Why Obama's Presidential Win Scares Me

by Tiffany JulesPEP Young Women's Leadership Council

As Senator Barack Obama inched closer and closer to winning the US presidential race, I started to become fearful. This fear was not based in the idea that some crazy wacko would attempt to assassinate President-elect Obama - I would be more mentally prepared to handle that fear. Actually, my fear is rooted in the idea that Americans would start thinking that racism no longer exists since an African American is going to be the next president of the United States. Unfortunately, since the historic election, I have noticed that many individuals have openly expressed that America has moved beyond racism because Obama won the race is such dramatic fashion.

This concept of the elimination of racism in this country scares me to my core. As an African American woman, I am proud to say that my president is a person of color. But I do not want this joyous moment to be clouded by the ridiculous belief that Blacks are no longer affected by racism. Over the last month, I have constantly found myself arguing with my classmates in Public Health about the structural inequalities that influence a personís health. During these heated discussions, some of my classmates have used Obamaís rise to the presidency as an example to illustrate that race is no longer one of the fundamental causes of health disparities. Post-election, I think it is even more important for Americans to be more aware of racism and its implications in society.

Of course, I acknowledge that most people voted for Obama because they believed he was qualified to be our president regardless of his race. This does not mean that we have changed into a society where color is no longer visible and relevant to everyday existence. When an individual mentions to me that he/she never notices a personís race, I often respond with "I want you to acknowledge the difference in my outward appearance. Hopefully, this will also help you to understand that my view of the world is shaped by my race and ethnicity."

I challenge everyone to examine the idea that African Americans are now on an even playing field with whites due to the election of Obama. Of course, his presidency does help slightly close the wound that has existed since slavery, but there is so much more work that needs to be done before racism is eliminated from the American psyche. We all need to make it our mission to advocate for the passing of legislation that works against racism and other structural inequalities.