Celebrating Obama: But King's Dream Still Deferred

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The second inauguration of President Obama does not erase the fact that unemployment is over 17% for African Americans.
We cannot ignore the fact that African Americans make up 13% of the population and 53% of those incarcerated.


[The View From Washington]
 
On Sunday, January 20th at 12PM, America’s 44th President, Barack Obama will be sworn in for his second term. 
 
The
public celebration of his inauguration will take place on Monday,
January 21st which is also the legal public holiday celebrating the life
of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
 
Many people see the public
swearing in of the first president who is African American taking place
on the same day we celebrate the life of one of the greatest Americans
as another invaluable symbol; a breakthrough for America, a double
helix. 
 
Some see the reelection of President Obama as the
realization of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Dream”, while others see the
inauguration as an incredible irony; an incongruity between the literal
and the implied meaning of the events. 
 
The symbolic
significance of the reelection of President Obama cannot be understated.
It took this country 219 years to elect its first African-American
president -- George Washington was elected in 1789. 

In spite of
America's schizophrenic perspective on “race” --race is really an
artificial construct-- this country swore in its first president who is
African American on January 20, 2009.  

As I reflect upon the historic election of Senator Obama, my thoughts go to the Constitution and three specific provisions: 

Article
1, Section 2, the Three Fifths Compromise; Article 1, Section 9 which
allowed for the importation of slaves for 21 years after the
Constitution was ratified; Article 4, Section, the Fugitive Slave Clause
that allowed for escaped slaves to be returned to slaveholders. 

These
constitutional provisions come to mind since they were the legal and
conceptual foundations of the oppression that Africans in America, and
later African-Americans, have been subjected to since the founding of
this nation. 

The election and re-election of President Obama does represent how far African Americans have come. The
Obama administration has done great work. The President is able to
claim a number of legislative successes during its first term. For
example, the Obama Administration passed or supported: Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010; Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay
Act; Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act; The
repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell;  supported marriage equality; and,
appointed the first Black Attorney General, Eric Holder and appointed
first Latina, Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. 
   
These are all significant actions and should be recognized as such. 
 
Some see President Obama as the fulfillment of Dr. King’s “Dream.”  

But
not so fast: Never confuse a down payment with the balance being paid
in full. The “Dream” was never about electing an African-American
president. The Dream was about freedom, justice and equality for the
least of us so that the true meaning of the American creed could be
enjoyed by all of us. 

As Dr. King said, "And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true."

We
must always remember that before Dr. King made reference to “The Dream”
he said, “But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free… the
life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of
segregation and the chains of discrimination…the Negro lives on a lonely
island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material
prosperity…the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American
society and finds himself an exile in his own land.”

Hence, the
irony of America publicly swearing in its first president who is African
American for his second term on the legal public holiday celebrating
the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is that the nightmarish
conditions that led to articulation of The Dream still exist in America
today.

The Dream cannot be fulfilled when a candidate for president
has to run a deracialized campaign in order to make the masses
comfortable with the obvious aesthetic. 

The second inauguration of
President Obama does not negate the reality of Driving While Black.  It
does not erase the fact that unemployment in America is 7.8% but over
17% for African Americans. 

We cannot ignore the fact that African Americans make up 13% of the population and 53% of those incarcerated. 
 
Dr.
King’s dream was about using the power of government and its resources
to eradicate poverty yet today 14.5%  of U.S. households—nearly 49
million Americans, including 16.2 million children—struggle to put food
on the table.

Nearly one in three African American and Latino
children is at risk of hunger.  All of this while conservatives want to
destroy the public safety net and create a permanent underclass in this
country.

It is ironic that in spite of these stark realities for the
poor in America and specifically the poor in African American
communities, African Americans gave President Obama 95% of its support
and none of these issues were addressed during the 2012 presidential
campaign.
 
As leaders of an invaluable political constituency too
many in African American leadership are either unwilling or unable to
challenge this president to use his bully pulpit to address them.

It
is also ironic that as we celebrate the civil rights legacy of Dr.
King, a man who vehemently opposed the War in Vietnam, President Obama
reviews a “kill list’. He:  supports warrantless wiretapping; the
indefinite detention of American citizens; drone attacks that kill
innocents through collateral damage; and, the assassination of American
citizens any place in the world without judicial review.

The
president can proclaim his support for Israel to all corners of the
world.  He can support marriage equality; immigration reform and through
executive order support the Dream Act -- but African Americans are
supposed to sit quietly and Hope for Change.

So, never confuse a
down payment with the balance being paid in full. This inauguration is a
great step forward in America but remember, we have miles to go before
we sleep. 
 

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the
nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program "Inside the Issues with
 WilmerLeon," and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political
Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C.   

Go to Dr-Leons-Prescription@facebook.com,  www.wilmerleon.com , email: wjl3us@yahoo.com.  orwww.twitter.com/drwleon 
© 2012 InfoWave Communications, LLC.


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