Guest Column: The Obama Effect on Black and Latino Communities

To begin the New Year, Feet in Two Worlds invited ethnic media journalists to write about the most significant challenges they see facing the communities they cover, and their expectations for the Obama administration and the new Congress. The following article was written by Sharon Toomer, Managing Editor of (BBN).

The Black and Latino communities share the same challenges as the greater society – the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, healthcare, and so on. But these communities also face some unique challenges.

BBN is concerned – deeply so – about the education achievement gap, immigration, and the incessant violence in the Black and Latino communities. That 48% of Black males (Latinos are not too far behind) don’t graduate high school on time is a civil rights failure. Poorly educated or uneducated citizens cannot progress economically, socially or politically.

We are equally concerned about the issue of immigration, in particular the nasty anti-Latino immigrant rhetoric that we believe has directly led immigrants of Mexico and Central America to be the target of vicious hate crimes and other forms of prejudice.

People in the Black and Latino communities endure an inordinate amount of violence that is unacceptable in a civil society. It is inconceivable that any human being can be expected to live a quality of life and progress when they are constantly either a victim of or witness to the degree of violence these two communities are subject to.

Generally, I believe an Obama administration will restore the country’s faith and confidence in our government. America has been profoundly wounded by the Bush administration’s disregard for laws and the Constitution by lying, misleading and irresponsible stewardship. This absence and abuse of leadership has damaged America and left us with a degree of distrust that is domestically and globally dangerous.

Already – even before he officially takes office – there is a sense of confidence that Obama has a vision. That he is prepared to begin his presidency with a plan. I expect Congress to follow the White House’s lead. I believe they will have no other choice than to get to the urgent business of restoring our economy, withdrawing from senseless wars we’re in, and shifting focus to our middle class.

Though I am optimistic, I am also uncertain about how the Obama administration will specifically address the unique challenges facing the Black and Latino communities. It is too soon to tell. I am confident in his Cabinet selections for attorney general and secretary of education. Both of those cabinet selections speak directly to the grave issues of the achievement gap and incessant violence in the Black and Latino communities. Since late 2007, however, there has been little to no talk about immigration. I don’t know how an Obama administration and Congress will address the matter of immigration reform.

More precisely, President-elect Barack Obama has significantly affected – and will continue to do so – the Black community in ways that are not so easily identified.

For nearly two years Senator Obama – his family and his background – has provided a picture of Black Americans that sadly many did not know existed. The Obama’s are, and will continue to be, a model Black middle class family that America seldom sees profiled. Though many of us know intellectually and through daily experience the Obama’s are not a fluke and there are many Black families that match their middle class profile, the world (including some Black folks) are often fed a one-dimensional image of the Black community.

I have learned through informal conversations that Obama inspires people in the Black community to be more engaged in the political process; he inspires people in the Black community to want to adopt and practice the values he and Michelle have. And young children in the Black community see him as a living, breathing example that discipline, education, and an interest in the world are worthy pursuits that can lead to success and progress. These individual and collective shifts in ideology, practices and beliefs inspired by an Obama presidency can do much toward the economic, social, and cultural advancement of the Black community.

Even if Barack or Michelle Obama don’t do another thing, their presence alone as President and First Lady will significantly affect the collective psyche of the Black community in ways that are immeasurable.

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AboutFeet in Two Worlds
Feet in 2 Worlds (Fi2W) is an independent media outlet, journalism training program, and launchpad for emerging immigrant journalists and media makers of color. Our work brings positive and meaningful change to America's newsrooms and has a broader impact on how immigration is reported and the ethnic and racial composition of news organizations.