by Princella Smith - Guest blogger; Washington, DC
Bill Cosby portrayed it: an upper middle-class, successfully educated African-American family. Dr. King dreamed of it, spoke of it, and gave his life for it. Slaves and then civil rights activists were jailed, beaten, and died for it: for the day when not only would a person of color be allowed into the White House but would run the White House.
It’s been a long time coming, but the American minority has officially reached the highest American ceiling, and that’s a testament to the maturity of this country.
I say this as someone who disagrees with Obama ideologically. I believe in the notion that less is more when it comes to government. I believe in individual responsibility and ownership. I believe that more funding to schools will not replace the need for school reform and teacher accountability. I believe that people should be allowed to invest in their own individual social security accounts and that any extra money in the account can be left to family members at death. I believe in a comprehensive energy plan that includes drilling for American resources while developing alternative forms of energy. My official trek into politics was jumpstarted by Republicans. I have held true to most of party’s ideals, BUT I AM American enough to see the patriotism in celebrating the history of this moment.
An Obama Presidency doesn’t mean that bigotry is over. For as long as there is diversity in America, there will be prejudice, racism, and ignorance. No longer do we have to wonder: “Is it really true that I can be anything I want to be?” My grandmother says that her first reaction to seeing “President-Elect Barack Obama” on the screen was to remember about 37 years ago when my father was 11 years old. She was waiting with him for my grandfather to arrive from work, and as my grandfather approached them, he had to stop, stoop over, and wipe the dirt from a white man’s shoes before he got into his car. My grandmother took her hand, and turned my then 11 year-old father’s head away so that he would not see his father have to wipe dirt from the white man’s shoes. “That’s what I thought about when I saw ‘President-Elect Barack Obama’ on my television screen,” she said.
The difference today is that African Americans, now more than ever, must follow through on King’s dream. Before Obama’s election, to many, those words were empty because there had been no evidence that America would take a step as huge as electing a person of color to the most powerful position in the entire world, but they did.
And so, my dear African-American brothers and sisters: for each one of you who live in poverty; for each one of you who are surrounded on a vast island of depraved neighborhoods and less than adequate school systems; for each one of you who look for miles but cannot see an example of an educated successful African-American couple with a stable family, just turn on your television, pick up a book, read a magazine, check a newspaper or click on the internet, and realize that THERE IS AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESIDENT with an African-American wife... occupying the White House.
You don’t have to pattern your life after President-elect and Michelle Obama’s, but Obama’s election is an example of what you can have in life if you work hard, discover your personal abilities, and capitalize on them. Men... pull your pants up, tuck your shirts in, and walk upright. Exercise restraint and sexual responsibility. Do not support entertainment that degrades you, your culture, or black women. Cease use of the “N” word. Saying that it “empowers” you is ignorant and shows your lack of knowledge on the origin of the word’s usage.
No doubt, you will face discrimination in your lives. When people say the phrase: “Well now, they have no excuses”, I want to ask them: “So, you thought this entire time that when minorities—particularly African-Americans—have expressed frustration with discrimination that it was just whining??” Clearly, those people just don’t get it. However, Obama’s election should always serve as a testament to ALL Americans that no matter how much discrimination presents itself as a hurdle in the race of life, you can still get to the finish line in America. We live in a great country.
So, aim. Make your own waves, and aim at the highest goals. Surely one of them, you will achieve.
Princella Smith is a political activist. During the day, she is the Chief Advocate at American Solutions, a non-partisan political organization founded by former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.