Black Folks, We Better Get Moving

It's time the NAACP and others went from "We Shall Not Be Moved" to fostering visionary ideas.

NAACP Voting Rights Act supporters rally in South Carolina. (Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
NAACP Voting Rights Act supporters rally in South Carolina. (Richard Ellis/Getty Images)

We all have to change.

To fix what ails African Americans, the country needs to adopt moonshot projects like the one Utah leaders are implementing. School officials there are spending millions, with Republican support, to transform their state into a locus for international business by giving 14,000 elementary and middle school students the opportunity to learn in language-immersion programs for half of each school day; 20,000 will participate next year. What skills will urban children offer the global marketplace?

Civil rights leaders in the 1950s and ’60s took real risks, and it’s time for this generation to take a few more, including broaching touchier topics.

Affirmative action gets narrower every time the Supreme Court accepts a case for review. How should we prepare black children for a post-affirmative action world? 

African Americans are no longer the largest minority group. How can blacks strengthen cross-racial coalitions with Latinos and Asian Americans before it’s too late?

Most African Americans are against cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits to lower national deficits, but should we raise the entitlement-eligibility age and lower cost-of-living increases, along with closing business-tax loopholes, to fund massive education reform and apprenticeships for American youths?

Black leaders should take the organizational capacity of black radio and the Internet that brought attention to the Jena Six and Trayvon Martin cases to focus the community on problems and opportunities for the next generation. If we want people to look back at our generation 50 years from now with the same pride we have in the people who filled the National Mall in 1963, we’d better get moving.

Jamal Simmons is a communications adviser to corporate, nonprofit and political leaders and a political commentator.