News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Step aside, Tiger. Step aside, Oprah.

For as long as I can remember, athletes and entertainers have been the prime role models for most young African-Americans. Leading the list of luminaries, of course, are Tiger Woods and Oprah Winfrey.

Woods is a consummate professional athlete; poised, confident and relentlessly dedicated. Winfrey is one of the most powerful entertainers on the planet, her charm and sincerity winning influence with people from every walk of life. Yet neither of them has really broken any new ground. Both Woods and Winfrey are inheritors of a legacy that has seen black success limited to sports and entertainment.

The election of Barack Obama is about something altogether different. The people of the United States have placed their collective destiny in the hands of a man who two generations ago would have been forced to ride in the back of the bus in some U.S. cities. This turn-around of public attitudes bodes well for the nation.

The next generation of young African-Americans will be fully vested in this republic—sadly for the first time. The example of Barack Obama will open the eyes of young African-Americans. They will see themselves fulfilling destinies their parents would have thought impossible. Their visions of success will no longer be limited to being selected as an All-American or as a headliner in Las Vegas.  From its inception, the presidency of Barack Obama will inspire a generation of young people of every color. And for that, we are all the winners.

Many of the ills and injustices that have plagued this nation are still with us. But there is a new current moving in. And that tide of hope and reason will carry away the ignorance that has long stagnated in some corners of the country.  

As Andrew Young so aptly said, Barack Obama’s election is “a triumph of faith over fear.” 

Raul Ramos y Sanchez