Sunday, January 25, 2009

Change has come to the United States of America

Right before the inauguration, I received a text from a friend. She was extremely frustrated at her family's inability to understand the significance of Barack Obama being elected president. I believe the question posed to her was, "What's so historic about this election versus any other?"

Like her, I was at a loss of what to say. How do you explain something so historic to people who truly can't comprehend the significance?? How do you explain that 43 other presidents, the highest leaders of our country, look exactly the same--in gender and skin color--and how that impacts the dreams and ambitions of those who don't look like that?

Understanding our White privilege is hard. Being White, it never mattered to me who was president, what my teachers looked like, what shows were on television, or what dolls I was given. It never mattered because they were all White. There was no reason for me to think about it.

On the other hand, had I been Black, I think I might've been more aware of the fact that no one looked like me. I might not have said anything, but if everything I ever saw were White people in those positions and on the store shelves, I'm sure it would have crossed my mind and affected the way I saw myself in comparison to others. (To help understand and visualize what it's like to be in the minority, check out the movie White Man's Burden.)

Barack Obama's presence in our highest office challenges us to adjust our sense of what is "normal."

Ever tried to find Barack, LaQuisha, Shatavies, or Takisa as one of the names on keychain or a pencil? It's much easier to find Janet, Dave, Susie, or Michael. Will that begin to change?

Watch primetime TV on ABC, CBS, and NBC. How many shows are centered around African-American families? What about other cultures? Now count how many are centered around White families or White people. Will that begin to change?

Some changes are already happening. The Ty company (the one who makes beanie babies) just came out with two African-American dolls named Malia and Sasha. Out of the 30 dolls in the collection, these two are the first African-American dolls. Until now, the company obviously wasn't concerned about deviating from their all-white lineup.

Barack Obama's position as the highest leader of our country causes us to be much more inclusive and representative of our entire country. Barack Obama is intelligent, well-educated, a family man, and one whose many experiences touches upon and connects with every one of us.

Barack Obama challenges the stereotypes our society has created of black men and their families. His presidency is not just about typical presidential duties; it's about how his culture, background, and new generation mindset allows him to interact with people. It is that leadership that sets a tone and makes him a very important and historic president.
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