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Keep the momentum going

66.2 percent of registered blacks went to the polls, compared with 64.1 percent of whites.

Melvin B. Miller

Boston — Accounts of distinguished and successful African American individuals are rarely in the news. Reports of blacks in difficulty are far more common and almost always have a negative aspect. Stories about the poor in America have created the impression among some whites that poverty is essentially a black malady. It is unusual for African Americans to be lauded for an ethnic achievement.

In America’s competitive society, everyone wants to be a winner, to be number one. According to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau, blacks had the highest percentage of registered voters go to the polls in the November presidential election. This is the first time that blacks as a group outperformed whites on Election Day. In 2008, black women had the highest turnout, but the lagging males brought the average down.

According to the report, 66.2 percent of registered blacks went to the polls, compared with 64.1 percent of whites. The general turnout rate was 61.8 percent across the country. Efforts to reduce the black vote with voter ID laws and long lines at the polls ultimately failed. Political pundits agree that the magnitude of the black vote was a significant contribution to Obama’s re-election last November.

While blacks constitute only 12.3 percent of the U.S. population according to the 2010 census, its solid vote for the Democratic candidate can affect the result of elections. An estimated 93 percent voted for Obama in 2012, and that helped him win. Republican statisticians had grossly underestimated the size of the black vote. They assumed, incorrectly, that the “Obama effect” had worn off.

There is nothing in the political posture of the Republican Party to induce African Americans to abandon their wholesale support of the Democrats. The more important issue now is for black voters to remain committed to voting in every election. The assertion of political power is essential to the development of strategies to build black wealth.

As of November 2012, black voters were number one. They had the highest turnout. They must be vigilant to maintain that supremacy. This is no time to rest on one’s laurels. There will always be challengers to unseat the champion.

Financial goals are a priority

There is a practical reason for African Americans being politically active. That is the only way they can have the clout to be sure affirmative action plans for government employment and contracts are being properly administered.

Opponents of affirmative action assert that the policy results in reverse discrimination. Such an objection could be reasonably made for a poorly designed plan. However, a proper plan should assure that no citizen or minority-owned company is denied an opportunity to perform any service for the government because of race.

According to Bloomberg News, in the absence of an effective affirmative action plan in Los Angeles, white-owned firms were able to obtain 92 percent of the city’s $2.1 billion in contracts last year. Only 14 percent of the city’s population is white. The report did not indicate the number of qualified minority businesses competing for the city’s business.

The L.A. experience indicates that it is not enough just to have political clout. African Americans must reach out and compete in the business world in order to convert political acumen into jobs and wealth.