Despite the fact that President-elect Barack Obama's vision for our nation leaves a lot to be desired, the fact that he was elected represents a remarkable national achievement. When the War of 1861 ended, neither a former slave nor slave owner would have believed it possible for a black to be elected president in a mere century and a half, if ever. I'm sure that my grandparents, born in the 1880s, or my parents, born in the 1910s, would not have believed it possible for a black to be president and neither did I for most of my 72 years.
That's not the only progress. If one totaled black earnings, and consider blacks a separate nation, he would have found that in 2005 black Americans earned $644 billion, making them the world's 16th richest nation. That's just behind Australia but ahead of Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. Black Americans have been chief executives of some of the world's largest and richest cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Gen. Colin Powell, appointed Joint Chief of Staff in October 1989, headed the world's mightiest military and later became U.S. Secretary of State, and was succeeded by Condoleezza Rice, another black. A few black Americans are among the world's richest people and many are some of the world's most famous personalities. These gains, over many difficult hurdles, speak well not only of the intestinal fortitude of a people but of a nation in which these gains were possible. They could not have been achieved anywhere else.
Acknowledgement of these achievements is not to deny that a large segment of the black community faces enormous problems. But as I have argued, most of today's problems have little or nothing to do with racial discrimination. That's not to say that every vestige of racial discrimination has been eliminated but as my colleague Dr. John McWhorter said in "End of Racism?" Forbes (11/5/08), "There are also rust and mosquitoes, and there always will be. Life goes on." The fact that the nation elected a black president hopefully might turn our attention away from the false notion that discrimination explains the problems of a large segment of the black community to the real problems that have absolutely nothing to do with discrimination.