Originally published 6.14.11
As candidates from both parties line up to debate, attack, run and unseat President Barack Obama in 2012, some in the Black community are being forced to face the reality that race relations in America have not improved. Others were never under that illusion.
I recently had a conversation with a Black elderly woman in our Houston community. We talked for nearly an hour about her assessment of Obamaâ€™s campaign slogan â€œChange We Can Believe Inâ€ and if she thinks weâ€™re truly living in a post-racial America.
â€œI truly thought things might evolve racially with Obama in office. But I’ve watched even more racism spew from White folks, the Tea Party, and Republicans. I’ve watched them attack Michelle Obama and even read about all of the assassination attempts against her husband. It’s sad,â€ Mrs. Rogers told me.
Mrs. Rogers said she stood in line for hours in Houston to vote for President Obama over two years ago in hopes that a change was on the horizon.
â€œI feel like we’re going backwards. A â€˜post-racial America’ was only a mirage. Despite us waving hundreds of thousands of American flags when Obama was elected, weâ€™re still a country divided. And unfortunately Obama has addressed the plight of just about everyone except us as Black people. We havenâ€™t been on his agenda and neither the Hispanic people. He even bailed out those corporate crooks who now wonâ€™t even hire people. Iâ€™m not making excuses for Obama but he inherited hell from Bush. However, itâ€™s the job he signed up for and it may be tough for him to get my vote next year,â€ she said.
Kofi Taharka, national chairman of the National Black United Front, told me â€œBlack people got mesmerized by the Obama phenomenon. However, when it comes to the continuous heinous crimes done to Blacks and Hispanics in this country, the scales of justice remain unbalanced.â€
Reflecting on the 13th anniversary of the dragging death of James Byrd, Jr., Mr. Taharka said â€œmuch hasn’t really changed since in terms of the treatment of Black people. But no matter who is in office we can’t stop addressing the issues.â€
The 49-year-old Mr. Byrd was chained by his ankles to the rear of a truck and dragged along a rural road on June 7, 1998. Mr. Byrd’s head and right arm were severed while his torso was dumped near a cemetery in Jasper County.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law in October 2009 by President Obama. The act authorizes the federal government to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. The bill also gives the federal government jurisdiction over prosecuting hate crimes in states where the current law is inadequate or when local authorities are unwilling or do not have the resources to do so themselves.
Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz, who heads the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, only sees it as a piece of paper that does not serve justice for the poor.
He told me â€œThe use and application of this act has been slow and disappointing. The local and state authorities have done a horrible job in bringing these hate crime laws into prosecution. Since President Obama has been elected there has been a noted increase in hate crimes and racist acts toward Blacks and Hispanics.â€
Interestingly, a November 2010 report by the FBI showed there were 8,336 victims of hate crimes the previous year. Over 4,000 of those crimes were race related and Blacks represented nearly 72 percent of the victims. Hispanics accounted for 62 percent of those victimized due to ethnicity or national origin. Of the 6,225 known offenders, 62.4 percent were White, 18.5 percent were Black, and 7.3 percent were groups of individuals of various races, the report said.
Student Minister Robert Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam, was in attendance at the emotional funeral of Mr. Byrd over thirteen years ago. â€œWe have to revitalize and reenergize our grassroots movement for justice regardless of who is running or who is elected in 2012,â€ he said.
Do you think weâ€™re living in a post-racial America? Have we witnessed REAL change? Will 2012 be more of the same?