The emerging new black leadership owes black America tangible change. Across the blogosphere, in newsprint and on television and radio pundits are breathlessly hailing the rise of the Joshua Generation.
While initially used by the Barack Obama campaign as a title of a program that reach out to potential young evangelicals and Catholic voters it is now used to distinguish a growing group of young black leaders from those that participated in the 1960s Civil Rights movement. In short while the biblical figure of Moses (i.e. Martin Luther King, et al) led people out of captivity it was Joshua (i.e. new black leadership) who finally got everyone out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land.
With the election of Barack Obama everyone is embracing what should actually be called a Joshua Syndrome—the belief that we have entered a post-racial society where ones skin color is no longer a barrier to dreams and hopes. However, we can’t afford to confuse our glimpsing the Promised Land with actually being in it.
People point to the rise of a black middle class as an example of progress but in fact only 10% of the black population can be considered such. Now compare this to the fact that the white middle class makes up between 47%-49% of the total American population. The fact remains that the majority of blacks still live a life of hopelessness due to poverty, few educational opportunities and racial discrimination.
If we as Americans are to achieve a real post-racial society it will take more than simply voting for a president who is African American. It will take each of us, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or nationality, to ensure that a black political and economic agenda is embarked on by our nation.
Let us begin to send clear signals to the Obama administration that the state of black America is a priority to each of us. Of course there will be those who accuse the President-elect of pandering to people who look like him. But Frederick Douglass once remarked one can’t have lightening without rain. This is not about skin color. It is a choice between moving towards the promise of a post-racial America or remaining in the wilderness of racism and lost opportunities. Simply put there can be no post-racial society while discrimination remains.
In spite of the Joshua Syndrome, there are in fact actual Joshua’s among us. Strong creative personalities such as NAACP president Ben Jealous, TransAfrica executive director Nicole Lee, and Green For All president Van Jones, and many others who are tenaciously engaging issues that concern the majority of black American’s.
As our nation enters the doorway of the Promised Land let us not—in our haste to forget the present—close the door in the face of black America.