by Mikel Kwaku Osei Holt
(Editor’s note: This column was written prior to Tuesday’s presidential elections, and thus the out come was unknown.)
So, here we are. It’s 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, November 6. As best I can figure, I have watched, listened to or read at least 1,113 political advertisements, commercials and billboards in the last year alone.
According to my calculations, 24% of the political ads I saw, listened to, or read, were out and out lies; another 29% fudged the truth, or were intentionally misleading, or assumed consumers are naïve, out of touch or just plain stupid.
Eighteen percent didn’t offer a reality most Black, color or Negro people can relate too. And half of those were intended to frighten us into anarchy or apathy. They were specifically created to justify the importance of other people’s issues over ours.
Most of the advertisements either assumed we were atheists, Scientologists, or in most cases, were what I call “neo-Christians,” those barely religious folks who follow a few scriptures and commandments and disregard the rest because it “inconveniences” them. Don’t let me get started on Political Christianity, which allows you to ignore sin, browbeat or look down on the poor, and justify slavery in whatever form it takes these days. All I need note is a whole lot of folks are going to be in for a rude surprise when they die and discover Heaven is not a crowded place and Jesus the Christ is not Santa Claus with stock in Wal-Mart.
If there was one thing missing from all the ads I saw—Democrat and Republican—which is a telling indicator of the future under whomever occupies the White House, Congress, and closer to home the Madison Capitol, was a plan to address poverty. Or for that matter to close the achievement gap, provide affordable housing options and reduce the cancer of drugs, which has all but taken over the Black community.
In case you mentioned it, the poor (and that’s nearly half of all Black people, were not part of the national or local political debate. All the talk was about the middle class, and in a few cases, how much of the safety net to cut.)
Neither Tommy Thompson nor Tammy Baldwin mentioned the nearly 50% national Black male unemployment rate, but neither did President Obama or Mitt Romney. For that matter, if you go back over the last couple of years, none of the candidates for local offices offered plans to address the specific and myriad conditions impacting the Black community. Apparently, it’s not on anybody’s agenda, from the White House down.
And what does that tell you about the next four years?
That’s why it’s easy for me to pen this column a couple of days before the election, to make what some out-of-touch folk consider “bold predictions.” In truth, they are not remotely bold, but instead are based on the best predictor known to man—history.
And for point of reference and clarification, I’m not saying none of the current crop of politicians cares, or is unaware of our plight. But the reality is the system isn’t set up to address the concerns of the pawns and other invisible people, and those who control policy and politics from their ivory towers or suburban condos, are guided by the philosophy that poverty, despair and unemployment are collectively the one commodity, the one national resource, that isn’t running dry and would always be profitable. It creates jobs, spawns prison industrial complexes, and fuels a culture that sustains its viability and the middle class income of millions of Americans.
Obama’s victory (which I assume will happen) won’t change that reality. And they (which includes other politicians from alderman to senator) won’t either.
There’s another phenomenon to come out of this last round of elections that I can predict will change the status quo, and that is the ‘rechaining’ of Black folks by what I refer to as the ‘Invisible Hand.’ After the fall elections, I referred to a coalition of folks who have successfully manipulated Black politics. One item on their agenda was the weakening of our political base, redirect our political energies so they become the conductors of the Freedom Train (which has been stuck at the station for a decade or two anyway). Well, they succeeded.
I voted “Absentee Ballot” at a new location last week and the only Black person on the ballot was Barack Obama. It immediately dawned on me that half the Black state officials have been replaced in the last three month as a result of a successful campaign to convince us they were no longer needed.
That affront to Black empowerment was callous in its intent. But what was also disturbing was the fact the absence of Black state officials on the ballot was supported by a who’s who of Black leadership who convinced a majority of Black voters that we live in a post-racial society where Black people loving Black people is blasphemous. (I’m assuming these are the same folks who convinced us that integration and desegregation was the same thing. Remember that cost us 121,341 Black lives. Figure that out).
I’m not suggesting there are no excellent white politicians. But to suggest someone who lives next to you, who has also walked around that 600 foot high wall of apartheid, who attends your church and sends their child to the same school you send yours does not have more in common with you than a white suburbanite whose knowledge of Black people are contained in the lyrics of a gangsta rap song is…. is…stupid and self destructive.
I guess I was raised at the wrong time and with the wrong mindset. Or maybe I misunderstood the goals of Black empowerment and Black Nationalism. I voted for Barack Obama the first time not only because he was smarter, more creative and cooler than John McCain, but also because he was Black. I felt he could relate, and that he understood.
But its obvious today someone else has taken over the Freedom Train and, as we’ll soon learn, their agenda will benefit them more than it will us.
Two other predictions:
If, through some fluke of nature (or mass conspiracy), Mitt Romney wins the election, Black folks aren’t going back to Africa, and the world is not coming to an end. If you seriously look at the statistics (you know the ones we were told not to talk about so as not to jeopardize Barack’s reelection), our situation can’t get any worst.
Hell, we made it through Ronald Reagan, and two Bushes. We made it through the lies of Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the 40-year sojourn after leaving Egypt (also known as Birmingham, Alabama). Oh, by the way, our sojourn in the desert because we disobeyed God should be coming to an end any year now.
Romney has as much chance of winning this election as I have of being drafted by the NBA. But that doesn’t mean the Promised Land is around the corner. If anything, Black folks should be getting together to push Obama, which we didn’t do in his first term, for various reasons. Obama’s victory should generate applause. But, more importantly, it should also generate urgency, motivation, and a collective will to push the envelope.
I can’t predict if the president will respond to our liking. But I can guarantee what the future holds if he isn’t motivated to follow the biblical tenets about the poor, teaching a person to fish, fighting injustice and God’s idea of the perfect family and how that brings national stability and security. Maybe if someone up high, who we love, idolize and has rhythm tells us the truth, Black folks won’t cast stones at him.
I a nutshell, let’s hit the president up to shift his agenda from appeasing Hispanics, women and unions to ‘givin’ a brotha a lil’ sumtin’–sumtin’.
Besides, he’d no longer have the pressure of winning a second term or appeasing a party who’s number one priority is cutting his throat.
He would be able to issue executive orders that specifically benefit us: Give us the next Supreme Court Justice, appoint a former welfare recipient Secretary of Commerce, and a poor cancer survivor of color the head of a new commission to oversee the Affordable Care Act. While he’s at it, he can name a high school drop-out “moved on up!” (no shortage of them in the Black community) to head the Department of Education.
And if he plans on handing down more stimulus money, let it be coordinated by this brother I know who lost his full-time job three years ago, but breaks his butt to maintain his position as the head of his household. He puts food on his table from the three part time jobs he maintains, makes sure his children do their home work (which he checks), still helps his neighbors and drives his entire family to church each week.
Obviously, I don’t predict any of that will happen, but I can guarantee the status quo and our love with symbolism over substance will not be altered if we don’t pressure the president to put the people—or to be more exact, his people–before the politics and partisanship.
I know Obama has saved the Pell Grants, settled the Black farmers lawsuit, given teeth to the justice department to fight discrimination, appointed more Black judges than all the past presidents combined, and opened up the lending process for small businesses. But the reality is when President L.B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act 50 years ago; the Black poverty rate was 40%. Today, it’s 42%. The Black high school drop rate was almost as high as it is today back then, but we could get family sustaining jobs, and two parents headed 80% of the Black families.
Something bold, innovative and maybe even painful has to lead us out of this abyss, and it may as well be a cool walking, articulate and visionary brother who I also predict will make his acceptance speech to the backdrop of soul music.
P.S. I’m not saying Obama is a savior, or we shouldn’t be doing this ourselves. Truth is, we have the power and the visionaries. But the sad reality is we are so brainwashed, numb and brow beaten I don’t predict we will wake up until we’ve dug the hole so deep we start hearing people speak Chinese.