The unemployment rate declined for the first time in more than a year.
The stock market has rebounded.
Declining Gross Domestic Product has been arrested.
Banks are profitable again and repaying the government for their bailout.
Consumers are buying cars and houses again.
The automakers had an orderly exit from bankruptcy.
American detainees have beeen freed from Iran, North Korea and Somalia.
Most of the 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are coming home.
Pakistan has taken on the Taliban militarily.
Highly-competent, collaborative leaders have been placed atop federal agencies.
The largest stimulus package in American history has been organized to work through practically every state and local government in the nation, with unprecedented ability to track spending and results.
Those headlines have been overwhelmed by a tide of opposition to President Barack Obama which speaks to the reason we created National Black Business Month. One of the institutional barriers to African-American advancement has been the failure to recognize black accomplishments. We just learned in the past year about African-Americans who helped build the White House 200 years ago. The President’s issue is one that most African-Americans can identify with–the notion of being blamed for everything that’s wrong, but seeing the credit for success go somewhere else. For black entrepreneurs, this myopia is a major hurdle in daily life.
He’s had the aplomb to rise above the fury, which rose to a crescendo after the Henry Louis Gates arrest flap, when a chance comment during a press conference awakened many to the fact that America actually had elected an African-American president.
During the primary season, one poll early indicated that most African-Americans were more afraid for his safety than contemplating an actual victory. The America that we’ve come to expect has reared its ugly face in the person of folks walking around with weapons at Presidential events.
New York Gov. David Paterson caught the backlash earlier when he was transformed from the man who saved New York from the aftermath of scandal to someone who is supposedly unable to govern. He protested this week that his actual record of achievement was far better than other states which had been unable to close budget deficits. That brought even more attacks for noting the unfairness.
Significantly, a large proportion of African-Americans in New York have joined the critics of Paterson, according to polls. That’s the thing we want to address.
Valid accountability is something we have fallen short on as a community for a long time, but it is important to rally around the folks who are the Jackie Robinsons of this time when they’re under unfair attack.
At the neighborhood business level, it is not uncommon for rumors and inuendo to be fomented about African-American businesses, sometimes by competitors, and for our own people to buy into that madness.
Our premise behind the 31 Ways, 31 Days approach of National Black Business Month is for people to actually seek out, visit and patronize these firms instead of relying on what they might have heard. In most cases, they’ll find that black people don’t go into business because they want to fail to meet their customer’s expectations.
And they’ll also find the additional community benefits which black entrepreneurs provide.
If folks will scandalize someone who has turned around the country in less than half a year, and looked cool while doing it, imagine what they’ll say about the corner restaurant or barber shop or construction company. One bow-tie wearing conservative columnist called Obama “a neophyte in over his head” looking at the same headlines we cited above.
Words are weapons, when ignorance takes them seriously.
One of our goals is to encourage a lot more attention by African-Americans to the way government and policy works. We’ve been focusing on the impact of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and the promise that it holds to address some long-standing problems. When we pay attention to the real activity that is going on, and not the pundits, we can see the brilliance of the job that President Obama has done.
And maybe we’ll notice the black dentist down the street who’s also taking the time to win scholarships for local youth or the architect who’s training dozens of high schoolers to follow in his footsteps.
The State of Florida has an official black history web site, which notes the role of Jonathan Gibbs, an African-American who was the state’s first superintendent of public instruction. Blacks played a key role in establishing universal public education in many of the Southern states during Reconstruction.
But that achievement was quickly turned into Jim Crow segregation from school systems they helped create. It all started with the relentless campaign to define them as ineffective and incompetent, irregardless of the facts.
Pay attention to words and be aware enough to correct and contradict the misconceptions. It is time for your voice to be heard.
In closing, I think the President has earned a 9-day vacation.