Does a black president signal a new era of racial equality?
To many people the idea of a black American president was little more than a dream. Even earlier this year there were grave doubts as to whether Obama could win the white votes needed to take the White House. Those doubts have now been answered, but does Obama’s win herald a new era of racial equality or is there a long way to go yet?
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The racial equality maxim now permeates all areas of life.
From 1607 til 1865 black Africans were used as slaves. Despite the abolishment of slavery in 1865 by the Thirteenth Amendment, blacks have frequently been treated as second class citizens. Gradually, due to the efforts of many black people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, black people have gained rights in many areas of life. As black people have been recognised in the prestigious professions, the only area left to gain equality is in government. Obama has now achieved this, completing racial equality in all areas of life.
Although rights mean equality in theory there is no reason that this will actually translate into tangible equality in real life situations. Black people have the 'right' to many prestigious positions in society but even thier gaining this does not mean people will view them as equals. Take Margaret thatcher as an example of this - the first female British Prime Minister, and many people felt this signified the pinnacle of gender equality - however despite her achievements she was often characterised as a man or having male attributes and thus people had not truly accepted that a woman could hold this position.
White people willing to submit to a black man.
In voting a black president, white people are showing a willingness to obey the commands of a black American. The other strides that were made with regards to race seem inconsequential compared to this stride. This is not merely a case of white people being tolerant of black people, allowing them to live their own lives. It is the fundamental acceptance of black people as equals, allowing them to run their lives. This is certainly a new era, not just compliance or tolerance, but a mental and emotional support of a black man reaching the top of the American Dream.
Many people voted McCain too - it is not as if Obama won every state. This means not every American may want to 'submit' to a black president. One of the flaws of democracy is the tyranny of the majority. This means that the majority gets its own way, but is not necessarily indicituve of the wills of everyone. There will still be those that didnt want to - and perhaps wont - obey a black president.
No more blocks on black people’s career paths
The co-existing of black and white people is a small step to equality, the next step is co-existence in the workplace. But here, co existence and a collegial attitude are separate from equality. For equality in the work place, black people need to have unimpeded access to the top jobs. With Obama being so young for a President, surely it shows that such blocks, such difficulty is no longer apparent in the workplace or the government
A black president will make it a priority to promote racial equality
While Obama's election is already a sign of progress, prejudice and inequality undoubtedly persist within American society. However, as a black man, Obama will be far more aware of the difficulties and obstacles confronting ethnic minorities than any of his predecessors, and also far more motivated to address them during his term of office. Therefore, even if the fact of his election itself doesn't represent the end of racism, it does offer a tremendous hope for the future: namely, that an end to racial inequality will be part of the change that Obama's presidency brings.
Obama has not promised to do that. Many things will have priority before that: health care reform, bailouts and the state of the economy will take precedence. Moreover, the prop. is largely giving too much credit to what a president can cause only by his being half black. This is as saying, at Roosevelt presidency's time that a president in a wheelchair would end discrimination against people with disabilities. We know that the Disabilites Act was passed much much later and until then there was rampant discrimination.
It was not race that made people vote for Obama but the need for change
Due to recent events surrounding the US, most notably the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the current economy crisis prompted Americans in general to desire change. It does not matter if the presidential candidate is an African-American, Caucasian-American, Hispanic-American or even Asian-American, as long as the people of USA believe that the candidate can bring about change, stability and security to the country, they will vote for the candidate irrespective of his or her ethnic background, but vote on his or her capability to bring about changes. Hence, the issue here is not on racial equality, where the whites will vote for a black man to be the president. Rather, it is the case of the capability and ideology possessed by the potential president which determine the votes of the people.
If Obama was voted in not due to his race but due to his policies and capabilities, this in itself indicates a huge step forward for racial equality, in that it suggests that American voters' decision-making was motivated by merit, not race. Surely the fact that Americans have made their decision irrespective of race shows true equality - if they voted for Obama only because he was black, it would imply that race is still a ruling factor in society,whereas this election result indicates that America has gone beyond making judgments on the basis of ethinic background and is able to recognize merit wherever it occurs.
Civil Rights need more than symbols
There are still significant civil injustices facing the United States: Housing discrimination is likely to grow worse due to the mortgage crisis and the unwillingness of lenders to lend to first time home-owners; Pay equity remains an issue in the American marketplace; There are reports of discriminatory practices which disenfranchised black voters in this very election. The list could go on for days. There will be a temptation in America to use the election of President-Elect Obama to claim that the issues which still need to be addressed have been solved. Just because the glass ceiling which held down black workers has been broken down in national politics doesn't mean individual states and businesses are ready to accept black leaders or to make significant efforts to bridge the racial gaps which exist in American society. It will be easy to point to the Obama victory and say that the work that needs to be done has been accomplished, and that Americans no longer need national, state and local efforts and legislation to combat racism in their society. A mission accomplished sign here would be as costly and ill-advised as it was on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
What do you think?