Blacks should breathe sigh of relief: Bush lost


November 05, 1992|By WILEY A. HALL

I am surrounded by pessimists and cynics, naysayers and defeatists.

Tuesday, black Americans backed a winner for president for the first time in 12 years and for only the second time since Lyndon Baines Johnson beat Barry Goldwater in 1964.

Folks ought to be dancing in the streets.

Instead, a great many people already have begun to assert that Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton's lopsided victory over President Bush on Tuesday will mean nothing at all for black America.

You hear it in the streets, from both black professionals and black nationalists, and on the black-oriented radio talk shows. You read it in the writings of my fellow columnists.

These pessimists and cynics, naysayers and defeatists argue that black Americans might even be worse off under a Clinton administration because he has taken the Democratic Party, the traditional haven for most liberals, to the right.

"At least we knew George Bush was our enemy," said one talk show caller. "Clinton will lull us to sleep and then sell us down the river. Clinton ignored black America during his campaign and he will ignore black America once he gets into office."

"White people are white people," said a man who might fairly be described as a 1960s-style militant. "There is no difference between Clinton and Bush. All white people hate blacks and they always will."

"The black community," wrote a columnist last weekend, "is always looking for a savior. Bill Clinton will let them down."

You guys are crazy. You guys have completely lost your minds. You guys have been down so long it looks like up to you.

We ought to mark Nov 3, 1992, on our calendars and celebrate it for the rest of our natural born lives. We ought to pass the tradition on to our children -- a solemn candle-lighting ceremony, perhaps -- 12 candles for every year of darkness since Ronald Reagan and George Bush came to power.

And even if we choose not to dance in the streets, or light candles, or sing hymns of salvation, we ought at least to be very clear that what has happened is a very, very good thing.

First of all, I have not met one black voter who believes Clinton's victory will result in his or her salvation. I doubt if many voters even believe they can expect an automatic reversal of their personal fortunes when Clinton moves into the White House. Black people have as much common sense as anyone else.

They decided Clinton would do a better job moving the economy than Bush and voted accordingly.

Second, it is absolutely not true that Clinton ignored the black community during the campaign. He sat through church services. He toured low-income black communities. He conferred regularly with black elected officials. He played the saxophone on Arsenio Hall's show. He even spoke before the National Association of Black Journalists.

In retrospect, his supposed slap at Jesse Jackson and Sista Souljah during the national convention of the Rainbow Coalition early in the campaign wasn't that big a deal.

Finally, and most importantly, we obviously have forgotten how far to the right Ronald Reagan and George Bush took the country beginning in 1981.

Reagan and Bush were unremittingly hostile to civil rights, and their ignorance and spite retarded race relations.

Compared with these men, Richard Nixon seems like a bleeding-heart liberal on issues such as affirmative action in the workplace and higher education, minority business development, welfare, public education, crime and drug treatment -- issues associated with, but not confined to, the black community.

Some of Nixon's appointees to the Supreme Court are now regarded as either moderate or liberal.

Now that Reagan and Bush are gone, we will find that most people in the country are not as racist and not as hostile to civil rights as they seemed to be these past 12 years.

There is a new man at the top. He inevitably will set a new tone for the nation. This is not just an improvement.

It will be a relief.

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