“We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America, open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag. To the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner. To the furniture worker’s child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president — that’s the future we hope for. That’s the vision we share. That’s where we need to go — forward. That’s where we need to go.” –President Barack Obama
The very first blog I wrote was entitled “2012 and Black Male Perception”. That blog dealt with how African-American men would see themselves at year’s end while dealing with the Trayvon Martin case and 2012 Election. The Martin case does not go to trial until next year, but in this year’s election President Obama was re-elected ensuring his presidency would not become a historical footnote, President Obama now has the chance to become a great president, but to millions of Americans, primarily African-Americans, President Obama is more than a president, he is a role model, a way of living, an idea.
To a new generation of African-American men President Obama serves as a role model. When I wake up every morning and look at myself in the mirror I honestly believe that I can achieve any goals I set for myself in part because of what President Obama was able to achieve. When I see his family, I understand the importance of being a faithful husband and loving father. When I see him speak, I do not just see a president, I see an African-American representing a country that would have denied him the right to vote just 50 years ago and stand in amazement at how he was able to overcome the many obstacles he faced to get to where he is. I can only hope other African-American men see the same things I see in President Obama.
Here are a few troubling statistics for African-American males from the Morehouse Male Initiative:
- Only 41% of Black men graduate from high school in the United States.
- Just 22 % of Black males who began at a four-year college graduated within six years.
- 1.46 million Black men out of a total voting population of 10.4 million have lost their right to vote due to felony convictions.
- One in three Black men between the ages of 20 and 29 years old is under correctional supervision or control.
- In 1986, before mandatory minimums for crack offenses became effective, the average federal drug offense sentence for Black was 11% higher than for Whites. Four years later, following the implementation of harsher drug sentencing laws, the average federal drug offense sentence was 49% higher for Blacks.
- Blacks account for only 12% of the U.S. population but 44% of all prisoners in the United States are Black.
- Of Black males born this year, 29% can expect to spend some time behind bars. One in 14 Black children has a parent in jail or prison. One in 20 Black men is incarcerated, compared with one in 155 White men. For every three Black men in college, four are in prison.
Also, keep in mind the nearly 70% of African-American children are born to single parents, primarily mothers, which puts many young African-American children at an early disadvantage.
I just hope that President Obama is viewed as more than just a president by African-Americans, that he is viewed as a new way of living. We no longer have to look at rappers and ball players in our community as role models, we can look at the leader of the Free World and know with hard work and dedication we can become anything we set our mind to.
Presidents come and go, role models rise and fall, but President Obama as an idea of what an African-American can be will stand the test of time. That is why in so many ways President Obama is more than just a president.