By Larry Williams
In today’s political environment, at all levels of government the question could be asked: how are African Americans faring as a collective group? Which political leader’s viewpoints closely align with their concerns? How can their goals and objectives help advance the agenda which is the well-being and common good of African American citizens?
Even with the first African-American President of the United States serving his second consecutive term, African Americans are generally worse off today than in previous generations (e.g., the Civil Rights Era). The impact of the criminal justice system alone is astounding. There is a very high rate of young men entwined in the penal system with felony convictions. This number is higher than those who are graduating from colleges and universities. The influence of this alone contributes too many broken families. The impact on the political system is another concern. In Florida, ex-felons cannot vote. On the other hand, many of our young have chosen not to vote, or participate in the political process. Thus, there is a continuous erosion of much of our historical progress. Income disparity is two-fold. The unemployment rate is almost twice that of the national average. Also, our household income and wealth are roughly 40 and 90 cents less per dollar than the majority population, respectively.
All of these things affect the quality of life of our citizens, including the physical environment in which they live. Many people are forced to live in polluted environments where toxins contaminate and pose health hazards to future generations. These negative health risks are experienced from the newborn infant to the quality of life for our senior population.
You may be saying that this does not represent your family or anyone you know. Your point is well taken, and you are possibly a part of the solution. You may be part of that elusive group that W.E.B. Dubois called, the “talented tenth.” The educated leadership of the culture, who have acquired class status as they fulfilled their aspirations amid the struggles of our contemporary African American people.
One thing we must all know about leadership, the vision must be plain, and the tools to cultivate change must be defined. Then there must be a commitment until the goal is reached. In other words, the “talented tenth” leaders must make the sacrifices necessary to be aware and take the required actions for “the many” to bear fruit. This is the common good for all.