This campaign season is not an ordinary season. It involves an election that deals with a variety of socially-conscious issues regarding race. When Barack Obama announced he was running for president last year, his campaign was setting a precedent for years to come for young black leaders. His campaign will either be looked upon as transformational, a path to a nation where everyone could succeed based upon the content of his or her character, or it could set back racial progress we’ve been making as a country.
Transformational icon Jackie Robinson could not be an ordinary baseball player if blacks were to succeed in baseball. He had to be flawless. When Robinson broke into the major leagues, he was introduced to racial taunts and death threats on a consistent basis. Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey signed Robinson to end baseball segregation because he believed Robinson was strong enough to take the taunts and not fight back. Attacks on Robinson’s character were common at this time.
Obama is in the same peril with Robinson; he must be flawless. If he’s not, it could derail future advancement of a post-racial America. Whether you believe Obama fits the mold of Robinson, attacks on his character are a common practice as was with the young Brooklyn Dodger. Many people are attacking Obama’s character by questioning whether he is really a Christian and conservatives like Sarah Palin are attacking him on the basis of being a community organizer. Conservatives like Palin pride themselves on being good Christians, but wasn’t Jesus Christ a community organizer?
Transformational leaders such as Robinson had to deal with the emotional pressure of death threats, and Obama is witnessing this now. Police uncovered a plot from white supremacists to kill Obama when he gave his convention speech in Colorado last month. Whether you agree or disagree with Obama’s policies, the ability to go out everyday with calmness and to spread your idealism to the world when threats against your life are being made is something we can all look upon and idolize. You don’t have to agree with Obama’s policies to recognize he will go down as a transformational figure along the likes of Robinson.
Most Americans will agree racial progress is being made. We constantly see more interracial couples dating; more than one-fifth of families have relatives that marry other races, according to a 2005 pew research poll. After this campaign ends, I’m hoping the color of a person’s skin is not going to determine whether someone votes for or against a particular candidate. With the rate of racial progress, especially in the young adults category, we are coming closer to realizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a world based on character and not by skin color.
Greg Snow is a junior political science major from Fort Worth.