LatinaLista — Today was a historical day in Barack Obama’s run for the Democratic presidential nomination and for the country as a whole.
For the first time, a presidential candidate delivered a speech on the racial divide of this country from a PERSONAL perspective. Not as someone who watches it from the sidelines but who has lived it.
Yet, what became painfully obvious as Obama delivered his speech and cited historic examples of racial division and oppression in this country is that there is a legacy of racial discrimination in this country that is being kept alive by a generation for whom color defines and confines a person.
Which is ironic considering that the bulk of Obama’s supporters are what are known as the Millenial generation for whom diversity is not just a word but a way of life, and for whom many color is not as simple as black or white, but white and “some other race.”
According to Census 2000, the majority of people in this country who share Obama’s mixed race heritage are under 30 years of age. In fact, “some of the largest differences in age between the ‘Two or More Races’ population and the U.S. population occurred at the youngest ages (under 15).”
It makes sense. Unlike in Obama’s parents’ time, societal disdain for mixed race marriages, thus births, has eased. As a result, today’s young people, whether or not they are of mixed race, are more accepting of diversity â€” and this acceptance has created a new kind of voter who identifies strongly with Obama and has little patience for the older generation’s view on race.
It was seen with Geraldine Ferraro’s comments and Bill Clinton’s.
The point was explicitly brought home in Dallas, Texas where an 84-year-old matriarch of the Latino community commented how city Latinos would have a hard time voting for Obama because he was black. Almost instantly, young millenials blasted her remarks. As one Dallasite whose work targets young millenials:
Synbad Ontiveros, 37, who works at hip-hop station KBFB-FM (97.9), said older Latino leaders are out of touch with the community. He is still undecided about whom to support for president. But Mrs. Callejo’s remarks “just blew me away,” he said.
That Obama had to deliver a speech on racial healing wasn’t for the benefit of today’s young voters.
In the new book “Millennial Makeover,” authors Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, characterize the millenial generation as being the largest in American history, outnumbering Baby Boomers. And for the first time in U.S. history, 40% of this generation is comprised of African-American, Latino, Asian and racially mixed people.
A candidate like Barack Obama, whose bi-racial family and generational roots extend from slave owners in America to Kenyan goat herders and social workers in Indonesia, is not an oddity in their minds but has the model background for an American leader.
Eighty percent of Millennials have done some sort of community service in high school. . Eighty-five percent believe that directly contributing something to the community is an important way to improve it. When Senator Obama traces his experience to his days as a community organizer in Chicago, older generations tend to dismiss it as posturing and beside the point in gaining the experience required to government work.
Millennials, by contrast, consider community service just the kind of experience they would like to to put on their resume when they apply for a job. Discounting its importance sounds to them like a dismissal of their own accomplishments.
Indeed an examination of the biographies of many of the winning Democratic challengers in the 2006 Congressional elections shows this same penchant on the part of new voters to value a career of service over one spent learning the inner workings of the legislative process.
It’s also a reason why Senator McCainâ€™s service to his country in Vietnam and his stay in the Hanoi Hilton attracts rather than repels this new generation of voters, in spite of the attempts of a feminist icon of the 1960s to minimize the importance of that service.
Millennials have been taught since their parents first sat them down to watch Barney that the best way to approach problems is to find a solution that works for everyone in the group—since everyone is just as good and important as everyone else.
The confrontational style of Baby Boomer candidates like Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney strikes them as rude, enough to earn them a time out until they learn how to play nice. By contrast, the unifying message of Barack Obama who suggests, somewhat naively to the ears of older voters, that his solution to the problems of America will be to get everyone around the table to work things out for the good of the country is exactly in tune with the way Millennials have been taught to solve problems.
(The Millennial Makeover blog.)
If ever there was hope for the future of this country, it can be found with this next generation. Yet, how fair is it to them to keep dragging them back to an antiquated view of the world that isn’t their reality?
Sometimes, the older generation, with their stubborn insistence of holding on to bygone prejudices, act more like children than the millenials. In this case, some need to adopt a phrase that their own parents parroted to them: “Children should be seen and not heard.”