By Alan Caruba
As Barack Obama gave his speech to acknowledge winning the presidency, Jesse Jackson was among the throng in Chicago’s Grant Park and appeared to be weeping. I assume most people thought they were tears of joy that a black man had been elected, but this is America and black candidates have been elected to high office for many years now.
I have another theory though. I was wondering if Jesse wasn’t weeping because he knew that Obama’s election put an end to his ability to blackmail corporations to support his Operation PUSH while claiming that blacks in America needed special treatment and extra help to get ahead and succeed.
This suspicion was confirmed as I talked to an assistant to a high ranking Wall Street financial consultant. She is black and an immigrant from Haiti who came to America believing that “hard work” was all it would take to achieve the American dream. She was disdainful of American blacks “who used the excuse of racism.” As far as she was concerned, her skin color had been neither an obstacle nor a limitation.
I recall the Civil Rights movement and reported on it when I was a young journalist. At one point I met Dr. Martin Luther King. I recall that the movement was driven by hope that, for blacks, the American dream could and would be achieved. Then, within a week after the 1965 Voting Rights Act was signed by President Johnson, riots broke out in the Watts area of Los Angeles. Why, asked white America.
Why did blacks cheer when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his former wife and her friend when virtually everyone knew or believed he was guilty? And why was no one, black or white, surprised when he was found guilty of the latest charges against him?
This writer is not arguing that blacks in America did not suffer centuries of slavery and, following the Civil War, another century of segregation before their full rights as citizens were written into laws like the Voting Rights Act. What Jesse Jackson knows is that Americans, particularly white Americans, have now made it manifestly clear that being black is no longer an excuse for failure and a host of other social ills that beset the black community.
Blacks have not lacked these years since the Civil Rights movement for role models. Now they have Barack Obama, the ultimate role model, the President-elect of the United States of America.
No doubt Jesse Jackson, a former candidate for President, a civil rights leader, and a decidedly flawed role model, was weeping from the emotion that seeing Barack Obama would have naturally evoked. No doubt American blacks have cause for joy today.
They have, however, an enormous task ahead of them. They are too often poor, drop out from school too much, have crime rates that are too high, give birth to too many single parent babies, and have been too dependent on government welfare programs.
Socially, they are still at the bottom of the barrel long after other racial groups such Asians have risen to the top. Hispanics who also came in search of the American dream now out-number them.
Lastly, there is something blacks have to fear. It is the backlash that is sure to come when President Obama does not make good on his promises. He is, after all, a politician no matter the color of his skin.
Worse for blacks will be an economy in free-fall where jobs disappear, investment dries up, and other troubles are laid at the feet of The One who says he intends to change America and the world. When that happens, they will have cause to think something has gone terribly wrong.