Dear Fellow Americans,
I have heard more than a few of you say “Obama has done nothing for black people or the inner cities.”
Before I go on, let me just say that I don’t think this is a Republican or Democratic issue. I have heard it from both sides.
I get it, emotions were high surrounding Obama’s election. It was a big deal that America had finally gotten to the point where a black man could be President. It made me feel proud on behalf of my then 2 year old and 10 month old sons.
What I don’t get is what people expected.
What exactly was he supposed to do to make black people, specifically, or the inner cities better? Was he supposed to hand you cold hard cash? Actually pay your bills for you? Take your kids to school and then help them with their homework and projects? Send a limo for you and make sure that you show up for parent teacher conferences? Force you to not tolerate gang activity or drug dealing in your homes or neighbourhoods? No, I get it. He was supposed to hold your hand and walk you to the voting locations when your municipality/state was choosing mayors, governors, police chiefs and school boards. (Or was he supposed to send his secret service to protect you from the cops you complain are targeting you?)
He was supposed to tell you to stop spending your money on Jordans, tattoos, fake nails or Beyonce tickets and instead invest in a tutor or sign your kids up for an extra-curricular activity or put it away in savings for college or to invest in your own small business or to move to a better neighbourhood or to do home improvements or even to take a trip and expose your children to a whole different world. He was supposed to tell you that littering, spray painting and dilapidated buildings make your neighbourhoods look bad and drives down property values. He was supposed to sit in your living room and personally tell you that hanging out in front of the liquor store or the Chinese food place accomplishes nothing and sets a bad example for your children. He was supposed to beg you to put down the remotes and pick up a book. (Hint: Books are free at the library). It is well accepted that children who are read to and who read do better in school. He was supposed to urge you to talk to your children openly and honestly about STD and pregnancy prevention and how to get and keep good credit. He was supposed to teach you how to recognize those who are not trying to be better so you can stop wasting time with them and instead focus your energy and attention on groups of people who are trying to be a positive influence on your life. He was supposed to remind you that instead of making fun of the children who are smart or well-spoken by saying they are “acting white”, you should encourage them and help them so that they can one day be President. He was supposed to make you take advantage of scholarships, college loans, job training opportunities, or free programs that are available to you. He was supposed to somehow prevent you from sabotaging yourself and the very neighbours you say you care about.
In some ways, I am not you. I know. I was not born or raised here. I have always had at least a fairly decent job and a steady paycheck. But I have been a single parent raising 2 high-needs children in an inner city, with no help. I have had money trouble. I know it’s not easy and it can seem overwhelming and the change is painfully slow. However, I have lived here long enough and seen enough to know that very often we are our own worst enemies. It’s all well and good to expect better and more from our politicians, but mustn’t we also expect more and better from ourselves; and then work towards it?
I wish you realized how fortunate you are. The opportunities available here are simply not available in other countries, especially to those not born into wealth. In America, it’s completely possible, through hard work and determination, to pull yourself out of poverty and to make your childrens lives better than yours was. Things do not have to be the way they are. And you don’t have to wait for whoever is President to fix anything for you. Things are not perfect. Racism exists in some places. It’s taken many years of literally blood, sweat and tears to get to where you are now. But you have chances. Take advantage of them. Stop looking for the road blocks and look for the work-arounds. That’s how we keep moving forward.
And before you come down on me by saying that not everyone in the inner city falls into this category, I KNOW THAT! Many don’t. But things are the way they are because A LOT of people do fall into it and it’s incumbent on those of us who live there and who love the other people living there to make sure that anyone who is trying to keep our neighbourhoods down know that it will not be accepted and to introduce them to a different and better way. It is not up to our politicians to make us do the right thing. That’s our job.
One love always!