Now that a change has come, what's next? (Part 2)

By Bro. William P. Muhammad

With the domestic priorities of an incoming Obama administration clearly focused upon the economy, healthcare reform, renewable energy and middle-class taxes, immediate issues facing the masses of Black people such as poverty related concerns and racial disparities do not rank high in the President-Elect’s national agenda.

When Mr. Obama takes his oath of office in January, the challenges facing Black people will be no different than before and our communities will face increased national and international scrutiny as the impression that the African-American has “finally arrived” is sold around the world. With the rise of America’s first Black president will come the rise of higher expectations for Black people, putting forth yet more challenges to be faced and solved.

Regarding the African-American standing in a weakening U.S. economy, our consumption oriented dollars still far exceed our production oriented dollars and the Black community remains vulnerable to higher unemployment rates, higher numbers of home foreclosures and a decline in quality of life standards. In an economy where productivity, entrepreneurship and institution building is, for the most part, rewarded, now more than ever, a change must take place in the current African-American ethos.

In the physical and mental health of the Black community, there is much dependence on an affordable healthcare system and African-Americans suffer with the highest rates of preventable diseases.

Certain cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes and HIV/AIDS rank highest among Black Americans and with an Obama administration in power, these maladies will be neither eliminated nor reduced without the Black community’s appreciation of what is in its own best interests. Such problems cannot and will not be solved by a politician, but they can be solved by personal education, enlightened religious communities and good old fashioned home training.

However, with energy probably one of the greatest issues facing the world today, the buzzword for the future is “green economy.” But what position, if any, will African-Americans hold in such an economy if our children are not adequately prepared to participate in it?

Educational statistics show that African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans rank at the lower end of math and science scores - in both primary and secondary education - and these subjects are the keys to prosperity in a so-called “green future.” With one of Mr. Obama’s campaign pledges being to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, renewable energy has become one of the solutions toward alleviating this problem.

Requiring advanced degrees and inventions in a multiplicity of disciplines such as chemistry, engineering, agriculture, practical oceanography, physics and a myriad of other sciences, a great change must first come in the thinking of parents who wish to prepare their children for this new future. Mr. Obama may propose and lay out the mechanisms to create five million new “green economy” jobs, but only individual families can prepare their children to prosper and thrive in such a labor market.

The last eight years has placed a burden upon the shoulders of the middle-class and the promise to reduce that stress by cutting taxes for those earning less than $250,000 sounds well and good, but for the urban and rural poor this will do little to change their realities.

Leaving few opportunities available for advancement except for some form of federal service like the military or the Peace Corps, the only other realistic option for escaping poverty is education, which requires a cradle to grave respect for knowledge and understanding. Looking at the state of the American public school system; however, and the priorities of the teenaged subculture, there is much work to do, particularly among Black youth. Yet how do we inspire and motivate our young people to step up to the challenge and accept the mantle of excellence?

After many years of struggle, some Black people have become tired, if not complacent, and as a result, some have become satisfied with “just getting by.” This unfortunate attitude, fueled by decades of barriers and resistance to Black advancement, appears to have manifested itself in a form of apathy that truly undermines the national and international image of Black Americans.

Nevertheless, the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States has re-energized the hopeless among our people, but in that new spirit of hope, Black folk cannot afford to rest upon the laurels of November 4, 2008. Requiring more than the usual lip-service and the desire to be included now is the time for stepping up to the plate to claim what is rightfully ours - a dignified seat at the table with the best civilization has to offer.

However, in order to take our proper and rightful place in what is called the United States of America, we must not only create a vision for our own future, but we must also work to bring that vision into fruition. We must qualify ourselves for those future positions awaiting us and we must inspire our children to see their role in that future. The election of Mr. Obama should prove to the world that an intelligent Black man can make a place for himself in any civilization, and his campaign should likewise serve as a sign that nothing can keep us from success. If we are willing to endure the trials necessary to see any challenge through, now that change has come, we know what we must do for ourselves, our families and our people.

Brother William P. Muhammad is a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso and an author.