Obama has raised the bar

The sight of President Barack Obama taking the oath of office was especially gratifying for most African Americans, citizens who have suffered under generations of hatred and bigotry.

President Obama’s ascendance to the White House without doubt is a real game-changer in the arena of American politics. White Americans, including former President George Bush and others who did not vote for him, are openly pulling for our newly elected president.

Has the burden of race finally been lifted in the land of the free? According to a Washington Post story on the eve of the inauguration, — “Far Fewer Consider Racism a Big Problem” — issues of race and prejudice are not as significant as in times past.

Assuredly, President Obama’s political success is like most things: there will be intended and unintended consequences.

Many of the intended consequences, symbolic and tangible, will be welcomed by Americans regardless of race and ethnicity. America’s first African American president is as much about white America as black America — there will be a new perspective on race from this day forward.

Has the civil rights generation achieved its goals? In fairness to both sides of the debate, the issue does warrant a serious discussion.

President Obama said, “The world has changed and we must change with it; we must choose hope over fear.” I am aware that the president’s comments were probably meant in another context, but I cannot help but make a domestic application, an application that causes me to take a look at myself, since that is where real change always begins.

America forever changed Jan. 20 and African Americans must find a way to change with it. I am not suggesting that the NAACP, America’s oldest civil rights organization, relinquish its charter. However, I am suggesting that after 100 years of righteous struggle, recent events would dictate tweaking the game plan.

On Father’s Day last year, then-candidate Obama spoke at a church service, urging black men to be responsible fathers for their children. His comments met fierce condemnation from some of those preferring to cling to a mentality of hopelessness and victimization. But the time for change is now. I hope black leaders are reading the fine print.

Playing the race card in hope of advancing the cause of black people took a serious blow on inauguration day. Sometimes success has unintended consequences. Depending on your view, this is either a good thing or a bad thing. The president’s accomplishment has raised the bar for all black folks.

For me, it’s all good. Perhaps Obama said it best when he argued, “Today is a new era of responsibility.” Right on, my brother! Let’s become responsible parents like America’s first family, emphasizing discipline, hard work and a commitment to hit the books and turn off the TV and video games.

I am not saying that racism does not still exist. Moreover, I am strongly suggesting that, in spite of racism, blacks have demonstrated the ability to overcome. Jim Crow hasn’t been completely eliminated, but it has been effectively neutralized.

The question now is, can we overcome ourselves? The 21st-century civil rights battleground is arguably as much in our homes for the sake of our children as it is on the streets. Who bears the greater responsibility for providing guidance for the hearts and minds of this generation?

I am not convinced government dollars alone can fix teenage pregnancies, substance abuse and our young people killing each other. I am most certain that finger-pointing at other races is not a viable solution.

I have hope for America and hope for Fayetteville, too. Racial baggage has taken its toll on our community as well. Admittedly, a pretty convincing argument could be made that I have at times been a part of the problem.

I cannot change the past, but I can sincerely commit my remaining years to embracing the progressive ideas of this marvelous new president. He spoke to my heart on inauguration day. I received his call for responsibility and service to community. I understand that we need to learn how to disagree with civil discourse. Political opponents are individuals with opposing views, not the enemy. Financial, strategic and tactical superiority does not always translate into racism or an unfair advantage — sometimes it means the other side has a better game plan.

Only time will tell if President Obama can fulfill his promises. I have a feeling that if we hold up our end, he will stand a better-than-good chance of fulfilling our dreams.

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