By Cheryl Lacey Donovan
Elated, hopeful, encouraged, inspired all of these are descriptors for how I feel one day after the Presidential election of 2008. It’s amazing to believe, however, the fearful, leery, and watchful are also feelings that reside in my heart.
Yes, change has come to America. Now what? The election of Barack Obama as the first African American President of the United States has sent shockwaves around the world. People as far away as Japan were celebrating a black man in the White House. His election has released a new spirit of goodwill towards the United States, the likes we haven’t seen in years. Many are in fact amazed that we as a nation have come so far in spite of an ever present racial divide.
Frances Junior Minister of Human Rights likened Obama’s election to the falling of the Berlin wall.
As I think about it, I wonder how white people must feel. For years, they have essentially run the country. Yet, never before, at least as far as I can tell, there has never been this much world wide celebration over our election process. What does this really mean? Were people around the globe waiting for change just as much as we were?
Secondly, I think about black people. What’s the next step? Do we really believe Obama will be able to solve all of our problems? Will he be able to single handedly make the changes we so long for? Is it even fair to expect him too? After all, he was elected for the people by the people. That includes all the people, not just black people.
Obama faces global challenges as momentous as the hopes his campaign inspired — wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the elusive hunt for peace in the Middle East and a global economy in turmoil. He literally bears the weight of the world on his shoulders. The change we are expecting must begin with each of us. We are individually and collectively responsible for effectuating our own changes. The election itself is a great example of what can be done when a people, any people, come together to make a difference.
It is this sense of collective responsibility that Barack Obama symbolizes. Therefore, if we are truly to realize change, we must embrace the fundamental ideas of teamwork, collective accountability, and individual responsibility.
Gone are the days of blaming the white man for our failures. If you refuse to get off the couch and look for work, then you can’t blame the white man because you have no job. If you believe you are too good to work menial jobs, (even though many of our ancestor’s work whenever and wherever they could to make sure their families survived) because they don’t pay enough, yet you refuse to go to school to get an education. Shame on you not the white man. If you drop out of school because you become pregnant and continue to have baby after baby after baby by men who have no intentions of being responsible towards you or your children. It’s not the white mans fault that you are on welfare. Just because the white man may have brought in the crack cocaine did not give you a right to sell it among your brothers nor did it mean you had to use it. No, you crack addiction is not the white man’s fault either.
It’s all about choices. The time is now for us as a people to choose to do what’s best for ourselves, our families, and our people. Stop looking to the next guy for change. Let the change begin with you.
Fostering and protecting healthy families is the most important responsibility a community can assume. Family is the first school, and family members are the first teachers. Strong families are the cultivators of the habits that make reliable workers, entrepreneurs, and employers. Caring families create the characteristics of effective political and social leaders. Education, economics, and politics are all of great importance, but without family and community leading the way, they fall short. The family is the common denominator for change.
Talking about the youngsters on the street corners with their pants hangin’ around their ankles may be commonplace, but it doesn’t lead to change. Instead try talking to the teens and making an effort to understand them. Take a lesson from Barack and seek to bridge the gaps that exist. Instead of gossiping about the teenage mother who lives down the street with her children, why not reach out to her, offer her some support, some respite, some guidance. We must change our mindset as we attempt to change the world.
Barack needs our help to build one nation under God. Our time is now. Are you ready for the challenge? Will each of you who stood in line for hour to vote, to caucus, or to volunteer, continue to stand up for yourselves? It’s time to turn Obama’s inspiration into activism.