Transforming America’s racial and cultural dynamics is a lot like running a marathon. The only major differences are time and course. The grueling 26.2 miles of a marathon is run in just over two hours by world-class athletes, while the race toward King’s dream has already been over 50 years in the making. Although we have some sense of the finish line, the end of our course is not in sight. Further, it is hard to judge our progress. We are not sure whether we should count certain “firsts” as significant. Others believe that the depth of professional penetration by blacks, Hispanics, or other groups into various professional arenas is a more appropriate measure of entering a post-racial era.
For example, milestones like the number of black quarterbacks in the National Football League are informative, but how should it be compared to how many black CEOs lead Fortune 100 companies? In this regard, all of us seem prone to measure apples against oranges. My mother’s generation of 80-year olds simply beams with pride at the progress, while regretting the state of so many black youth and children. In her mind, the Bible verse that says, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul” is prominent.
Has black America come so close to the dream and annihilation at the same time? Are we on the verge of the ultimate success or the pursuing the ultimate illusion - by chasing the fool’s gold of hedonism? As an African American, I believe that some folks have run the race successfully (they have survived) but they are also in danger of being disqualified.
Let me explain.
The most recent Pew Research polls on race are exceptionally encouraging. Most people see a “convergence” of both black and white values. More specifically the report reads as follows, “Seven-in-ten whites (70%) and six-in-ten blacks (60%) say that the values held by blacks and whites have become more similar in the past 10 years.” This is a little shocking given the fact that two years ago Pew Research studies had blacks themselves self-identifying as two different black communities - the under-privileged/under-achievers, and the aspiring, upwardly mobile blacks. This kind of conflicting self-identification was the source of conflict within schools for teenagers and young adults. Under -achievers would call motivated kids “white,” while promoting “the thug culture” and gangster rap music as authentically “black.”
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.