Obama as role model for black youth? Not so fast

Sat Nov 15, 2008 7:11pm EST
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By Matthew Bigg

ATLANTA (Reuters) - The election of the first black president in U.S. history should send a powerful signal to young black Americans: If Barack Obama made it, so can you.

But some African Americans living in inner city Atlanta said that while Obama is a role model his life appeared so far removed from their own struggles that it was difficult to see how they could use it to spur their own success.

Others said that even something as momentous as Obama's election would not make it easy to acquire the self-belief that they needed to move forward.

"If Barack has made it into office there is no excuse to say that America is racist because he has proved that you can do something," said Lebron Cook, 22, who registered for the first time to vote for Obama on November 4.

Cook said he wanted to be a successful rapper and admired Jay-Z because he had made a transition from music stardom to corporate power. As an alternative Cook said he would also like to train as a pharmacist.

His dreams, though, looked tough to attain. After leaving school, Cook became homeless for several months and worked in what he described as a series of dead-end, low-paying jobs.

His father and other family members were in an out of jail and he is staying at a relative's home in the Bankhead neighborhood of Atlanta, where he said other young people sold drugs for a living.

"Drugs are everywhere," he said, adding that he lived on about $20 a week.   Continued...

<p>President-elect Senator Barack Obama waves to supporters during his election night rally in Chicago November 4, 2008.REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>