Change in America: What does it really mean?

It’s been a couple of weeks for us to have it sink in. We now have a young, smart, black man as the president elect. I honestly do not think that before November 4, 2008 the last time we as Americans collectively shed so many tears was September 11, 2001. But back then it was fear, pain, and despair. This time is was joy, pride, and HOPE.

So what now? What will be different in OUR everyday lives? It means different things for different people.

To our friends in other countries it means that America may not be the pathetic, ignorant, behind the times society trapped in vestiges of the bad old days when white people believed brown skin was a badge of intrinsic inferiority. The fact that only about 13% of our population is black but that Barack Obama won the presidential election by a large margin means that there were a lot of white people here judging Obama by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. That or they were sick of Republican rule. Either way, this election result could not have occurred if the majority of Americans held on to the old prejudices of the past. Some of my modern European friends could not even understand the concept of skin color being any sort of indicator of any person’s intelligence, ability, or worth. They are hopeful that America is emerging from the dark ages and is now more socially sophisticated than they thought.

For America as a whole this election means that we have turned a page in our turbulent racial history. Although race relations in this country could still use a lot more improvement, the few isolated white people who have never personally knew a smart, capable, and ethical black person will be exposed on a regular basis now to such a person front and center, in the White House. When the leader of the free world (when the United States again becomes a world leader rather than bully) is a black man, somehow the n-word loses loses much of its intensity. Derogatory terms generally have more power when the intended is already disempowered. Who cares what a bunch of toothless backwards people call you if you know you can do better if you choose to?

For young black people having Obama as the president must end the era of pity and blame. No longer can people choose mediocrity and blame their failures on racism, economics, or family structure. Our men will soon discover that there are more options in life than becoming a sports star or rap artist. The nerdy ones can feel free to pursue their true interests and to excel in them without feeling the need to conform to the stereotypical habits of their peers.

Just because we have a black president-elect does not mean that everything is going to be just rosy. But where there is hope, there is possibility.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Daurie
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 11:21:07

    Thanks Lisa, you profoundly put into words my thoughts about the contagious feeling of change and hope that many of us have been feeling since that historic day on Nov. 4. I had an incident just last week that dealt w/ the fact that while Pres. Elect Obama’s victory is a sign that many of us see as an extremely positive one, we still have those toothless backwards people around us. While keeping them off the planet might be tempting, we must coexist w/ them and they w/ us. This woman’s comment to me was that everyone she’d spoken to was anxious or fearful about Obama’s lack of experience. I was incensed by this comment and a short, but tense exchange took place between us. Looking back I think the better way to handle this type of situation – for we know that similar situations/comments will come – instead I might engage this person in exactly what their fears are rather than the blanket statements of anxiety that seem to run rampant among such small-minded people. There are those that I won’t even waste my breath, but for some having such an exchange about exactly what their fears are, could be a step in the right direction and hopefully a changed perspective. These are the discussions that our new President has inspired us to have as we try to live in a more United States of America.


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