As someone born and raised in a black ghetto, but who is also college educated and solidly middle class today, it has been surreal at times to travel between these two extremes and hear the very different perspectives on race and racial progress—or lack thereof—in America. Many of my friends and family members in America’s ’hoods feel they are under constant siege, and rightfully so. Meanwhile, many of my friends and colleagues in the middle class either believe we are living in a post-black or post-racial America, or simply do not know what to do to support African Americans who are less fortunate.
Yet the truth is, this is not a post-racial America. When Barack Obama became the first black president in American history, he unquestionably upended the model of the single national black leader fueled by racial protest. But we do still need the racial protest model, as evidenced by the record number of black and Latino males still stopped and frisked by New York City police. President Obama’s election simply shows that multiple types of black leadership can and should exist. Like David Dinkins, the first black mayor of New York City, and Douglas Wilder, the first black governor of a Southern state since Reconstruction, Obama is part of a wave of black elected officials who don’t talk race, except out of necessity, and who have been able to secure a large bloc of white and other non-black supporters as race-neutral black leaders.