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The inauguration of hope

By ELAINE WILLIAMS

November 4, 2008 is a historic day, not just for people of color, but for all people-nationally and globally. It is a day of change, hope and solidarity. On November 4, the votes were tallied and it was determined that this great nation had elected an African American, a bi-racial American and, more importantly, a true American, to the Presidency of the United States. On November 5, the obligatory, eristic question was asked: “What does this mean to African Americans?” The answers ranged from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream had been realized to racism had ceased to exist in the United States.

To find the true answer, we have to look to the youth. It is important to note that our youth voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. Barack Obama’s candidacy electrified our younger generation. “Change” and “Yes We Can” became convincing and believable.

The time was ripe for change. The state of our country has adversely affected us all in some manner. Arguably, our youth has never been so involved, so active and so excited about a Presidential campaign. To our youth as a whole, the election of Barack Obama means that we have elected the candidate best suited for the daunting challenges that this nation faces. We elected an individual who is qualified, respected and sincere. He just happens to be African American. However, to our youth of color, the election of Barack Obama has additional significance. It speaks volumes that this man who has energized our country is African American. A different yet palpable role model exists for our youth of color.

I watched in awe as young African Americans were interviewed after the election. All were emotional in different ways: some choked back tears, some screamed, some laughed and some danced. But they all had one emotion in common: exuberant pride. Racism does not always rear its ugly head and, if it does, it can be overcome and it can be defeated. That is the single most important facet of the election of an African American President.

The inauguration of Barack Obama on Tuesday, January 20 doesn’t mean that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has been realized in its entirety, but we have demonstrative evidence that it can be realized. We can judge an individual by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Racism still exists and has not been eradicated by this election. However, Barack Obama has crushed a racial barrier to the most powerful position in the United States. All African Americans have renewed faith that racial barriers can be crushed and overcome in any area. Our youth have seen first hand that they can achieve any goal no matter what obstacles are placed in their path. The election of Barack Obama is proof positive that racial barriers can be demolished.

What does this past election mean to African Americans? It means hope, it means change and it means “Yes We Can!”

(Elaine Williams is the president of the Sullivan County Chapter of the NAACP.)