VOICES | The Mainstream Movement: We must act decisively


Consider this. Everything is not all right. And, everybody is not all right. And, as long as it is not all right for everybody we, the people, cannot rest.

“What’s wrong, Sir?” the Sergeant Major asked the Colonel. “Nothing,” the Colonel responded. “What’s wrong with that?” the Sergeant Major continued. “Everything,” said the Colonel.

— We Were Soldiers, directed by Randall Wallace, starring Mel Gibson

Consider this. Everything is not all right. And, everybody is not all right. And, as long as it is not all right for everybody we, the people, cannot rest.

We have no time to enjoy a false sense of security because of the recent election of Barack Obama. Democracy is not a spectator sport. We don’t get to simply go to the park and cheer for him as “a credit to his race,” as many did for Joe Louis or Jackie Robinson. Further, we don’t get to host a parade and go home as the champion prepares for the next fight.

Our challenge now is to fulfill our role in the next movement. Voting was just a start. We still have some unfinished business.

Make no mistake. November 4, 2008, was neither the beginning nor the end of the fight for change in this country. Instead, view it as a continuation of a grand campaign towards the “more perfect union” that the framers of the Constitution promised.

In fact, this fascinating campaign has an evolutionary history. If you trace it from the arrival of slaves in the early 1600s, it was about 150 years to a Revolutionary War; then in roughly 90 years it evolved into a Civil War; and, 100 years later, it evolved into a Civil Rights Movement. And, 40 years later, it manifested itself as an election, bringing in Bobby Kennedy’s prediction of an African American as president of the United States.

And suddenly, the political question is settled. You no longer have to cross your fingers when you tell a child of color that he or she can grow up to become the president of the United States.

But, we have little time to celebrate. The laws of power, conflict and strategy are in play. It’s a sport called politics. After the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement there were counterattacks that undermined the progress and set back the promise of true equality.

Don’t take it personally. Just remember that for every action there is a reaction. It’s the natural order of things.

The counterattack is already underway. Discussions race around the table about the need for African Americans to get a new story. Some would say that people of color no longer need affirmative action. And, moreover, there is much chatter about Blacks no longer having an excuse.

After all, the president-elect is a person of color. He came from a single-parent household. He made it. Now, let’s do away with all this talk of victimization. That’s all behind us now. It’s time to move on. Right?

I would beg to differ. One man does not define the epic journey of a country or its people. This talk is merely a ploy designed to give breathing room to those who would again turn back the hands of time.

And be clear, we can no more erase the scars of pain of the African American in this country than we can ask our Jewish brothers and sisters to forget the Holocaust. But, we can hold up Barack Obama as a beacon of light on the promise of equality for all children. And, we can continue to work together toward that end.

In fact, we have no choice. History won’t allow it.

In my former line of business, after the successful operation, you dug in and awaited the counterattack or you began to follow on operations. One such operation was the “pursuit and exploitation.” In this complex exercise, one unit would chase the opponent while another attacked on the flank and a third (usually air cavalry) raced ahead of him to put up a blocking force.

Picture Muhammad Ali in pursuit with a flurry of jabs and roundhouse punches as he chases the opponent to the ropes for the knockout; or the Patriots in the hurry-up offense, steadily pushing the opponent to the other end of the field; or the Lakers of old, running the fast break and slam dunk, a true picture of beauty in motion.

It is with this spirit that we must march on. You see, we have no time to waste. The next few weeks and months are critical. The game is already underway. It is our job to ensure that the agenda we passed in this presidential election is implemented for all of the people.

Make no mistake. Now is the time for us to relentlessly pursue the agenda of economic justice and prosperity for all just as we have pursued political power and social rights. After all, these three things constitute the true measure of security in the United States of America.

Here is the situation. At a time when the economists are fearing eight percent unemployment nationwide as millions lose their jobs, depending on race, 25 to 45 percent of the people of color in Minneapolis live in poverty, and 40 percent of African American men are not in the workforce — they are not in the mainstream. This was the state of nature when the White unemployment rate was approximately four percent.

Hence the problem. With these types of disparities across the nation, we must act with a sense of urgency as we attack the previous beliefs and practices that sought to slow us down. We have to refute the acceptance of a permanent underclass based on race. There is room at the table for all.

We have demonstrated a power that was beyond imagination. Barack Obama represents the power of people to put aside differences to focus on what they view as best for their families, their communities, and our country. Now awakened, the sleeping giant cannot sleep.

It is a tremendous mistake to dismantle the apparatus that drove this election. We cannot allow the young people to unplug — they know how to work the technology. And, it is their inheritance that we are borrowing as we implement any solution. They might as well have a seat at the kitchen table, because the ultimate profit or loss is theirs.

In essence, the economy is at a transition point. And, just as it went from agrarian to manufacturing, it will go from manufacturing to renewable energy industries. And, it will produce pollution control industries (that we will sell to China) and improved infrastructure strategies that increase productivity. There will be winners and losers as old players disappear overnight and new champions emerge.

And, it is this transition that holds the true opportunity for children of all colors to grow up and lead the emergence of the new reality. If we do it right, not only can they grow up to become president of the United States of America, they can grow up and simply enjoy the pleasure of a home, a job and a family. Imagine that. And, for most of us “Joe Crystal Lights,” it doesn’t get any better than that.

So, go home. Have a good meal. Get a shower and a good night’s sleep and dream of accomplishing something else that “you thought would never happen in our lifetime.”

Be ready to go when the call comes. We have a country to save. And, history shows that we have the power. Keep up the good work.

Louis King is president/CEO of Summit Academy OIC in Minneapolis. He welcomes reader responses to ljking@saoic.org.