Monday, October 4, 2010

What Obama Means To America

I, like millions of African-Americans was quite surprised and happy that Senator Barack Obama became President Barack Obama. I was always worried that there would be some last minute snafu, some last minute "rule change", some silly law from 1921 that they would find that would make electing someone named Barack illegal. But he won both the primary and the general elections becoming our 44th President.

Now, I for one was not surprised at the vehemence of the extreme right, (and some of the moderate right that became extreme) after some of them realized that there was a black man in charge of the free world. There is going to be some angst that comes along with such a change from the norm. Nor was I one of these people that believed Obama would magically usher in a new consciousness about race, and that we would all stop hating one another. While, I do agree that his election means that the tide is turning, especially among the Millennials and the rest of the youth, all you really have to do is read anything in the "comments" section of  a Yahoo news article about the  President, or play any Xbox/PlayStation games with a headset to know we are not in a "post-racial" society...(whatever that is).

     That bit of sobering, but unsurprising news aside there is an item some have overlooked, one part of the story that fascinates me, and makes me feel good to be an American. The story of Barack Obama's ascension to the Presidency of the United States of America may be one of the only cases where a member of the minority culture, (especially a culture that has been victimized by state sponsored discrimination) had been elected to the highest office in the land. That is something to be proud of, from a nation building point of view. Now, there have been cases where members of the minority in a country took over, and subjugated the people through torture and force of arms, (South Africa and Iraq) there have been cases where the minority in a country ran the country through imperialism, (India under British rule)

     But I cannot think of many cases where the minority in any country has been allowed, through democratic means to rise to the most powerful position in that country, and historically never has a country done that when they were a World Power. You think a Palestinian will ever be Prime Minister of Israel, or a Irishman presiding over British Parliament (let alone have a West Indian or Pakistani Prime Minister) , or a Muslim President of India. This phenomenon is not common, it should be acknowledged and celebrated.

     And while we as Americans have a long way to go when it comes to matters of diversity, let alone race. While it is true that there are people out there claiming Obama is a secret: Muslim, Communist, Nazi Kenyen. And it is very true that there is a lot of work to be done to get us anywhere close to a society that Dr. King would be proud of. It behooves us, that while we are on this journey that we don't overlook the milestones. And I believe it was a major milestone, that in a country that embraced, Jim Crow, slavery & segregation, in 2008, 66 million Americans voted for a minority to be leader of the free world, defender of the Constitution, and President of these United States of America. That included three former confederate states, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. And regardless of the backlash we are seeing now, the fact that we as a nation were able to even make it to the point where such a backlash was possible gives me HOPE for the future of my county..... and to quote a man I admire.

"In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope."
-President Barack Obama

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