Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Color of Hope

What is the one thing every American child grows up learning? Any one can grow up to be President. Over time, though, we learn that’s not exactly true. "Anyone" technically means American-born citizens (sorry, Arnold). And, up to this point, every president has been a privileged, white male.

What do minorities grow up believing they actually can be? Most don’t have visions of investment bankers or doctors dancing through their heads. Instead, they have images of diamonds and dollars. They want to be Rappers or Running Backs. Those are the options for many minorities. And this is constantly reinforced through a mix of popular culture and reality. But, with the grim statistics of the business world, who wouldn’t want to be famous?

According to 2002 census figures, black men still earn roughly 25 percent less than their white counterparts who have the same level of education. Specifically, the median income for a black man with a high school diploma was $27,224 in 2002, compared to $35,738 for whites. For those with higher educations, the discrepancy is even wider. The median income for a black man with a master's degree was 27 percent less than his white counterpart: $50,763 for blacks versus $69,655 for whites.

And, discrimination doesn’t stop at the paycheck. Many people discriminate without even realizing they’re doing it. Here’s one example (and I’m not making this up): Six weeks into my freshman year at the US Naval Academy, midterm grades came out. Each student has to meet with their superior officer to discuss their grades. Being the outstanding student that I am, I had earned 3.5 and was quite proud of it. So, I sit down with the superior officer, he pulls my grades up on the computer, and says “Wow! You’re actually really smart!” I was shocked. Was this man mentally ill? This is the Naval Academy, not a shopping mall. I had applied, along with everyone else, and was accepted. But, because of my minority status, some people automatically assumed that I was not as capable as my white male counterparts.

And now we come to this historic time. Barak Obama is really a black man. He is very capable and he is running for President of the United States. Every black and brown person should run out and vote for him because he represents the culmination of the Civil Rights movement, right?

In my opinion, this is the wrong attitude. Simply because someone is of a certain race does not mean that they bring any more hope or change than any other candidate. Barak Obama is a great and ambitious man. He is also a privileged man. He graduated from Columbia and Harvard. These are great accomplishments and should be regarded as such. But, has he overcome the struggle that is rampant among so many minority communities? Absolutely not.

If people actually look past the surface of the candidates, they will see that John Edwards is the candidate that has the humble roots. I’m sure you’ve heard it many times, but it’s true; John Edwards is the son of a mill worker. He worked his way through state schools in pursuit of his law degree. John Edwards is a self-made man. He is a prime example of hope and the American dream. Hope does not have a color. Hope is not about race. Hope is a feeling. One can only bring hope if they have the personal experience. John Edwards is that candidate.


RedLetter Rev said...

Exactly, Dear One. I was raised to believe that neither hard work nor reward has a color. Hope doesn't have a color, nor does pride in being the best one can be. Yet, in my old age, I feel the bitter taste of disappointment that we haven't progressed one bit further than the plantation days in our attitudes. I can't decide if our national malaise is due to a long-standing entrenchment of the plantation owners, or has a weariness set in on the part of those of us who have struggled a lifetime against undeserved labels.

Yet, all I know and all many of my age group know is how to keep on keeping on, whether from habit or a need to be freed of the dross and small-mindedness. I'm so relieved that people in your age group are still strong, still understand what real moral values are and are willing to carry the battle yet another generation.

Happy Dr King Weekend.


Manymoonsago said...

I have to disagree with a bit of your post. When you indicate that every President to this point has been a "privileged" white male. Andrew Jackson and William Jefferson Clinton were hardly privileged. Those are the two that I think are not subject to dispute but I think there are also arguments for Lincoln, Nixon, and even Reagan.

I am in favor of Edwards, though, I think he is more inclined to do the right thing in any given situation and to admit when he makes a mistake.

I saw him on Television the other day and he admitted encouraging a plaintiff to proceed with a case when there was a settlement offer on the table with the case ending in a defense verdict. That's a real nightmare for attorneys and it takes guts to admit when you're wrong.

Manymoonsago said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sheri said...

I think the comment you made about Barack Obama was interesting as he did not grow up privileged. In fact, he recently just paid off his student loans from his college years at Columbia and Harvard University. I am going to vote Barack Obama as he has a chance as anyone else to run for the Office of President. We have to have realize and understand that the office has a leadership role to fill, and move the country in the direction as we as the American people feel it should go. We are US citizens, but we have to do our jobs and hold local and state politicians accountable. We should mobilize and tell our officials what we want. We are to command for the services needed in our communities, and the reality that one person cannot do it all. My mother once told me that I cannot save the world, and I said I know that, that's why I need help. I think John Edwards is another good person, but he needs to make people care about poverty which are lot of people are not willing to accept much less listen. The question becomes how to change the hearts and minds of the people.