The election of the first African American president in the United States has triggered a backlash of more than 200 related hate crimes, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In inner-cities and among other marginalized youth however, the Obama victory appears to have sparked an interest in urbanity and civility, according to my own unscientific but sagacious observations.
The meaning of Barack Obama's election, to many African American youth, has revised their definition of manhood from gangsta' to professional, from dumb and don't care to intelligent and passionate, and from falling down pants to well fitting business suits or other more refined attire. Obama's overcoming has also added or is adding hard work, intelligence, dignity, family, and anti-sexism, racism, or classism to the definition of black masculinity and desirability.
What was it in Obama's method, that has been successful in changing the behavior and values of our youth, where our past leadership and parenting efforts have been fruitless? I attribute it to the following:
1. He was blunt and direct in articulating past and present failures rather than becoming an enabler or co-dependent by making excuses for dysfunctional behavior or covering for or minimizing embarassing failures.
2. Yet, he did not allow articulation of failure to become a permanent mantra which would have destroyed the future of our youth, relegating them to a prison of hopelessness so that their lives would have become a self-fulfilling prophecy of the put-downs.
3. Obama exposed his own obstacles and humble life experiences to allow his victory to trumpet the message that "the future ain't like it's always been" and no longer do we have to continue hurting ourselves by internalizing the pain of rejection.
4. Believed in us. The President-elect assumed that concealed somewhere in our tattered existence, was something glorious and very noble and made his appeal to the dignity and the best within us. Obama's certainty that we are still great human beings, more than anything else, separated him from the other candidate, draws the best from within us, and makes the difference in changing our attitudes and behaviors because it restores the hope that unlimited possibilities are now attainable.
For we are saved by hope....