18 March 2008

Should This Election Be About Race?

When I delve into political waters here, I know it makes some turn off while making others feel uncomfortable. For those, I apologize in advance.

Barack Obama made the news today as he addressed his controversial pastor and, more broadly, race. Obama has swept through the South by grabbing an extremely high percentage of African-Americans as well as younger voters. From his speech today:
“Race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now,” he said. “It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy — particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.”
Unfortunately, I don't think any of the three candidates, their two political parties, or the African-American leadership are prepared to address the significant problems we have in the US, not with racism, but with the African-American demographic. Consider that over 10% of all African-American males in the 25-29 age group are currently incarcerated in prisons throughout the US. Over half a million African-American males are in prison, a staggering number to say the least.

You may have heard of the documentary, Two Million Minutes. The filmmakers examine a boy and girl in their last year of high school in the United States, India, and China. The question posed by the documentary: who is better preparing their children for the 21st Century; not only in the classroom, but more broadly with how the rest of their time is filled? The six profiled are typical bright, motivated students headed on to college. Now look at the sequel of Two Million Minutes, but this time looking at the lives of an African-American girl in a small town in Mississippi and a boy in East St. Louis.

As Asian and Indian communities thrive here in the US, is there any real way out for the African-American community? I think it has moved from a situation of racism and human rights to now one of global competitiveness and national security. As a nation, we simply cannot continue to obtain outcomes where a tenth of the young men of one group of Americans are destined to be incarcerated. This isn't about speeches and experience, for that you can be sure. The speeches haven't helped and the experience has been a failure. We need leadership who understand that this is indeed a burning platform for the long-term health of our nation.


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