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Point of View — A Historic Election, A Historic Candidate

African American support for Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is not monolithic. Senator Obama’s policy goals, the historical significance of his candidacy, and a sense of pride are a few of the reasons he has garnered so much support from African American voters.

Overwhelming African American support for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign belies the myriad reasons why blacks in the U.S. and abroad support his candidacy. Media sound bites have condensed African American support to an inferior kind: mere affinity with the color of Obama’s skin. Unquestionably, Barack Obama represents the very best of the black Diaspora, but he also represents the very best of America. African Americans, like so many Americans who have supported Obama’s campaign, believe in his vision of restoring America’s economic might and fundamentally changing how the U.S. is perceived abroad. I personally am filled with hope because I believe Senator Obama will pursue a twenty-first century policy agenda that includes foreign policy led by diplomacy and not force or fear, promoting alternatives to U.S. dependence on foreign oil, improving public education, and an overhaul of our health care system.

Yet, it is not merely a fresh perspective and a bold policy prescription that underlies support for Obama. Obama’s candidacy has gripped the consciousness and imaginative hope of this nation. African Americans, in particular, are hopeful that Senator Obama’s campaign is a barometer of the progress America has made on race. His success affirms the fact that intelligence and merit and not race, religion, or ethnicity determine the success of blacks and other minorities.

It goes without saying that Obama’s ascent to the highest office in America cannot be viewed outside of the historical context of the harrowing struggle by African Americans to secure civil rights. Those who witnessed and participated in the civil rights movement are especially moved to see the remarkable social transformation that makes Senator Obama’s story possible.

However, many African Americans are also deeply concerned that if Obama becomes President, some Americans will believe that the playing field is leveled, and no more needs be done to achieve equality. However, derisive and racist undertones of campaign rhetoric are indication enough that while the U.S. is heading the right direction, discrimination still exists. RC Nana Kankam believes, “Barack’s success is an inspiration, yet it is also a call to action. While he is achieving great things, his story is still atypical of the average African American experience, or that of any marginalized group”

Contrary to what much of the media presents, African Americans are not simply motivated by racial affinity to Obama, but rather the sum of complexities involving socio-economic levels, education and other generational differences. Still, I would be remiss to omit any discussion of the sense of pride that many African Americans do feel.

“To the African-American community and to people of African descent more broadly.Obama’s candidacy and nomination have aroused [feelings of] pride,” says RC Jean-Claude Homawoo. I hear in the voices of my family and friends both a sense of pride and near disbelief that America, a nation still so divided, may soon elect the first black President”. RC Ade Okunubi, offered that “not only will black people across the nation feel a sense of pride, but people of color across the world[that] a minority can rise to the pinnacle of power in the one of the most powerful, racially divided, and historically significant nations ine history..”

In these final days, I and so many other African Americans are holding our collective breaths until history is made. Win or lose, we as a nation are forever changed by Obama’s achievements in this campaign.

October 27, 2008
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