Matthew Bigg, Reuters, July 29, 2008
But black leaders argue that problems like discrimination, police brutality and unfairness in the legal system are still rife and they remain committed to fighting them.
Beyond that, many African-Americans lag behind the overall population in social standards, like health, education, income and employment, and protest remains an effective way to bring change, as it was during the civil rights heyday, they say.
Although blacks account for around 12 percent of the U.S. population, 44 percent of all prisoners in the United States are black, according to U.S. census data, and the number of blacks in prison has quadrupled since 1980.
The income of an average black family is 58 percent of that of an average white family’s, according to a 2007 study.
The issue of the different roles played by Obama, who is the Democratic presidential candidate, and civil rights leaders came into focus this month after comments by veteran black campaigner Jesse Jackson on Obama.
The issues that concern blacks have shifted from generation to generation. Sharpton, 53, said he had more in common with Obama and other elected black politicians such as Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and New York Gov. David Paterson because they were all similar in age.
Older civil rights leaders like Jackson had their roots in the South but a new generation was more in tune with issues such as corporate discrimination, he said.
Several black Americans said there was still a role for protest even if Obama were president. They cited a rally last September in Jena, Louisiana, as evidence that young people had not lost their appetite to protest.
Tens of thousands attended the rally in support of six black teenagers accused over the beating of a white schoolmate.