While on safari in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park in November, I saw a small bird hopping along our trail. One wing hung low, broken. Unable to fly, the bird kept up a frenzied pace on foot ahead of our Jeep. It never left the trail of red earth. Perhaps we were less of a danger than what lurked in the bushes and shrubs. I learned from our Uganda Wildlife Authority guide that the bird was a “water thick-knee,” one of more than six hundred bird species living in the 764-square-mile park in the Albertine Rift Valley. Organized for international media by the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, our safari took place three days before the opening of the Africa Travel Association’s 39th Congress at the Speke Hotel Resort Munyonyo, just outside Kampala, capital of Uganda.
“It will be eaten soon,” a colleague from Italy said of the thick-knee. I responded, “Perhaps its wing will heal on its own and it will fly again.”
I no longer am optimistic about racial healing and equality for Blacks in the United States in the near future. Many believe it is open season on our men and boys for local police and big media. Neither am I cheery about the chances of another Black person occupying the White House. The feeble support for the 44th and current president of the United States from his own political party and the venom directed his way by Republicans, segments of the U.S. population and highly placed private individuals — none of which has anything to do with the normal wrangle and tangle of politics, and which did not spare his wife and children — make me pray for the end of President Obama’s term as hard as I prayed for him to win the presidency.
The business and economic landscape, too, is disheartening. New Credit Suisse research puts the mean net worth of African-American households at roughly $98,000, compared to $630,000 for white households. In 2013, New York City agencies spent $16.4 million with Black businesses, less than half the amount they spent with businesses owned by any other ethnicity.
What do we do? What most of us already are doing: Focus on striving for excellence in our chosen professions and in academic pursuits; on building globally competitive businesses; on innovatively addressing our very real social and economic challenges; on preserving and extolling the awesomeness of our history that predates slavery by thousands of years; on never succumbing to the taunts and machinations of those who wish us ill; on leaving a footprint as individuals of dignity, who gave our best to our families, our country and to the world. Focus on these things, not to prove our worth to others, but because it is the right thing to do for ourselves. That we have achieved so much in our circumstance — indeed, that others copy our style — speaks volumes of our worth.
I do not know the fate of the thick-knee with the broken wing. Its chances of survival were fifty-fifty. I do know this: The United States will have a broken wing as long as it denies Blacks equal treatment in law enforcement and economic opportunity. That gives it a fifty-fifty chance of surviving as the leader of the community of nations.
At a billion and growing in Africa alone, Blacks are not at risk. America is.