Posted November 15, 2012 by Cooper Point Journal in Letters & Opinion

Re-Election Equals Hard Work for Change

“A mix of minorities, young people and educated white professionals has now driven him (Obama) to two majority-vote presidential victories – the first Democrat to pull that off since Franklin D. Roosevelt,” taken from an NPR article.

So the elections are over. I was starting to feel like that kid in the YouTube video who was “tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney.” On election night, I almost couldn’t handle the uncertainty of the next President of the United States.

But alas, Obama was re-elected, and some of us minorities received a shout out: “It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here if you’re willing to try,” Obama stated in his victory speech.

It seems every news source I turn to, either liberal, conservative, moderate, etc…are all reporting the nation’s changing demographics played a role in the outcome of this year’s presidential election.

As our country moves forward and our population grows more diverse, we need to recognize our differences and work through them to understand each other better.

“Strength in numbers”

I want to talk privilege. Groups of people or individuals can hold privilege. In this context I am referring to the privilege of groups, since most of the privileges we hold are a result of what groups we identify with and how we can be allies to different communities, supporting each other.

Racism: Let’s clear the air about this. Racism is prejudice plus power. As a non-white person I cannot be racist, I can be prejudice towards others.

I can hold stereotypes about others but that does not give me the power to control the government, media, education, and any other system in place in which I, as a woman of color, am not the majority or part of an agent group.

Target Groups and Agent Groups

For those of you unfamiliar with the terms, an agent group is a group of people who actively take away the rights and privileges away from any given target group. Example: People of the continent of Africa (target group) were removed from their land and cultures by people of the European continent (agent group). African people had their basic human rights and privileges taken away in a new country where they were forced into slavery, a fate symptomatic of the agent/target group dynamic.

The fears of conservative (and mostly white) groups are real, and I understand that. For hundreds of years they had, and continue to have, the institutional power over minorities. Institutional power meaning, they (whites) have control over the media, education systems, court and prison systems – basically anywhere white people are viewed as “the norm.”

Privilege, What To Do With It

As a Native American woman, an ally to me is a non-native person who defends the rights of ALL indigenous people and continues to educate themselves on systems of oppression. Those are just a few parts of my identity in which I may not be privileged.

That’s okay. Over time I have recognized some privileges I do hold. Among others, I am able-bodied and cis-gendered. I don’t have to defend my female identity – I am okay with the gender I was assigned at birth, and do not have to worry which bathroom to use (cis-gendered). I can walk into any classroom and know there will be adequate seating, and not need assistive hearing/seeing devices (ability/disability).

I can go on and on, but the point I’m trying to make is that we need to be more socially aware and respectful of the increasingly diverse population.  Make sure you do your own research. Your black-native-Asian-Trans-lesbian friend is not your all-purpose encyclopedia. Step out of your comfort zone and take responsibility for your own learning.

Remember you’ll make mistakes, we all do. Work through them, be sincere in your efforts, and be respectful. Basically, own up to your mistakes, apologize, and reflect on how you may conduct yourself differently in the future.

Always, always, always listen to others’ experiences – if your friend is willing to share their experience, listen with an open heart and mind. Remember this work is hard, confusing, and uncomfortable. If talking about privilege is comforting, challenge yourself – it shouldn’t be comfortable.

Neither should you be comfortable with Obama’s re-election. Having a black president is not the end of fighting for civil rights – just like having a black friend doesn’t give you a free pass to drop the n-word.

The changing demographics and the voice minorities gave in electing Obama leaves me with a glimmer of hope.  After hundreds of years of ‘getting the shit end of the stick,’ us minorities have reclaimed our voice. Obama’s re-election is a small step in the right direction. He needed us for re-election and now our responsibility is to hold him accountable and make sure our voices aren’t silenced again.

By Amanda Frank