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News > Feature - Challenges African Americans still face today
Challenges African Americans still face today

Posted 2/4/2010   Updated 2/4/2010 Email story   Print story


by Maj. Kenneth McGhee
90th Missile Maintenance Squadron

2/4/2010 -  F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- After the election of President Barack Obama, millions of Americans rejoiced at the prospect of a changing America. Americans were hopeful that the election of President Obama marked a change in the political landscape, financial condition and social mindset of the American people. For many in the African American community, his election represented how far America has come regarding race relations and provided new hope for future generations that all things were possible for African Americans in this nation. African American parents from Washington state to Florida's coast pointed at President Obama and said to their young children there is proof that you can excel to the highest position in the land. However, over the past year I've heard several negative comments concerning President Obama, not because of his leadership decisions, but based on the fact that he is African American. So it appears that race relations in America are not as far along as we may hope.

Unlike the civil rights movement of the 1960s, African Americans today are not fighting for basic civil rights such as the right to vote and attend non-segregated schools. This is not to say that overt and covert acts of racism do not still exist in America and do not continue to affect the African American community. However, with the passing of civil rights legislation over the years, individual minorities and minority groups have the right to file grievances against those who choose to discriminate against them based on race or ethnic background. In the media today, even the hint of racial injustice or discrimination draws automatic fire from the media and action from several groups eager to carry the mantel of equality and justice for all. For example, there have been several recent examples of public figures being called upon to repent for actions or speech that has been interpreted as racially insensitive.

Many of the challenges facing African Americans today are more subtle and involve a struggle that is more within the African American community than without. Many of these challenges involve fighting negative stereotypes that were born from hip hop videos or the misuse of power and authority by well-known figures in the African American community.

The struggle involves pushing against institutional barriers that have been strengthened by those in favor of maintaining a historical precedent or the status quo. For example, it oftentimes seems easier for city leaders to support the new school district that educates the suburban community rather than funding the struggling inner city schools. And simply because an organization has never had an African American leader, does not mean that it never should. Finally, the struggle involves a continued determination to resist an apathetic attitude toward the problems in the African American community. In many instances, it is not the opinionated few who determine the overall outcome, but the indifference of the majority who are usually directly affected by the decision that they fail to be a part of.

While these issues are within the African American community they are not unique to it. For every mention of African Americans in this article, if you drop the word "African" from the sentence, I believe the same holds true for all Americans. The issues African Americans face are issues all Americans have to address. There is no sole African American solution to these issues because they are not issues that exclusively affect African Americans. Daily we lead or are led by Airmen who struggle with these issues. It is imperative that we all, as Americans, deliberately and effectively meet the challenges of these issues. In doing, so we become better leaders, followers, and citizens of this great nation.

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