We’re at the end of a really strange 10-year period in both American and African-American history. I am generally hesitant to give a whole decade a nickname but in the wake of the last 10 years I’d have to refer to the early 2000’s as the “Lost Decade.” On just about every measurable level Americans are worse off today than they were 10 years ago, and as I ran through the last decade the lowlights definitely outweighed and seemed to be outlasting the highlights.
When you really think about it, you’ll be happy to see the first decade of the new millennium fade into history. I’ve compiled some of my basic thoughts of the key events of the last year, and all in all it was a pretty sad series of events.
2000: We started the first year of this decade with an election that was stolen, a former vice president emasculated on a national stage and a nation that didn’t realize what we’d gotten ourselves into. Be honest, would you vote for Bush again if you could turn back the clock?
2001: Shoe bombers, anthrax and Sept. 11. You couldn’t come up with a more miserable year than 2001 for national security and American pride. Even worse is that these events led to the “Patriot Act,” a series of laws that have quietly turned America into a police state in the subsequent nine years.
2002: In 2000 we saw our government stolen. In 2001 we saw our national security taken. The only thing that was left to go belly up was our economic system and that happened in 2002. Enron and various big business scandals dispelled any notion that the Bush administration wasn’t covering for massive corporate fraud and graft cross the nation. Even worse, thousands of Black stand up comedy routines were made obsolete when the worst serial killer in a decade “the D.C. Sniper” turned out to be a Black guy. I guess the universe made up for it by Denzel and Halle getting Oscars that year, even though they were for playing a drug dealing gangster with a badge and a concubine for a racist cop, respectively.
2003: This year was the beginning of the second Gulf War where the American public was convinced that it made sense to invade Iraq to stop a bunch of terrorists who were from Saudi Arabia. Makes sense to me— when I really want a Big Mac I always drive straight for Burger King.
2004: Everyone hoped that the 2004 presidential election would be Bush vs. Gore round two, but it wasn’t. When Gore decided he’d had enough the Democrats decided the best way to beat Bush was to nominate a non-charismatic patrician from the Northeast who had about as much drawing power in the African-American community as a “Friends” marathon. Is it any wonder why Democrats were out of power?
2005: It’s almost as if 2005 was America’s punishment for re-electing George Bush in 2004. This year Condoleeza Rice was named Secretary of State just in time to be caught buying shoes and watching a Broadway play while New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. You can’t make up this kind of incompetence.
2006: The Democrats finally re-take Congress after being out of power for 12 years. And then proceed to kowtow to Bush for just about any policy that he calls for. You could hardly the tell the difference in policies out of Washington despite this supposed “takeover” by the left.
2007: I’ve written about 2007 in a previous column. I’ll sum it up in four names: Barry Bonds, Michael Vick, Don Imus and Jena 6. Not really a banner year in American race relations.
2008: The longest reality show in the history of politics ended with Barack Obama being elected the first African-American president of the United States. The jury is still out as to whether that election was a good one or not.
Heading into this next decade we have massive unemployment, wars going on in two nations and a center left party that is so inept and beholden to financial interests that they can’t pass basic health care reform. This doesn’t necessarily look like a recipe for initiating a new golden age in America. However, we have to remember that the possibilities are endless; no one would’ve believed in 2000 that in eight years there’d be a Black president, so if that can happen the sky should be the limits for the 2010’s.
(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor at Hiram College in Ohio.)