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Will Obama’s Victory Transform The Black Male Image?

November 28, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) Riverside, CA — “They strut through the world like some dusky colossus looming larger than life itself: a nightmare, a fantasy, an American original, feared, emulated, shunned and desired. They are as complicated, as intriguing, as American history and in many respects, every bit as confusing. Nevertheless the Black man strives in the midst of progress and peril.”

When the great sociologist and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois penned those words more than 100 years ago little did he know a nation founded by slave owners, seared by civil war and generations of strife would elect Barack Obama the son of a Kenyan father and a white
mother President of the United States of America.

“Barack Obama’s victory will force people to look at race and equity differently only if we can get past the narrow images that linger in the public mind,” says Melvin W. Daniels, Jr., 52 a self employed former Marine, handy man, painter, cleaner, and jack of all trades.

Even as he and millions of Black men celebrate Obama’s historic victory, many wonder if the President-elect’s astonishing ascent to power and consistent drumbeat of hope and change will help redefine America’s attitudes toward Black men.

“I wish my mother and father were alive to witness this moment, they would say without hesitation ‘all things are possible’. Black people can accomplish anything they set their minds

Over the last 100 years, perhaps no segment of the American population has been more marginalized.

The Black male image, Daniels argues, has been battered, maligned, and assaulted by a merciless media, academics, filmmakers, Black rappers, feminists, comedians and
countless others.

Syracuse University finance professor and social commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins worries that discomfort could increase as an Obama presidency creates a false perception that racism died November 4. In his words ‘We don’t need more PhDs in Black America, we need more Phdos’.

“The biggest problem in America is racial inequality a product of racism which has led to the social and economic exclusion of a group of people for 400 years. You have these huge racial imbalances economically and educationally that result from that. We can reject those
toxins or we can continue to succumb to them.”

Certified public accountant William Ellis believes as important as Obama’s triumph is, there is a greater message for all of America, and in particular a generation of young African-American men who can’t feel the power of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream and have fallen into self destructive lifestyles.

“It’s unrealistic to think we can hook our dreams to the President’s coattails. Black men must rethink the way we view themselves and reassert that collective genius which empowered us in the past.”

“There are no excuses. If Obama a community organizer from the streets of Chicago can become president, anything is possible,” insists Ellis. Still says Daniels being a Black man in America has never been easy and won’t change overnight.

“The world sees us as lazy, dangerous, over sexed figures entrenched in crime, drugs and violence.”

Soft spoken, Daniels describes his multi-racial family as a tight knit group open to color blind straight talk and powerful ideals. We are a family of Blacks, Mexicans, Whites, Asians you name it. As Air Force brats exposed to bigotry we were taught ‘you can be president’.

Daniels remembers a strict upbringing that prepared him and his siblings for tough times and tough choices. Like the relentless stream of racism he endured while laboring as a super market warehouse worker in the early 90s.

“I was hired by Certified Grocers shortly after a judge ruled they discriminated against Blacks. When I left 14 years later there were multiple images of a bull’s eye emblazed with the ‘n’ word on the break room wall.”

He says starting his own business 16 years ago motivated him to confront the important issues that shape every young man’s life. My parents stressed the importance of having options and working smart not just hard. I believe in maintaining productive values and never giving up hope. Money is simply a tool to give you choices, your word is your bond; be an active architect of your own life and oftentimes, the best thing is what you have right now.

“I don’t steal or commit crimes. I served my country and put my two children through college. My father retired from the Air Force and worked at the post office. My mother cleaned houses. So why should I be treated differently than someone else?” says Daniels.”

He and other African-American males say it’s a good time for Black men and believe things will only get better. Meanwhile Boyce Watkins says one of the artifacts of racial inequality, is the fact that most American institutions academic, corporate, financial and media are controlled by people who are not Black.

“There’s a 24 hour media lens on Black men that says ‘toxic demon’. A lot of what is transmitted to the public is driven by this nation’s 400 year addiction to racism. The perception society has of Black men around the world is fundamentally flawed. The easiest way to get on television if you are a Black man is to kill someone, become an athletic or an entertainer.”

Most Black men agree, Obama’s election is a defining moment but will it change 400 years of people’s perceptions?

“Black men have to forge their own path. We have to contemplate where we are headed and where we should be going,” said Daniels. “We have to spend some time appreciating our accomplishments, as well as our potential, and acknowledging all that we have become and overcome.”

Written By Chris Levister

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