I teach ninth grade at a predominately African American school right outside of Washington, D.C. As the social studies teacher, I have been covering the primary election since the beginning. Typically, trying to get ANY demographic of high schoolers to get into the election cycle is usually torture. However, I credit Obama with the change this year.
My kids are totally into it. They are aware of the results of the primaries when they happen, and they look forward to talking about it. I know it’s not supposed to be about race, but my kids can literally NOT believe that someone who looks like them could potentially be president. Before the first primary when I went over the candidates, the kids would say “Ms. H., you know there’s no way white folks are going to vote for a Black guy to be president.” When I suggested otherwise, they would just shake their heads in the “she’s so crazy” way they do to indicate I’ve said something beyond belief.
Now, I have students who come in EVERY DAY and the first thing out of their mouths is, “is he still winning?” I have tried to show them how to figure this out themselves, but they don’t seem to believe it until they’ve had it confirmed. Every day when I tell them he still is, they’re surprised. The young minority males seem to be particularly amazed. I look forward to the day when my kids not longer find an African American winning the presidential nomination shocking.
I know it’s not supposed to be about race, but this is opening doors and minds for youth out there, particularly (in my frame of experience) minorities, even those too young to vote. If I loved Obama for no other reason, I have to tell you, I would love him for this.