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Hopes and Fears


As we get closer to Christmas, New Year’s and Kwanzaa and prepare for two weeks off for vacation, my plan was for this blog to reflect on some of the biggest stories of 2009. On my list was President Obama’s inauguration; Chris Brown and Rihanna; the death of Michael Jackson; the two black astronauts calling the TJMS from space and yes, Tiger Woods. Those are still important stories, but there’s a developing story that I want to share with you.

On the King Holiday Weekend 2010, I will co-host an MSNBC town hall special about race in America with Chris Matthews. This is also an important story because it will give me and you a rare opportunity to participate in a much needed discussion about whether racism is still a relevant topic now that President Obama has been elected. Of course, we know that it is. But now, we will get a chance to say why.

Having an audience of 8 million mostly African-American people is always a good thing, but it’s a crucial thing when mainstream America wants to know what’s on our minds. Together, we can give provide honest questions and answers about racism in this country.

In the days leading up to January 18th, I will be using this blog, BlackAmericaWeb.com, the Text Tom club, the morning show and all of its resources to garner your opinions about some of the specific topics that will be addressed on the program. Among the topics: Does Post-Racial America Exist? (Yep.) Is Affirmative Action Necessary? (duh!) and Generational Colorblindness. Isn’t it funny that usually the only people who claim they don’t see color always end up telling you they’re married to a black person?

Of course, the traditional, easy way to tackle these topics is to get the same old people to say the same old things. Not knocking any of the people who have sat on panel after panel after panel to talk about race in America in past years. But it’s almost impossible to get any new perspectives on issues unless we solicit information from varied sources, and from what I can see, at this point, that’s what this MSNBC town hall Meeting will attempt to do. Chris Matthews and I will not talk to a panel of your “usual suspects” about hopes and fears in Obama’s America.

That’s what will happen on the King holiday on the campus of historically black Texas Southern University. But starting now, I want you to be thinking about YOUR hopes and fears in a country run by the first African-American president. I want to hear from as many people as possible with as many views as possible.

I am probably more hopeful and less fearful than most people. Having grown up in the segregated South in a progressive HBCU-college town filled with black people with something to prove, I learned early on that it’s not so much your circumstances, but it’s what you’re willing to do to change or improve them that matters. In Tuskegee, Alabama, we wasted very little time worrying about was wrong. We were busy doing what it took to move forward and beyond, with hard work, education and spirituality leading us.

Racism was a strong force in our country then, and it still is. Pretending it doesn’t exist does nothing but produce a false sense of security, complacency and apathy. There was a time black people were driven to do better and be better in spite of the obstacles that were in our way. When we began to perceive that those obstacles were no longer there, it seems like we began to lower the bar on the types of things we would accept about ourselves and each other. We began to develop an “every man for himself” attitude that was once rarely found in the communities many of us, our parents and grandparents grew up in. We stopped wanting to be accountable for each other. And the evidence can be seen in almost every aspect of our lives.

On Monday, I will have a chance to address some of our concerns to President Obama, get his perspective and share it with the panel in January. So, as we approach a New Year and a new decade, I’m hopeful and not fearful about anything because we are moving forward together to help the world understand that racism is real and needs to be addressed. If you don’t believe it and you’re black, you’re not moving forward; you’re standing still, wide open for the okie doke. And that’s never a good look.

What would you like to say to me, the president or the MSNBC audience about the idea of post-racism, Affirmative Action or colorblindness in this country? Respond to this blog or text me at 646464. A large participation in this effort takes us closer to having the most honest discussion of race ever. Help us make that happen.