Last night's “State of the Union” address felt like a victory lap for a president that has been trounced since he walked into office. To be honest, he should be allowed to brush some of the dirt off his shoulder. I’ll give him that, because I’ve been pretty supportive of Barack Obama.
However, there is another side to the union that was hardly mentioned in the address. Where do I begin?
Lets start with the stateside unrest that permeates all over the nation.
"We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift." - Barack Obama
The president said, “The shadow of crisis has passed,” but I am not certain whom POTUS was referring to. A crisis remains for a segment of everyday Americans and it is more than New York and Ferguson. Police are killing unarmed citizens at an alarming rate. 1 person of color is killed every 28 hours by a police officer, security guard or vigilante, one study says. This statistic doesn’t include those that are brutalized, beaten or harassed on a daily basis. This statistic doesn’t take into account the emotional and psychological ramifications of such fear tactics. (Please read-#DearObama: Use Your State of the Union to Move from Words to Actions on Race and Policing") Obama referred to the concern for police safety alongside the issue of Ferguson but the reality of the matter is they do not compare. There is not a long standing nationwide epidemic of citizens murdering the police.
When President Obama was elected, I pushed and campaigned vigilantly to help get him in office. I never had illusions that things would inherently get better because he was a Black president. Still, seeing my daughter and niece have visions of being president after shaking his hand was more than priceless. Fast forward 6 years and my daughter is marching in protests against police brutality, and she is acutely aware of what is going on in the world. Kids still have their dreams, but some of them are definitely afraid to come out of the house.
Since we are on the topic of fear, lets talk about the inability of some Americans to make a decent living wage. That's scary.
"Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis." - Barack Obama
When Eric Garner was murdered by the New York Police Department, he was selling loose cigarettes on the street to provide for his family. Selling "loosies" is an illegal act, by law, but there are good, honest folk that cannot get a living wage through traditional means. African Americans are floating at 10.4% unemployment nationally in the U.S., a stark contrast to the rest of the nation at 4.8%. The African American rate of unemployment almost always hovers around twice that of White Americans.
Often times, people cannot get jobs because of disparities in education.
A recent study by the Southern Education Foundation states that the majority of American students are living in poverty (read the full story here). The parameters of poverty are loosely defined, but about 51% of all school aged children qualified for free or reduced lunch last year. The article also noted that, while the U.S. economy has gotten better, poverty has continued to rise.
So, when Brother Obama speaks of middle class economics, I would have liked to hear him address the poor and outline the real world need to help those "that aspire to be middle class." We almost never hear "poor" in these state of the unions. Americans should keep in mind that the vast majority of poor people are White, even though people of color are the faces of poverty. And, the beat goes on.
There are so many other issues, but I've got to evoke change on those matters that I can touch and feel with people willing to put in the work.
"Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another…or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?" - Barack Obama
America is like the Titanic that has yet to hit that iceberg. Making that U-Turn won’t be easy.
As a people, we have to make some changes. The lip service must stop. The empty rhetoric must stop. The silence towards injustice must stop. The blatant, flagrant racism must stop. We have to start caring more, giving more, helping more, and injecting the main vein of this country with more love. Period. When, the president says, "The State of the Union is strong," I wish he would have state something like "The State of the Union is stronger than it was when George Bush and his regime dumped a pile of mayhem on a brother." His swagger was at an all time high last night, but that doesn't change the heart-wrenching realities of the day.
There is no victory lap yet. Things are better. But, there is no victory lap until we turn this thing around.