem a very ridiculous statement to make, especially if like me, you’ve been privileged to catch an episode or two of Bravo Network’s Real Housewives of Atlanta where financial opulence and abject excess by women of color have been a blinding theme. But you cannot be fooled by this.
Back in the early 1960s when Dr. King was vigorously demanding the Negro’s recognition as a 100 percent member of the society, the median Negro income was 58 percent of white. In all the prosperity that has since followed, it’s a measly 61 percent that of white today and the Negro is nearly twice as likely to be unemployed according to government data. In a census survey, just a shade over 25 percent of Negro citizens in America live in poverty, compared to 9.3 percent of white citizens. Two-thirds of black children in Dr. King’s time lived in poverty compared to 14.4 percent of white children. How much has that reality changed today? Black children living in poverty is still 2 times more than whites despite a slight decline from over 40 years ago.
A vivid example would be Washington, DC where I live, the capital of modern civilization and the free world. It’s no secret this city is predominantly black—to the extent it’s been dubbed The Chocolate City. Two-thirds of its children according to city statistics live in poverty and have been attending for a good while now, one of the worst and porous public school systems available in the nation—a system yours truly graduated from. Because of this lack of wealth, black kids continue to go to poorly-funded school districts and have a whimper of the resources and opportunities well-funded white school districts like that in Fairfax, VA (some few miles away) greatly enjoy.
In woeful economic times like these where Tom, Dick, and Harry are tapping into retirement accounts, what account is the Negro tapping into? In a 2008 report by the nonpartisan Urban Institute, whites 65 or older receive a staggering 25 times as much income from retirement investments as elderly blacks. Mobility in the words of Dr. King continues to be from “a smaller ghetto to a larger one,” despite the mansions inhabited by black athletes and entertainers.
The need for Black Jesus becomes increasingly glaring, which explains in more cogent terms why we simply can’t just get over it already. In his speech at Harpers Ferry 102 years ago, W.E.B. Dubois stated what the Negro in America today is still crying: “We want the law enforced against white as well as black. We are not more lawless than the white race; we are more often arrested, convicted, and mobbed. We want justice for even criminals and outlaws.”
The black-to-white incarceration ratio today stands at 6-to-1, with a ratio reaching as high as 14-to-1 in some states per digestion of Department of Justice’s figures by The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit criminal justice policy group. In a Pew Center for the States study, 1 in every 9 black men ages 20-34 is behind bars. 1 of 3 black men will spend time in a federal or state prison at some point in their lives according to the Bureau of Justice statistics … compared to 1 of 20 whites.
Between 1995 and 2000, 48 percent of those sentenced to die were of the Negro race with only 20 percent white according to records from the Department of Justice. Once again, there must be justice for even our criminals and outlaws. It is our RIGHT.
The drugs and arms that have invaded the Negro community have put it at the mercy of an unforgiving criminal justice system. As a result of personal irresponsibility by a number of blacks, “We got brothers on the corners killing brothers and sisters on the corners stabbing sisters,” says Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. “The Man got his feet up on the table and is not sweating it, because he has effectively outsourced the hating to the community.”
If all these are not enough to warrant a search for Black Jesus, what is potent enough to? It must be an easy task to resurrect the mind of the young man standing on the corner, whose father, brothers, and uncles are doing close to life sentences in jail, and a mother passed out on the couch in the house from crack cocaine usage.
Mr. Obama has resigned his senate seat from Illinois to take the office of the presidency. Barring what would be an act of God, the 100 seats in the United States Senate chamber would go back to being an exclusive all-white club. In the 50 states of the United States of America, there’s only one democratically-elected black governor—Gov. Patrick Duval of Massachusetts. Is it because there are no intelligent, charming, and hardworking men and women of color who graduated from white establishments like Harvard and Princeton that could aspire to and hold a senate seat or governorship?
It is left to Mr. Obama to decide whether he’s going to be or can be this Black Jesus. A weighty responsibility to place on one man, but one must remember a man died in Memphis, TN so he (Obama) could one day save the Negro people. No matter what lost and ignorant Negro souls like Larry Elder, author of Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card—and Lose, might say, no Negro in America has earned the right to be unconscious of his race—Mr. Obama not excluded.
In as much as it is still news and record-breaking for a Negro to be elected president; in as much as it is still a big deal for a fortune 100 company to name a Negro as its CEO; in as much as Affirmative Action is still a bone of contention for good or bad in our nation’s tertiary institutions of learning—no Negro can unilaterally disengage from the whole.
The Rev Al Sharpton once mentioned he had a black conservative on a talk show tell him once, “You gotta remember, I didn’t make it because of Civil Rights; Civil Rights didn’t write my resume.” To which the Reverend said he retorted: “Yeah, but Civil Rights made someone read your resume!”
President-elect Obama must be conscious if he doesn’t become this Black Jesus, or at least try, someone else would and his name (Obama) would not live in an inerasable posterity. Former Secretary of State and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell talked about how he often heard rumors of getting a post or job because “they needed a black guy.” His attitude to this was to smile and say: “Well fine, for 200 years I didn’t get the job because they needed all whites. So I’m not going to argue about that … the only thing that’s going to count now is my performance.”
Which makes Mr. Obama’s legacy at the end of his administration more important, because if good, it reshapes the conversation white America has with the Negro per his capabilities and future—a core assignment of Black Jesus. The Negro is the poster child for the brown and the poor white, all children of God; and until this salvation comes , we refuse to get over it already!