What Do I Tell My Black Child if Obama Loses?

What do I tell my black child if Barack Obama, America’s first black president, loses his bid for re-election? This is a question many parents are asking themselves — especially those who would blame the loss on racism.

Jubilant black parents on the front pages of newspapers, the day after Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, said things like, “for the first time” they could “sincerely” say to their children that a black person could realistically aspire to become president of the United States.

The New York Times wrote: “That a new day had dawned was immediately apparent at breakfast on Wednesday at Eagle Academy, a young public school in the spot where the often hard-edged Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brownsville and Ocean Hill intersect: The sixth-grade boys sat in silence over their eggs, biscuits and apple juice.

“They were too busy poring over the transcripts of President-elect Barack Obama’s speech that teachers had handed them as they walked in. Too tired, perhaps, from having been awoken at midnight to hear the news from their tearful mothers. …

“The 30-year-old principal, Rashad Meade, pushed his proteges, asking why they thought … this moment was so important … why their parents had woken them the night before.

“Isaiah Purcell, who is 11, started to say something about the issues, then trailed off. He picked up again, asserting that Mr. Obama’s ascendancy to the White House ‘makes us think that we could accomplish anything when you put your mind to it (emphasis added).’”

Goodness! Pre-Obama, what were these parents and teachers telling these kids about their future? What would the teary-eyed parents have said had Obama lost? Would they have told their children that racism remains a major force in America and Obama’s defeat proves the point? And assuming he loses his bid for re-election, what will this defeat say about “race” in America?

My father, a former Marine, World War II vet, was born to an illiterate single mother in Athens, Ga. An only child, he never met his biological father. He was a 14-year-old teenager in that Jim Crow South when the Great Depression began. Hard, hard knocks.

But as I write in my new book, “Dear Father, Dear Son,” my father taught my brothers and me that the only barrier to success is lack of effort. My Huntsville, Alabama-born mother also taught us that, through education and steady application, goals could be achieved — no matter how lofty.

Yes, even the presidency of the United States.

I write: “Mom made me feel like I could spit lightening and make bullets bounce off my chest. She sat me down on the front porch when I was about 6 years old. She had an illustrated book of all the presidents from George Washington to Dwight Eisenhower. We talked about their achievements and disappointments.

“‘Larry,’ she said, tapping the book, ‘if you work hard enough and want it bad enough, someday you can be in this book.’”

My parents told us that no one can make you feel inferior without your permission. In high school, we read a sad, bitter poem about racism in a black literature course:

“While riding through old Baltimore, so small and full of glee,

“I saw a young Baltimorean keep a-lookin’ straight at me.

“Now, he was young and very small, and I was not much bigger

“And so I smiled, but he put out his tongue and called me ‘nigger.’

“I saw the whole of Baltimore from May until September,

“Of all the things that happened there, that’s all that I remember.”

The teacher angrily talked about the permanent damage done to this little boy’s psyche. The permanent stain of racism. The assault on the little boy’s dignity. The boy, said the teacher, will never be the same. By the time the bell sounded, everyone was angry.

When I got home, I read the poem to my mother. She was in the kitchen, cooking a pot of greens. When I finished the last line, she turned, big spoon in hand, and looked me in the eye.

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Larry Elder

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Larry Elder is an American radio and television personality. His radio program The Larry Elder Show airs weekdays 3pm on talk radio 790 KABC in Los Angeles, California.

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  • momlove

    Tell the child he was first and foremost a leftist anti-colonialist born and bred by a white mother and her leftist parents, his Hawaiian grandparents, mostly in the state of Hawaii, but partly in the country of Indonesia, who never experienced what it was like to experience Jim Crow laws or discrimination in any real sense. Later he became a community organizer after graduating from a prestigious law school, ran unsecessfully for his first public office but did eventually serve in the Illinois state senate and was a charismatic U.S. state representative for a short time before winning the Democratic nomination and running as the first African-American in the presidential campaign of 2008 which he won. General Colin Powell, another full-blooded African-American turned down the opportunity to run for vice-president in 2004 and Dr. Condelessa Rice was a distinguished Secretary of State in the Geo. W. Bush administration who grew up in Birmington, AL. and is also of full-blooded African-American descent. THEN ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO RUN FOR PUBLIC OFFICE SOMEDAY.

  • Annamarie

    Oh, come on! I was hoping we had finally put this “white guilt” behind us! That goes for “black racism” as well, but then after the O.J. Simpson trial, I knew I was a dreamer as far as that goes.

    It is true that some “white” people (are any of us truly white? I think by this point we are all mutts!) voted for Obama BECAUSE he is black, which is a truly awful reason to vote for anybody. I would not have voted for him had he been white, purple, green, or plaid, because he has had an atrocious record and has no plans for getting us anywhere but deeper into this morass. He is literally killing the United States and turning us into a socialist nightmare. (I would say communist, but people tend to freak, although there is not a dime’s worth of difference between them.) I believed in the Constitution, the United States, and God Almighty, NOT an individual. I STILL believe Obama is the worst thing to ever happened to us. All the people who voted for him will shortly be having their ravens come home to roost.

    Hope y’all enjoy it! Personally, I plan to lay low, if I can. Making the next 4 years any good at all is up to me, and me alone, just as it always has been. Obama is only going to make it MUCH harder.

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