Tributes around the world are now being offered to the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. There is no need for me to repeat his lifetime journey to end apartheid in South Africa. My bigger concern is where are the current Nelson Mandelas all across the world who are ready to step into Mr. Mandela’s shoes? Where are the voices of outrage in a world where the top 300 richest families own more wealth than the bottom 3 billion? Where are the protests for the ongoing wholesale incarceration of black men in America? Where are the voices of outrage as the same type of conservative politics that instituted and maintained South Africa’s strict racial separation now institute strict voter registration laws designed to diminish the black and brown vote? Where are the “new” Nelson Mandelas who are ready to rise up and fight new forms of apartheid?
What I see in America is troubling. I am troubled at the dearth of black men especially who seem to have traded in the “right” to marry interracially with freedom and progress. I am troubled even here in Amarillo, Texas at the total absence of even a modest number of African Americans in positions of power—in the judiciary, in local government, and on the police force. And, even worse, at the dearth of black men teachers and other professionals. How many black faces appear regularly on local television newscasts? Have too many Amarillo black men decided to substitute “git me a white woman” as a sign of real racial achievement? Locally, black men and women are being incarcerated at a rate that is alarming. Black children right here in Amarillo are being orphaned by the “lock ‘em up” drug enforcement policies that somehow seem to by-pass white drug dealers and users. Black children right here in Amarillo are increasingly being placed in white homes as foster children or adopted children because of drug enforcement policies that have led to the incarceration of both parents. Is a loving foster home better than an institutional setting? Yes, but when I hear of black children being literally dragged, kicking and screaming, out of social service offices and taken away as if they were being separated from parents at a slave auction, then my heart grieves for the future of these children. What happens to black children who are torn from their black families and placed with white families that live in isolated white communities where these children are the only one or two in all white schools? What happens to the psyche of these children who have been uprooted and torn away from the black side of their families? These are realities that black children are facing all across this country as racist drug law enforcement disproportionately affects black men and women. Where are the Nelson Mandela’s crying in the wilderness to stop this “new” prison apartheid?