Romney offers no positive alternative for the US. We are currently in the throes of a weather crisis, Hurricane Sandy, which has wreaked havoc on the east coast. Railroads, subways, roads, bridges, houses, banks, whole communities have been devastated. Romney once said we do not need FEMA, the federal government agency now coordinating the rescue and recovery program related to these disasters. He says “state authorities” (not the federal government) should handle that devastation — and private investors.
The fact is a state alone cannot handle such problems and private investors should not be profiting out of such misery. It is the role of central government to be a part of the emergency repair and to be a part of the clean up and reconstruction. Because of an act of nature, there must now be a massive investment in infrastructure. It will create jobs and contracts, new technology as well as other scientific advances.
Obama had made the case for that before the disaster — for the need to invest in infrastructure, in roads, buildings and bridges, to reinvest in the US to put Americans back to work. Now that he is leading us in this crisis, even his adversaries are saying he is doing a good job. The president’s leadership during Hurricane Sandy is steady and confident.
I said in an article in the Observer newspaper four years ago that Obama’s inauguration was a magnificent moment in a five-decades-long race for civil rights in the US and in the world as a whole. Has his first term stood up to the extraordinary hope he inspired? For black Americans, a ceiling has been removed. An African American, a woman or a Latino can now believe that their path through life will carry them as far as their dreams can imagine. If Obama can do it, it inspires women to think they can do it and Latinos to think they can do it. So the barrier to our dreams has been removed.
However, you cannot have racial reconciliation unless you have racial justice. Our Rainbow friends in the UK call it Equanomics — racial equality and economic justice. Black people are still facing tremendous racial injustice; we are No. 1 in home foreclosure; the banks target us. We are No. 1 in infant mortality. No. 1 in short life expectancy. No. 1 in unemployment. We are still very much on the margins.
A few have done well enough to become symbolic examples. You look at Colin Powell, you look at Oprah [Winfrey] and you look at some great athletes, but you cannot measure the progress of the masses of black Americans by the symbolic value of extraordinary achievers. It is like swimming the English Channel. It’s not the distance that makes it difficult to swim — it is the undercurrent. That is what we are struggling against — an undercurrent based on centuries of enslavement, institutional race inequalities and unfounded fears.
I look at the US embracing Olympic medallists, black and white; embracing the impact of black music upon the culture. You would think those achievements would have brought more reconciliation, but we seem to be cherry-picking — selectively recognizing black success while still disregarding racial injustice.
The scar on the US’ soul is racial injustice. It is the key to equality, workers’ rights, children’s rights, environmental security and ending war. So how this issue is handled is the key to the salvation of our nation. Martin Luther King would say that the pursuit of racial justice is the way to redeem the soul of the US. Obama’s achievement can only be seen as part of a long battle for civil rights. What one must appreciate is that his ascendancy is a long journey that can be traced in modern history He did not come to us unilaterally. He came out of a 64-year process.