By Todd A. Smith
November 28, 2008 was one of those magical moments in world history. Most people remember where they were when they heard the news that Barack Hussein Obama would be the first African American president in United States history.
The euphoria that the African American community felt was surreal. After generations of struggle and hardship, the dream that Dr. Martin King, Jr. had in 1963 had come to fruition. The fact that Obama was set to become the 44th president was almost like a dream.
That high that permeated the African American community was intoxicating, but two months into Obama’s presidency, the high has been transformed into sobriety. The fact that we have an African American president is now normal, and Obama is beginning to face the scrutiny that is inevitable for the leader of the free world.
Although it may be back to business as usual in the African American community, what will happen if the euphoria that children of color felt by seeing a president that looks like them begins to wear off as well? Will it be back to business as usual for young African American children also?
Many African Americans will agree that the lack of positive role models in our communities is one of the main reasons that the achievement gap between our children and their White counterparts has continuously grown. For many of them, before Obama’s historic victory, it was almost unfathomable to think that they could achieve certain things because many did not see positive African American role models on a daily basis.
Unfortunately for many in the African American community, especially young males, the lack of a father figure and an exorbitant amount of nefarious individuals in the neighborhood gave many a negative self-image of themselves. Many falsely believed that becoming a doctor, lawyer or even president was impossible because they simply did not see many people of color in those positions. The positive role models that they celebrated usually were celebrities like musicians and athletes.
The fact that we have an African American as president is the biggest indicator that young African American children can achieve anything their hearts desire. However, Obama’s presence in the Oval Office is not enough to change the mindset of many youngsters in the African American community, who unfortunately will go back to business as usual, if their elders do the same thing.
All of us must continue to reach out to those youngsters who are in need of mentors or just a little assistance to help them reach their goals in life. As we become successful and move to suburbia, we must not forget those who are less fortunate or forget where we come from. For most of us, if it had not been for a parent, pastor, coach, teacher or mentor, the word success would not even be part of our personal vocabulary.
Like Obama has said, parents must turn the television off on weeknights and make sure their children are doing their homework. There needs to be after-school programs for disadvantaged children who might be lured into the street life because their parents are not home because they are forced to work late nights. Furthermore, there must be jobs waiting for those in the African American community who seek higher learning as a way out of their current situation.
Successful African Americans, especially men, must continue to volunteer for organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club or participate in your local school’s career day, because like it or not Obama cannot do it alone, and children are most likely to be influenced by people that they interact with regularly, regardless if that role model is positive or negative.
The question is will you do your part to make sure African American children are influenced in a positive manner, because there are many influences out there that will not assist our children in reaching their full potential?
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.