I am little more than positive that I won't make any new friends and may even lose a few old friends by what I'm about to write. However, that's okay. I only asks that you hear me out before you start throwing the stones at me. I too watched in awe, though maybe not as euphoric as some at the swearing in of our nation's 44th president of the United States of America. Some call him our first black president, first African American, first bi-racial. Well you get the picture. As Princeton scholar, Melissa Harris-Lacewell stated, president Obama's selection of Michelle Obama as his wife and the mother of his children is probably one of greatest indicators of his black identity. But I digress. Back to the issue at hand. For the past week I've looked on as black mothers and some fathers wept on the evening news that they now can tell their children that they too can become anything they want, even president.
Now while this sounds really good in a sound byte, little Ray Ray and NeNe probably have a greater chance of winning the lottery than becoming president of the U.S. What we need to remember is that Obama had some very unique opportunities, some of which include having a white mother, a continental African father and white mid-western grandparents. In addition, he grew up in Hawaii and lived in Indonesia. A very different cultural legacy and experience than most Black children in America. Now let's also add the fact that Barack Obama is one smart guy bar none. In addition, his intellectual genius was cultivated in some of the best schools in America. Add that to practical experience in community organizing, Chicago boot camp political training and being in the right place at the right time (The U.S. literally in the toilet) and you have President Obama. The point I'm making is that we can not ignore the role that intellect, cultural legacy and opportunity play in creating greatness. So while we are telling our children that they too can become president, we must be equally diligent in investing in their academic future at the same rate that we invest in the latest designer fashions. If you really want little Ray Ray and NeNe to become president, parents must attend PTA and parent teacher conferences on a regular basis. We must turn off the TV and Xbox and encourage our children to read and critically think. Now when I say read, I don't mean Zane or Carl Webber's latest urban lit offering. Future presidents need a knowledge of world affairs, they need to be able to speak the language of commerce which is not project English, but the King's or at least the Queen's English. Obama can do barbershop brother to brother talk, but it is his oratory eloquence that won the hearts and minds of Americans across race, class and political ideology.
Though President Obam's election is truly historical, we must couple our excitement with a dose of reality. One out of one hundred Americans are currently behind bars. Approximately, 35% of those persons are of African descent. This sobering reality tells us that our work is just beginning. I am in full agreement that we should not place limits on our children because of race or class. However, the "black tax" (twice as good to get half as much) has not been lifted just because we now have a Black president. In fact, the bar may just have been raised a bit higher. The Keepers of the African village must get busy providing little Ray Ray and NeNe with the tools they will need to navigate a global, multi- racial, multi cultural America. Our children must have at least an intermediate grasp of math and science. More importantly, our children must be emotionally intelligent. We talk about how cool president Obama is, well that coolness is really emotional intelligence. He is a genius at managing his emotions, even in the most complex circumstances. Obama probably learned at an early age that he would not be able to control the actions and attitudes of those around him, but he could control how he responded to those attitudes. The audacity of hope is indeed alive and well and the dream lives. However, faith hope and dreams mean nothing without hard work. The next time you tell your child they can become any thing they want to be including president, remind them that president Obama is a graduate of Harvard law school where he graduated in the top of his class. That it was was hard work, perseverance, service and being prepared when opportunity presented itself that brought president Obama to the White House.