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Out of the mouths of babes: "In olden times, the presidents of the United States were white"

ELINOR TATUM Publisher and Editor in Chief | 5/17/2012, 1:41 p.m.
Recently, at a dinner, I was told about a comment a friend's 5-and-a-half-year-old son made...
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Recently, at a dinner, I was told about a comment a friend's 5-and-a-half-year-old son made one afternoon after returning from school. He said, "Daddy, did you know in olden times, the presidents of the United States were white?"

Wow, what a difference three years make in the life of a 5-year-old! What an impact the Barack Obama presidency has had on our communities and on our children, and how important it is that when we talk about the "olden times," we talk about the first Black president and his eight years in office.

When Obama is re-elected, it will mean that for the first six years of my daughter's life, there was a Black president. To her, just like the 5-year-old, that will be the norm.

We are raising a generation with a new normal. The status quo is not the same, and what was once unheard of in some cases is now commonplace. But as these milestones keep piling up, we still see a rash of injustices that befall our communities, with stop and frisks at an all-time high, young men like Trayvon Martin killed in cold blood and Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham and the like all killed in their prime. Why? Because they were Black.

So what will olden times really mean to my 19-month-old 10 years from now, and can we ensure that the lamentations of a 5-year-old stand the test of a decade? We have the opportunity to change the direction that this country is going in so many ways.

First, to stop the right-wing conservatism that is infecting so much of America, infused with racism, sexism, homophobia, elitism, bigotry, prejudice and hate for all those who are different. We must take to the streets, the airways and the schools to show and teach that might is not right, but just plain wrong.

We must harness all of our forces together to re-elect Obama and make him not only the first Black president, but a two-term president.

We must hold on with all our might to the Senate for the Democratic Party, which most of our people recognize best looks out for the interests of our communities and people, and have a net gain of 25 seats for the House Democrats, so we end the reign of terror of the Tea Party conservatives in the House of Representatives. Then, we and the president will really be ready to fight.

We have to expose our children to all the possibilities in life and teach them how to fight for what is right. And we need to keep them safe so that for the generation of babies coming up, the next lamentation will be, "Did you know that in olden times, it was not safe for a Black kid to walk down the street?"