Saturday, November 3, 2012

President Obama and Racial Division in America

Dr Michael Brown
Before Barack Obama was elected as our 44th president, I issued a warning to my radio listeners: As much as I was eager to see a black man (and black family) in the White House, if he was the wrong man for the job, rather than bringing greater racial unity to America, he would bring greater racial strife.

I truly wish I had been wrong about this, but the facts speak for themselves. And clearly, this is not rocket science.

For the most part, a white, Hispanic, or Asian vote for Barack Obama in 2008 demonstrated that Americans were not going to let the color of his skin stop them from voting for him. They wanted an alternative to George Bush (and they saw John McCain as another President Bush). They were sick of the wars or they were convinced that a change was needed to improve the economy or they were impressed with Obama’s charismatic personality and vision.

Whatever it was that got their vote, Obama’s blackness didn’t stand in the way, and this in itself was a major step in the right direction for America. A vote like this would have been completely unthinkable just one generation ago (if not even less), let alone two generations ago. And there were many white Americans who actually voted for Obama because of his skin color, feeling that a vote for Obama was a vote for history, for justice, for healing.

To put this in perspective, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947 (and so, after World War II), he received numerous death threats and needed special security. And before Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974, he received death threats from baseball fans who did not want to see a black man beat Babe Ruth’s record. And, as hard as it is to believe, it was not until 2000 that Alabama officially overturned its laws against interracial marriage. Yet in 2008, we elected our first black president.

I was working out in a local gym shortly after the elections when my trainer, a soft spoken black man in his 30’s, told me that he never dreamed he would see a black president in his lifetime. Other black men and women told me what this meant to them as parents: They could genuinely tell their kids that anything was possible in America.

I was deeply moved to hear these things and took them to heart, encouraging my radio audience to pray that Barack Obama would be the greatest president in our nation’s history, which would have made for an incredible story.

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