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Obama win could open other doors for minorities

(Credit: Politirazzi)

By Ryan Chatelain

For many civil rights leaders, electing a black president was the pinnacle in their fight for equality. But Barack Obama’s historic victory Tuesday may spur political breakthroughs for other minority groups, observers say.

An Obama presidency could open the door for more minorities in public office, prompt the rest of the world to re-evaluate perceptions of African-Americans and perhaps, oddly enough, encourage a sizable number of blacks to join the Republican Party.

“Obama’s victory signals to black Americans and to every American that race ain’t what it used to be,” said Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. “I can’t tell you how many people really thought that people would not go out and vote for him because of his race.”

Keli Goff, an author and political analyst, said that once Americans, even those in largely white communities, grow accustomed to having a black president, it could pave the way for others’ political careers.

“It makes it a heck of a lot easier to not mind having a black sheriff in your small suburban town or a black superintendent in your school district that is predominantly white,” Goff said. “It makes a lot of things a lot more palatable because it’s not going to look so strange if the president that you see on television every single day is a black man.”Blacks aren’t the only minority group who could benefit from Obama’s win.

“I think it gives us the aspiration to seek higher public office beyond city council or district leader or Congress,” said Elba Montalvo, executive director for the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, a nonprofit group.

Calvin O. Butts III, a civil rights activist and pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, even suggested that the GOP could soon see an influx of black members.

“It’s no longer a racial thing,” he said. “Now people can really start arguing from the point of view of issues.

“There are a lot of black people who say, ‘I’m conservative like some of the people on the right, and now I don’t have to make bones about being a black man.’ ”

Sherry Wright, 44, a Harlem resident, said she believes a successful Obama presidency could change the way the world views African-Americans. She specifically mentioned the stereotype of the deadbeat absent father, addressed by Obama in his Father’s Day speech this year.

“It’s so important that other cultures respect us as black people,” Wright said.

Lauren Johnston contributed to this report.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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