How will our contribution be judged by future generations? Will the ordinary citizen be prepared for the demands of Judgment Day? …
Wave after immigrant wave to our shores fantasize about realizing the American Dream. When it comes to obtaining better, more equal, access to the American economic opportunity structure, the stakes are high.
Factually, the unemployment rate may be hovering around 7% of all Americans, but 20% of American teenagers, and 50% of American black teenagers. In such times, the ordinary citizen may feel an urge to reflect. At the end of the Civil War, blacks were so impoverished, so illiterate, and for the most part so lacking in skills that freedom meant little more to them than the ability to leave the place to which they had been bound by slavery. The post-war records are replete with tales of blacks who took to the roads and retraced their paths back to the plantations from which they had been sold, in search of the families they had lost. Surely there were blacks who were so battered by the system of slavery that they became sexually promiscuous or irresponsible parents, and apparently remain so, today.
An ordinary citizen may be urged to reflect further. There are a multitude of decent Americans, who not only are unmoved by the fact that 40% of black children are living in poverty, but use that fact to buttress their own convictions about black inferiority. Is it reasonable for an ordinary citizen to consider that blacks should constitute 49% of
prison population? Is it reasonable for
an ordinary citizen to ignore persistent disparities between black and white
health, income, wealth, educational attainment, and employment?
Opposing arguments aside, is it also reasonable for an ordinary citizen to consider that a significant number of decent Americans regularly assert enormous efforts to destroy affirmative action? Is there empathy for the fact that the fragile affirmative action program was enacted in the 1960s and 1970s to compensate for deep injuries sustained over 350 years of legally sanctioned subordination? Some label the campaign to do away with affirmative action as “brilliant rhetorical propaganda.” But Cory A. Booker, the black mayor of
calls on the ordinary citizen to consider the economic reality that, in fact,
“Yale is cheaper than jail.” Newark, NJ
One scholar has warned that his
recurring nightmare in recent years has been that there will be such a significant separation of the black upper and middle classes from poor blacks that when
declares total victory over anti-black racism, substantial numbers of well-off
blacks and members of other minorities will be complicit in the deceit. We will then have a society much like that
found in America . We could tell ourselves that we have a ‘racial
democracy’ here, and overlook the fact that the only thing the blacks at the
bottom have in abundance is misery, made permanent by their virtually complete
lack of access to the national opportunity structure. We will have put the finishing touches on our
national scapegoat; an untouchable, impoverished caste of permanent mudsills,
filling a role not at all unlike the one John Smith had in mind for Native
Americans almost four centuries ago. Brazil
When it comes to civil rights, history does suggest a sort of rather dim view of prior times. But what about the present? Put another way, how will our contribution be judged by future generations? Today, the 400 richest Americans possess more wealth than the bottom half (150 million) combined. Does this sobering statistic uphold the basic ideal of social justice which is this nation’s moral foundation?
While there will be time later to contemplate “tomorrow,” for now, it is understood that if
America stands for one thing, more
than any other, it is the following. America
provides the ordinary citizen with the opportunity to make something of himself. The ordinary citizen may accomplish this by
exerting his God-given abilities to engage in struggles for decency, discharging
the responsibility to hold up his own end of the challenge. In the end, Judgment Day may demand nothing