SIGNE Wilkinson's editorial cartoon of Dec. 15 featuring Bill Clinton and Oprah on the stump really ticked me off. It suggests that African-Americans are lead blindly into polling places and depend on celebrities to tell us who to vote for. It also implies that we think Bill Clinton is black, which I find hilarious.

I usually appreciate Signe's sense of humor, but this rubbed me the wrong way. Although I loudly applaud Oprah for stepping up and generating so much support for Barack Obama, I'm incensed by the notion that black people don't know how to cast an educated, intelligent vote without celebrity influence.

No doubt Oprah's endorsement of Sen. Obama for president will boost his numbers and has the potential to bring votes he might otherwise miss out on. But not just black votes. Oprah is certain to bring out a lot of female voters from various races as well. Black folks are not a monolith, because if we were, we would have made a lot more economic progress than we have.

In his book "Powernomics: The national plan to empower black America," economist Claude Anderson, calls wealth inequity one of the two biggest problems facing African-Americans. Unfortunately, the reasons behind it go far beyond the government's refusal to give us a fair shot.

We do it to ourselves every time we spend dollars outside our own communities. Many of us also make the mistake, as Signe suggests in her cartoon, of allowing others to tell us what's best for us. The fact is, African-Americans have many different perspectives and come from a variety of social and economical realities.

The idea that black folks stick together in any fashion is also pure myth. It's been shown time and again that our political views are split, as shown by the endorsement of Hillary Clinton by both Mayor Street and his successor to be, Michael Nutter.

I assume that for Nutter, as with the mayor, backing Clinton makes political sense for reasons that only they and their political advisers understand.

Neither endorsement will sway my vote. Nor will they change the fact that the economic forecast for many blacks is bleak these days. Especially here in Philadelphia, where more than a third of the city's African-Americans live in poverty.

ACCORDING TO the newly released State of Black Philadelphia report unveiled by the Urban League black folks suffer from higher rates of unemployment, illness, hunger and death and are more likely to become victims of crime and be murdered, than any other ethnic group in this city.

Despite the fact that we've had two black mayors and represent 44 percent of the city's population, we are still lacking in all social trends - and in economic participation in particular.

The reality is, no matter who has been in charge here, institutional racism is deeply embedded, and African-Americans do not receive a fare share of jobs or contracts.

It's high time that we reverse these trends.

IN THE PLAY "A Day of Absence," playwright Douglas Turner Ward sets a scenario of black people staging a sickout in a small southern town to show the tremendous impact the black community makes on the economy.

Reverse that scenario, and we find that collectively, African-Americans generate more than $800 billion a year across the nation, yet less than 10 percent of this money is spent in our own communities. In order for African-Americans to make greater strides in our own political and economic future, we must share a common vision that works toward the uplifting of all black people. Unfortunately, it's unlikely this will happen here any time soon, and that's a great travesty.

Bernard Anderson, professor of management at the Wharton School at Penn, who authored the essay on race and economics in the State of Black Philadelphia report, says that the Urban League's study shows a perfect storm of problems - and an opportunity for African-Americans to cash in on unfulfilled promises made during this and previous administrations.

African-Americans must stop voting blindly, just because some celebrity tells us what we need. We also need to stop waiting for politicians to give us our fair share and promote our own economic empowerment.

That means, if blacks demand our fair share of contracts from the government, we must also build up our own businesses by patronizing them. Perhaps my outrage at Signe's cartoon is also fueled by a small glimmer of truth, that many black folks are lead by people who don't share the same economic realities.

Black economic empowerment is a major key for the success of the race. It's also something, that white folks who are guilty of promoting institutional racism, fear the most. *

Fatimah Ali is a regular contributor. E-mail her at