Friday, August 18, 2006

Todd Elliott Koger's Op-Ed Article: Living on the margins of society



Picture yourself 40 years from now. Some of your closest friends and colleagues have gathered to help you celebrate your retirement. After dinner, the toast and testimonials begin, with each guest offering a personal reflection on your life and career. What will these people be saying about you?

Living on the margins of society

The following is an Op-Ed article written by Todd Elliott Koger and featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Picture yourself 40 years from now. Some of your closest friends and colleagues have gathered to help celebrate your retirement. After dinner, the toast and testimonials begin, with each guest offering a personal reflection on your life and career.

What will these people be saying about you?

With the current state of black America just surviving 40 years is an accomplishment. Murder remains the leading cause of death among urban black males between the ages of 16 and 24. A black child born in America today has less chance of surviving to adulthood than a child born in a place as troubled as Panama. And for most of those who do survive, because of the continued socio-economic ills affecting our race, there will be nothing to celebrate, no job to retire from. The gathering would more likely be to bury another who has failed to survive the demanding challenge of life in black America.

And if the recent Supreme Court rulings limiting minority set-asides and the right of employees effectively to sue for discrimination is the direction the American system is heading, the indeed America will need a "Marshall Plan," as suggested by the national Urban League, to rebuild our cities and develop the human resources of our people, who have been traditionally shunted off to the margins of society.

America also will need a revitalization of the civil-rights movement. To accomplish this, we will need someone like Thurgood Marshall, the tenacious young civil-rights attorney who challenged segregation in education in Brown vs. Board of Education, and who later went on to a renowned tenure as an affirmative-action advocate on the highest court of the land.

As racial tension becomes more pronounced (Howard Beach, Bensonhurst and most recently, the Charles Stuart situation in Boston), encounters with racism on the job, in shopping centers, on the housing market, in the criminal-justice system, in social settings and in the media will further aggravate our precarious existence.

So, what is the actual state (need) of black America?

Our civil-rights advocates are again being assassinated; we are nearly three times as likely as our white counterparts to be unemployed; 47 percent of our low-income males drop out of high school; and black males are disproportionately represented in prisons.

But is a suggested $50 billion deduction from the defense budget for a domestic Marshall Plan a guarantee of better education, housing and health care -- services desperately needed in the black community to end the cycle of economic injustice? Sure, this is a better use of funds than providing endless support to the defense establishment and indirect dividends to the wealthy. But is money the only way to achieve racial parity?

In the '90s, a renewed pride is needed in the black community -- a pride that should not be confused with the current trivial discord associated with being labeled black rather then Afro-American. Black pride needs to be revitalized to the degree achieved by our civil-rights leaders of the '60s. Pride enabled those leaders to overcome insurmountable odds. It was pride that brought leadership, determination and stamina to black communities and established positive role models for our young.

If black pride was at the level today that it was in the'60s, America wouldn't have the excuse of "black apathy" as a leading cause of our situation. Our young would understand their situation. They would avoid getting involved in such social ills as crime, drug involvement and teen parenting. And, most important, they would stay in school, graduate and go on and earn college degrees.

Remember some years back when you (those who are old enough to remember) wanted to lead like Dr. King, be educated like George Washington Carver, and write like George Schuyler? Today, our young are without such ambition. Rather, they hope to be infamous like the neighborhood drug dealer, free and not responsible like their older siblings and friends who have dropped out of school.

If our race is ever to reach parity with the majority race, a renewed pride is needed, a renewed understanding that we must prepare ourselves not just to be equal, but to be superior.

We cannot depend upon the system to change and begin to accept our customs and culture. We live in a multiculture society and ours, unfortunately, will always be only a minority way of life. It is the majority's game and they made the rules. But we can learn to play the game better and improve on it.

First we must renew our objectives and as always, the answer/remedy lies with the success of our past -- black pride.

Our chosen leaders must set the example. They must be willing to risk their careers and reputations by personifying such pride for our struggle. They must not forget the black American dream of racial equality. They must not settle for token handouts that only further their own personal interest.

http://koger.7p.com