Can Obama Bring Racial Equality to the United States?
I watched Obama’s acceptance speech followed by McCain’s address quite intently and was disheartened to realise how racial prejudices still prevail in the 21st century.
Now I’m not one to stereotype, but during the cutaway shots of the booing McCain supporters I noticed either really old (possibly backward-thinking) white supporters or ‘redneck’ resembling folk – with one sporting a handle-bar looking tache with a baby slung over his shoulder. I half expected to see some of the McCain supporters holding guns.
What I found more disturbing were some statistics concerning the racial demographic of the United States. According to Reuters:
- The poverty rate for ‘blacks’ is still three times that of ‘whites’
- ‘Blacks’ are twice as likely to be unemployed as ‘whites’
- ‘Blacks’ are six times more likely to be murdered than ‘whites’, and
- Seven times more likely to end up in jail.
People in the streets of Chicago spoke of how Barack Obama has achieved the dream of racial equality that civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. described on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington some 45 years ago.
This was a man who saw drug addiction rip families and communities apart, saw gangs turn neighborhoods into war zones, saw schools in inner city neighborhoods crumble with neglect after whites fled to the suburbs.
Such violence, crime and social problems which plagued the black community set in after the civil rights movement failed to deliver equal opportunity alongside equal rights.
It was a time when people remained hopeful yet was also a time when people saw that hope die in 1968 when King was assassinated.
If racial equality is to be achieved this time around, the black community will have to hold onto the hope and optimism which erupted the crowd during the Obama speech.
“The country is changing”, said Obama. “Anything is possible now. [But] this victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change.”
Obama’s election was “a historic moment in breaking down racial barriers in the United States” but it remains to be seen if “this moment in history inspires us to significantly change our behavior and the way we treat each other” (Conrad Worrill, co-founder of the National Black United Front).
– original text supplied by Reuters.
Martin Luther King Jr. – His biography and his day