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May 7, 2008

Blacks on The Precipice

Tom McLaughlin

I am confused about Black America. What is the message Barack Obama and his supporters are sending?


I am an old civil rights worker. I was a plaintiff, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, on a voting rights issue about 10 years ago.


Among other things, I understood the issues. Blacks were being denied the right to elect representatives to office because of racial prejudice. Regardless of how qualified a Black was, he/she could not get elected because of the color of their skin.


Cities like Berlin, Snow Hill and Salisbury, as well as sections of counties, were carved in such a way that Blacks could finally get representation in the state legislature and town councils.


Whites did not like that. No, sir. Not one bit. Now they have come to accept and enjoy working with their fellow citizens of color. Amazing how color barriers can fall when people get to know each other.


There are three high schools in Worcester County. Black performance is abysmal. A friend of mine, who is head of the National Association for The Advancement of Colored People, of which I am a proud member, wants to hire a Black mentor for each school. This person would encourage students of color to achieve and move forward. I agree with his assessment.


Somehow we do need to bring the children out of the miserable path of failure, and this seems s like a logical answer. This person would be an African American so he/she can relate to the students as a white person could not. The cost would be $50,000 per mentor including salary and benefits, not much if we can uplift out of the Black ghettos cast aside on the wrong side of town.


But, haven’t we already done enough? Many young African Americans have taken their place in the main stream of society: Michael Steele and Anthony Brown, both lieutenant governors of our Free State; Kweisi Mfume, national head of the NAACP; Michael Cryor, the only African American to head a political party, either Democrat or Republican, in the nation; and Barack Obama, who won Maryland’s Democratic primary.


We have the only African American judge on the Eastern Shore ever appointed to the bench. The list continues through academia, elected office and business.


Yet, what is this new message being sent? Do old civil rights workers like me hang up our hat and say the job is done? Do we quit our work and allow those less fortunate to continue in poverty?


“There will be poor always,” it says some place. The Bible, I think. Has this new generation of Blacks become fed up with those who have failed to lift themselves up from the poverty and say: “I did it, why can’t you?”


Have the elected Blacks cast this group aside? And where do the Mexican-Americans and illegal immigrants fit into this equation? Are they the new group where I can get on my high horse and charge forward with the Constitution in hand?


These questions need answers. In my next few columns I will interview some African Americans, civil rights workers and others to see if I can get some opinions. I would like it if you would help with some e-mails. Perchance together we can sort this thing out, or at least come to an understanding.


Tom McLaughlin writes from The Eastern Shore and sometimes from Middletown. Email him at

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