Black American reality and the American dream

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BenFChavisJrbox

(NNPA)—During the last several weeks there have been many published opinion articles about the state of the American dream in 2010 for people who live in the United States. Most notably was journalist Fareed Zakaria cover story, “Restoring the American Dream,” in the Nov. 1 edition of TIME. He asserted, “the grim reality is that technology and globalization are shattering the middle class. With the midterms around the corner, the good news is that a bipartisan policy agenda can return the country to prosperity.” What is the state of Black America today? What is our share of the economy? Are our children receiving a quality education? With the nation polarized once again with partisan politics, who is going to assert and protect the interests of African-Americans?

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his historic “I Have a Dream” speech in August of 1963 clearly articulated the aspirations, hopes, and dreams of millions of Black Americans that one day we would all have the opportunity to share in the reality of the American Dream. That was 47 years ago. We have made real progress since that time in some areas, but today we must remind ourselves of the formidable challenges that still exist. When we used to sing, “We Shall Overcome,” back in the 1960s, it was against a societal backdrop of harsh racial, economic, and political realities. But, we kept our faith and marched on in spite of the gloomy forecasts, threats, and acts of violent domestic terrorism against the Civil Rights Movement.

Similarly today, we must keep our faith and keep marching on. We must keep our struggle for freedom, justice, and equality alive with a renewal vigor, spirit, and self-determination. We have more reasons today to demand equal justice and fairness. There are some who think we should keep quiet and not make too much protest noise about our social condition as a people in America because we have a brother in the White House. I am very proud that we have President Barack Obama in the White House. Thus far, he has been a great President. However, we should not be less vocal today. We should not be less concerned about our realities in the United States. We should be more outspoken.

Our children deserve a much better quality education. We should be not less willing to speak out for the sake of our children and communities. We have always known that education is a major key to our liberation from poverty and racial injustice. That is why I am a strong advocate for our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. These historic institutions of high achievement and academic excellence are needed now more than ever before because of the consequential prerequisite for a college education into the mainstream of American life. We, therefore, should work diligently to support the National Association For Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

Too many of our young students, however, in high school and junior high school drop out before even getting a chance to complete high school and to apply to a college. Grades K through 12 have got to be our focus as well. In New York, the failure rate percentage of the third grade reading tests statewide are used to determined how many juvenile prisons are going to be built. Across the nation in too many instances incarceration has supplanted the education of our young men and women.

Because of the current economy and high unemployment rates, Black people in the U.S. are witnessing a severe downturn in economic status with respect to wealth attainment and empowerment. Fifty million African-Americans spend more than a trillion dollars a year now, but primarily as consumers. We have to be more focused on developing a stronger economic development and African-American-owned businesses in our communities. But again, education and apprenticeship training are key.

Zarkaria was right to call national attention to what’s happening to the American Dream. For too many in our communities it is more of the American Nightmare when it comes to poverty and self-destruction. We all must face the future with a renewed sense of struggle and commitment. Yes, it will not be easy to turn our situation around. But, how and when our situation will change for the better is more in our own hands to determine. The Black Press, in all of its dimensions will continue to be the most reliable source of information and action agendas for all of us to participate. Let’s work together to further change ourselves as we further change America for the better. We shall overcome!

(Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is senior advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options and president of Education Online Services Corp.)

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