Regardless of political party, every candidate in this presidential election is running under the banner of change. In a time when Americans seek recovery from the last dreadful eight years of the Bush administration, any candidate offering a sharp contrast to Bush will do.
Of all the candidates, however, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., seems to be the true champion of change, at least in theory. To his credit, Obama is one of the only candidates to produce a 62-page outline of his proposed changes, appropriately titled “The Blueprint for Change.”
The booklet provides a 16-month plan for getting out of Iraq, support of universal health care and reform of the No Child Left Behind Act. Without question, Obama represents a change.
Yet, I am still skeptical. Can he put his theories into practice? And the real question: Does Obama represent a radical political shift for black Americans in this country?
“Obama definitely articulates ideals that penetrate to some of the core needs of people in this country, who want a fresh, vibrant energy in the White House,” said Gabriel Bryant, program coordinator at Philadelphia Futures, a non-profit organization that provides students from low-income families with college preparation, and director of its Young Men’s Initiative Program.
Yet, Obama has been able to run his campaign and gain support with seeming disregard of his own race. This is validated by his primary win in Utah, which alone is enough proof that he does not have to court the black vote.
“For some, though I recognize it is not the full truth, an Obama presidency would signify one of – if not the last – steps of the Civil Rights Movement, [which is] integrating fully into this system, by being elected president of the United States,” Bryant said.
Though the election of a black president would certainly signify a landmark in U.S. history, it would not wholly translate into a radical political shift for blacks. Let’s not forget the Hurricane Katrina aftermath and the Jena Six, which are manifestations of this reality: institutional racism is at the core of the nation’s political structure.
To believe Obama alone, within a four-year term, can tackle the complex sociopolitical problems within black communities is to expect too much. This concept ignores the fact that the change that Black America needs will start by coming together and organizing around a specific agenda.
“What [Obama] does, for some, is provide a reformist possibility,” Bryant said. “I believe psychologically he gives inspiration and hope to the downtrodden and disenfranchised.”
Malaika T. Carpenter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.