Friday, April 18, 2008

Some thoughts on Obama

(This is Mary.)

Can anyone really believe how this election cycle has played out? I can't. I won't recap everything here--I'm not sure that I could. But I would like to share some thoughts on Obama and why I think we need him as president.

Yesterday on the subway, I had the lovely privilege of sitting near a young man who was standing in front of me (with his back to me), talking to a girl he knew from school (they looked to be about 16). The young man's clothes were clean, but he was wearing his pants underneath his rump, and every time he moved even a little bit, I got a lovely view of his underwear when his shirt rode up a little bit. I have never understood this way of dressing--and don't these guys get embarrassed by the fact that they have to walk like penguins so their pants don't fall down? Not exactly manly looking.

Not only that, but every other word out of his mouth was, let's just say, not as clean as his clothes. It was disgusting. What made it even more uncomfortable was the fact that he was standing right in front of an elderly woman, who then had to listen to this language.

The kid wasn't mad or anything. It was just the way he talked. And it was just the way his female friend talked, too.

They happened to be black/African-American (I hesitate to always say African-American, because many people of color here are not simply African. So please, don't make comments that I'm not being politically correct.)

I hear this sort of thing all the time on the subway: young black/African-American people who use curse words like they're meaningless, who recite hate-filled rap music with or without their headphones on, who dress like wannabe gangsters and try to appear tough.

Don't get mad: I'm not talking about ALL young black/African-Americans. But there are a good number of them as I described who ride the subway with me every day.

When Bill Cosby made his remarks a few years about about young black people needing to use proper grammar, he was roundly criticized. But honestly, can you really see someone who speaks the way this kid on the subway does working in a Wall Street job? Or any job that requires pants that actually come up to his waistline?

My point is simply this: While lots of people are now calling Obama an "elitist," I think that comment is really a form of racism. Lots of folks are uncomfortable seeing a black man who went to Ivy League schools, who is successful and charismatic. It just doesn't fit the stereotype, you see, of the young man in the subway.

But couldn't seeing someone like Obama achieve the presidency do wonders for young black men in this country? Might Obama have the power to change the way some of these young men think about what it means to be black? What it means to be a man?

Obama could become the first real, high-profile role model these young people have ever had. Just his presence in the White House could have a major impact on how they view themselves and their race.

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