Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

July 28, 2013

ED VASICEK: U.S. racial disparities no better under Obama

Challenges need secular, sacred strategies

Kokomo Tribune

---- — During the 2008 election, several friends and relatives (all white) commented they were supporting Barack Obama partly because an African-American president would inspire the African-American community to achieve new heights — and prove that racial barriers could be overcome.

Conservatives (most of them white) were eager to support Herman Cain with his 9-9-9 tax plan. If Cain had kept his record clean, he probably would have been the next president of our nation.

Years ago, the idea of an African-American president seemed impossible. Even more remote would be a conservative surge of support for an African-American presidential candidate.

But has the Obama presidency really helped the average African-American? How can we measure qualities like aspiration? Can we chart the goal-setting trends of today’s youth? Whatever the future, it is obvious the benefit is not showing up now.

Cortney O’Brien, in a recent column, said the majority of Floridians polled (mostly Democrats) believe the Trayvon Martin case verdict was correct —and the president has consistently bungled race relations during his time in office.

O’Brien writes, “Also intriguing was Question #5, which read, ‘In your opinion, have race relations in the United States gotten better or worse since Barack Obama took office almost 5 years ago, or have they stayed about the same?’ Fifty-three percent answered that race relations have deteriorated since Obama’s inauguration, with only 10 percent saying they’ve improved.”

Progress with impoverished communities — often populated by African-Americans — seems slow. The Kokomo Tribune recently carried an article about the mayor of Gary requesting Gov. Mike Pence to send in state troopers to help bolster the local police force; a surge in the murder rate is behind the request.

The city of Detroit — the former automobile manufacturing capital of the world — is trying to file bankruptcy. The city likewise is noted for its large, impoverished African-American population.

According to bet.com, “The African-American unemployment rate rose from 13.5 percent in May to 13.7 percent in June, according to figures released by the U.S. Labor Department. The national unemployment rate held steady at 7.6 percent.”

Most of us have been clients or patients of competent African-American professionals. Many racial barriers have been reduced. Still, the black community is losing ground. A Wikipedia article on the black middle class puts it this way, “A report done by the Pew Research Center in 2007 says that of the sons and daughters of the black middle class, 45% of black children end up ‘near poor’, and the comparable rate for white families is 16% ... The trend of downward mobility has caused the overall majority of middle-class black children to end up with lower incomes than their parents. While 68% of white children earn incomes above their parents, 31% of black children earn incomes more than their parents did ... The lower rate of upward mobility could be caused by the lack of married blacks, and the number of blacks born out of wedlock. In 2009, 72% of black babies were born out of wedlock, compared with 28% of white women.”

The ladder of success takes discipline and patience against gravity; the two chutes of downward mobility (pregnancy out of wedlock and drugs) bring people down with lightning speed, abetted by the power of gravity.

Some of Uncle Sam’s efforts to improve the lot of African-Americans have made a positive difference; others are well-intended flops. This community, however, has seen transformations here and there from within. The Kokomo Tribune carried an article about Pastor Lonnie Anderson Jr. and the creative ministries he leads at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. Gov. Pence presented him with the Governor’s Award for Civic Leadership at the Indiana Black Expo’s 43rd annual Summer Celebration. Anderson has led his congregation into healthy eating and exercise habits, and initiated a private church school to serve the community.

Anderson is quoted as saying: “I realize that all the glory goes to God. I’m nothing more than an instrument for him.” Such strategies from within — both secular and sacred — are examples of the forces that could help the downward trend become an upward one.

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@comcast.net.