In 2008, Barack Obama inspired a generation of young people to campaign, get politically active and vote — all of which undoubtedly played a role in his becoming the first black president in U.S. history.
Four years later, just hours before voters across the country will cast their ballots, every major poll is predicting a toss-up between the president and his challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
If Obama were to lose – something that seemed far-fetched just a few months ago – would the message symbolized by his last victory give way to a more cynical view of race and politics? Would the hope he inspired in a generation of young people turn into despair? Or, did Obama’s victory in 2008 usher the nation into an age of post-racial politics, one where today’s young people won’t care one way or the other what happens on Election Day?
Coachella Unincorporated youth reporters were asked the following:
What message would an Obama defeat send to young people of color? And what message would an Obama victory send?
The common thread that emerged in their responses was clear: Race and identity in American politics still mean a great deal. And although enthusiasm for Obama’s performance as president varied by individual, nearly every young person said that a defeat would be a setback, both psychological and material, for young people of color.
Pride and excitement will remain regardless of outcome
Four years ago, this nation did something that nobody thought was possible. With the election of Barack Obama as the leader of the free world, millions of young people of color like me were inspired to achieve that which we never thought was possible. The pride and excitement that I felt on November 4, 2008 still resonates with me today and will never be taken away regardless of the upcoming election.
Without or without four more years from Barack Obama, history was made and that can never be undone. His accomplishments will forever serve as a reminder that this truly is a country of endless opportunities for all peoples.
– Tony Aguilar, 22, Thermal
Obama defeat would halt DREAM Act and other movements
President Obama created a paradigm shift by becoming the first non-white president in the United States. Another Obama victory would mean more change and hope for minorities. Obama’s views on education rights and funding are crucial to youth of color because without education, there is no progress. An Obama defeat will be a restriction to movements, such as the DREAM Act and grants that have been recently highlighted.
– Alejandra Alarcon, 18, Coachella
2012 Election has gone beyond skin color barrier
I believe the fact that we elected the first non-white president in American history his a huge leap forward toward a diverse nation, rich with culture and acceptance. However, I think this election has gone past the barrier that was skin color. It now falls on whether the people of the United States feel President Barack Obama did good on his promises and whether those promises can carry the nation for four more years. Victory or defeat, President Obama has already had a huge and positive impact on people of color. He has given hope.
– Ivan Delgado, 20, Coachella
Obama’s re-election would truly abolish color barrier
President Barack Obama’s presidency is a symbol of what people of color can accomplish in this world. An Obama defeat would send young people the message that certain occupations such as presidency cannot be obtained by people of color and that people of color are inferior and incapable of winning such a position. Should Obama be re-elected, it would the send the message that anything is possible even if you are a person of color and that the color barrier has truly been abolished.
– Johnny Flores, 15, Coachella
Obama defeat would have neutral impact on young people of color
Personally, I don’t think (an Obama defeat) would have either a negative or a positive impact on young people of color. I believe that, due to our economic state, people are becoming more involved in the election and really understanding each of the candidate’s views on various issues. I’d like to think that if Obama lost, young people would understand that it wasn’t affiliated with race or color but rather because his opponent had views that the constituents believed to be better suited for their needs.
I believe that (an Obama victory) would send the message that color isn’t everything. It would show that people aren’t just looking at ethnicity but rather focusing on Obama’s policies and beliefs. Therefore, crediting his victory on his abilities of being a better leader rather than his ethnicity. Also, Obama would become an even greater inspiration and role model for people from similar backgrounds.
-Fatima Ramirez, 17, Mecca
Obama defeat would disillusion young people
I believe a loss (for the President) would be a huge disappointment for young men and women of color for whom Obama’s presidency has broadened the horizons. Obama’s grassroots movement broke the mold for the American presidency and in 2008 he became far more than a candidate; he became a symbolic figure for hope and change. As our first non-white president, his term has been a reflection of the empowerment of American minorities. I fear that a loss will disillusion young dreamers from testing their voice.
An Obama victory would be a sigh of relief to the dedicated supporters who believe that our president will continue to move America forward. People of color have become a strong voice in a post-Obama America and have been calling out for government elites to be more representative of the diverse population of our nations citizens. A win would tell youth of color that it is possible not only to set out for a change, but that we are also able to sustain it.
-Aurora Saldivar, 19, Thermal