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The Obama Girls Will Be Fine, But What About Other Children?

Black America Web.com, Commentary, Tonyaa Weathersbee Posted: Jan 07, 2009

For the Obama girls, moving from the fish pond that was the Windy City into the fishbowl of the White House wont be easy.

But Im not worried.

Why? Because Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, already have enough anchors to keep them moored in waters that are bound to be stirred up by the glare of publicity or the growing pains of childhood and adolescence.

Its also probably a safe bet that their mother, Michelle, and their father, President-elect Barack Obama, have probably talked to them about what it means to be the nations first black First Daughters.

They probably know that like their father, theyll be role models for millions of children. Their parents probably know theyll also be targets for tasteless, Don Imus-types wholl be salivating for them to validate stereotypes rather than defy them.

Michelle and Barack have probably prepared their girls for all this. So Im not too worried about Malia and Sasha.

Theyll be fine.

I do, however, continue to worry about the scores of black children in America today who arent as lucky as the Obama girls.

These are the children who dont have to survive being in the media spotlight, but have to struggle with the social isolation that hobbles their progress early in life.

Social isolation is what happens to children who live in concentrated poverty. Its the thing that causes black children to do things like fight over one cookie instead of asking the teacher for more; because thats the way theyve learned to assert themselves in a world where survival is about aggression, not compromise.

Social isolation afflicts many poor, black teenagers as well.

These are the kids who dont have anyone around them who has ever held a real job. Therefore, many dont see a problem with walking into a restaurant to apply for work wearing low-slung pants and having a mouthful of gold or silver grills and then wondering why they didnt get to work at the front counter.

That is, if they got a job at all.

They are the ones who dont understand why people like me cringe when they walk down the street or in malls cursing loudly or using the N-word.

When they do that, I want to crawl under a bench.

Most of all, such isolation creates a situation so that children dont have any adults around them to disappoint by behaving badly or, for that matter, no adult who they respect enough or care enough about to not disappoint. So when people like me look at them and are embarrassed for them, it does no good. They havent learned enough to be embarrassed for themselves.

Most of all, they dont understand how theyre ripening the case for racists looking to use their behavior to further marginalize them a situation that will further cut them off from the very opportunities that they will need to escape that marginalization.

Its sad. But again, its not all their fault.
When you have children living in environments in which jobs and opportunities have evaporated and where there is nothing to regulate the lives of the adults who are supposed to be in charge and building a structure of normalcy, they learn what they see.

So they learn to curse and act out early. And because theyre so isolated socially, they dont have a clue as to how their behavior will ultimately lead many of the teachers, social workers and other strangers who venture into their world to see them as needy and pathological instead of capable and competent.

That wont be the case for the Obama girls.

True, children of famous people have certainly had their issues. But every child, whether they have a famous parent or not, is usually in a better position to succeed in life if they have strong parents and if they are growing up in an environment that represents the entire society.
Thats not true for the millions of poor black children who are being reared in its shadows.

So Ill be waiting to see how Obamas urban policy shapes up. Because while his girls may have to deal with the spotlight, there are countless other black children who need to have a spotlight thrown on them.

And maybe, just maybe, if Obamas policies help to reverse the deep poverty and culture of hopelessness in the cities, hell give the children something that many of them need.

Someone they care about disappointing.

Related Articles:

Black Middle Class in Crisis

Obamas Miraculous Win Leads 2008 Black Press Stories; Stories of Injustices Close Behind

Homeless Children: The New Outcasts

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