The Colorblind Generation

Is the United States witnessing its first truly colorblind generation?

February 1, 2008

Is the United States witnessing its first truly colorblind generation?

They said this generation would never come. The truth is the United States is witnessing its first truly “colorblind” generation.

They said it would never happen, but then came Michael Jordan — the first athlete to reach such high levels of admiration among the “colorblind” generation, roughly those born after 1980.

In their formative years, when young people are most impressionable and vulnerable to stereotypes, they don’t judge Jordan by the color of his skin — but rather by his basketball championships, scoring titles and mind-boggling plays.

They said this generation would never come, and then — it happened again.

The next great athlete of our time, Tiger Woods, became one of the most popular American athletes. Again, the “colorblind” generation is not fascinated by Woods because he is a black man playing a traditionally white sport.

We watch Tiger because of the incredible way he plays golf, the records he continues to break and the class he brings to the game.

All this is very different from previous generations in the United States. When Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier back in 1947, even those who believed that a talented black man had the right to play in a white league did not see Robinson as an equal — much less idolize him as my generation has idolized Jordan and Woods.

Moving beyond the world of sports to the world of politics, there too they said it would never happen. Having won the Iowa caucus and South Carolina primary, it is entirely possible that Barack Obama could become President of the United States.

What has helped Obama to achieve his success is the support of young voters. Some 57% of the voters under 30 in Iowa supported Obama, and that figure was even higher — 67% — in South Carolina.

Today’s “colorblind” generation does not see Obama simply as a black man. We overwhelmingly support Obama because we see a strong, brilliant man who is the most formidable candidate for president.

We see Obama’s extraordinary qualities — his ability as an orator and his potential to be the leader of a country that we feel has lost its way.

The United States would not be the first country to experience a potentially significant swing of election results due to increased youth participation.

The recent Polish and French elections can serve as a reminder to the Obama campaign that voter turnout among the young can be the difference maker.

The French election — with its record 85% turnout — proved that, contrary to widely held views, young people do take an interest in politics. Similarly, in Poland, the record turnout among voters aged 18 to 24 was the key factor in helping oust the conservative and nationalistic prime minister in favor of a more EU-friendly government.

There is some evidence that even young Hispanic voters are attracted to Obama and his message, though their parents have so far been reluctant.

One can speculate that Obama — his message and his background — appeals to a generation with an immigrant background that is trying to find its own way in the United States and integrate fully into society.

To be sure, the Iowa and South Carolina victories proved that young people see in Obama the chance to regain a positive image of the United States in the world’s eyes — something that has progressively vanished over the past eight years.

Whether French, Polish or American, we the young are not cynical, consumerist and disinterested, as is so often said. We will participate in civic matters to make a difference in the outcome of a major election — and in shaping the future of our societies.

Editor’s Note: Nathan Richter is a junior at St. Andrews Episcopal High School in Potomac, Maryland. An avid golfer and basketball player, he is not affiliated with the Obama campaign.

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Takeaways

The French election — with its record 85% turnout — proved that, contrary to widely held views, young people do take an interest in politics.

Whether French, Polish or American, the young are not cynical, consumerist and disinterested, as is so often said.

Today's "colorblind" generation does not see Obama simply as a black man. We overwhelmingly support Obama because we see a strong, brilliant man who is the most formidable candidate for president.

The truth is the United States is witnessing its first truly "colorblind" generation.