All of the confetti and balloons have fallen, the banners and signs have been packed away, and the chants of supporters are mere whispers in the wind. Both the DNC and the RNC are almost distant memories and the true campaign is in full swing as Obama/Biden stand toe to toe opposite McCain/Palin in a bout for the hearts and minds of the American people. The weapon of choice seems to be the message of change, but neither campaign has done a great job illuminating the meaning behind the message. What is this change thing that Barack dropped into the campaign like a new hip-hop CD and McCain has seemingly chopped and screwed since the RNC? The term has taken over the campaign so much so that many Americans are asking more about the term change than the change that the candidates hope to represent. However, I, and moreover many in the black community specifically are asking not what change Obama will make in America, but what has and will an Obama candidacy have on America, win or lose?
The definition I most appreciate asserts that change is "to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone." This is important because it takes into account how not only action, but also negligence affects the manifestation of vision. The vision of the Obama campaign existed in the hearts and minds of Black people long before the speech he gave during the 2004 democratic convention that cast him into the national spotlight. That vision existed in the hearts of grandmothers that sent babies on to college despite their third grade education, and in the eyes of elected officials that never could dream of the Presidency for themselves, but served with character and competence that they would open the door for one who was on the way. The vision they had was not of Obama (the man), but of the change taking place in America as a result of his campaign that they paved the way for. And so what "change" has America gone through?
There are three things that will forever be "different from what America was or from what it would be if left alone" because of Barack Obama merely serving as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. There is a generation of young Americans that are the first to believe the contest to be elected "leader of the free world" is not only open it is also attainable for someone other than an old white man. While a McCain victory would prevent the black history moment locomotive from pulling into the 1600 Pennsylvania station on November 4th it would not stop the dreams of millions of poor young people of color who now can see beyond a platinum ceiling destroyed by Obama's campaign. This cannot be under estimated as its impact will be felt for decades if not centuries when parents, teachers, and leaders call on the name and model of Obama to inspire new thinking, methodology, and vision from communities disconnected from the main stream.
The second "change" that America has undergone is the sequestering of the "traditional" nuclear black family. Not since the Cosby Show has America been publicly presented (like it or not) with a black family that represents the personification of the American dream. What has been even more powerful than the public image of black love, something even black Americans need to see more of in media, is the authentic cultural expressions the Obama's display while trying to walk the ethnically neutral line. Whether it is the hand dap, which is diasporically universal, or the ease with which Barack's strength is complimentary, not in competition with Michelle's, they have forced America to acknowledge the beauty and humanity of the black family.
Finally, white liberals can no longer claim without example that even those amongst their ranks are racist. There has been a myth that only those in small political circles have been able to crush with hard facts. That myth is that there are many bleeding heart, civil liberty defending, and racists that due to white guilt fight for blacks, other people of color, and poor people, but who are in fact unwilling to be lead by a black man. The polling numbers in states like my native Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana indicate that many working class liberal whites are unwilling to support the idea of a black president for no other reason than race. Many American blacks, especially some in left wing leadership have been trying to make this a topic of discussion for years, but have been labeled as paranoid or simply angry. The fact is that there is as much racism on the left as on the right, and until there is an honest, no holds barred, dialogue on race in America (one where people are not afraid to get angry before understanding) then we never be the country we can be. However, the Obama campaign has lifted the veil that many knew existed but did not have a concrete example to quantify.
There is still a great deal of time left before this political competition is decided, but one thing is clear. No matter who stands before the Bible on that cold day in January 2009, the entire world will have been changed because of this race before McCain or Obama take the oath. As we shift our focus from how we have been changed, to what change the candidates can make remember this. We are electing a President, but the people will make the change.