As a psychologist, I can’t help but look at the impact of having Barack Obama in the White House from a psychological point of view. And in particular, on the effect it will have on the black population of the US.
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” said Mr. Obama, standing before a huge wooden lectern with a row of American flags at his back, casting his eyes to a crowd that stretched far into the Chicago night.
“It’s been a long time coming.” Yes, it has. But it seems that the 40-year-old dream of Rev. Martin Luther King has been recognized, if not completely realized. Even John McCain in his concession speech generously alluded to the historical significance of the win, despite scattered boos from the crowd. McCain, although he did not win, certainly understood the importance of this landmark occasion and saluted it.
“This is a historic election, and I recognize the significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight,” Mr. McCain said, adding, “We both realize that we have come a long way from the injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation.”
As I watched TV footage after the results were in, elderly black people wept openly, their main sentiment being that they never thought they would see such an event in their lifetime. Younger black interviewees were thrilled that they could now instill in their children that they could be anything they wanted to be, even the President of the United States of America. To have moved from a heritage of slavery, the lowest form of human existence, to having a black president in the White House as voted by your peers is an enormous event.
I have heard disclaimers of Obama’s “blackness” question his ethnicity, but as he succinctly answered, he never had to doubt his blackness when he tried to hail a taxi. His election speaks to all Americans, and in fact, all citizens of the world, that concerted effort over time can negate the scar of racial status. Obama, and the public who voted for him have created a psychological paradigm shift for all black Americans, an event that has been waiting to manifest since the first shipload of Africans disembarked at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619.
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