Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Digital and Diversity Natives – Contribute to Obama’s Success

Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. I was waiting in line more than two hours to participate in an historic election. Tuesday evening at midnight, I was dancing in the streets of Harlem where we were all figuring out ways to incorporate "O's" into our moves.

During the excitement, I couldn’t help but realize that Obama’s success was not predominantly dependent on the voters of my parent’s generation, as had been the case in most elections during my lifetime. Instead, this time, the candidate's success was also a tribute to the Digital and Diversity Natives who were raised in a world very different than that of my parents. Unlike my Digital and Diversity Immigrant parents who were born into a world devoid of the internet, went to segregated schools and lived in segregated neighborhoods, Digital and Diversity natives thrive in a world where race, creed, and color at times are not issues and sometimes are “virtually” nonexistent, as is commonly the case in their online worlds.

I have heard some Digital and Diversity Immigrants share their belief that this country wasn’t ready for a black man as president. “Sure, publicly some people will say they'll vote for Obama, but once behind those curtains, they’ll never vote for a black man.” However, some of the Immigrants are not in touch with, or are not speaking the language of, their Digital/Diversity Native children and grandchildren.

While many of these Immigrants were watching television, listening to the radio, and reading newspapers, Obama hired Chris Hughes, Co-founder of Facebook. Hughes helped Obama’s online campaign where right beneath the noses, yet out of the sight, of many Immigrants, Obama connected to a world they have yet to join. Obama spoke to these potential voters in real ways. On a personal level, Barack is following me on Twitter, he is in my Facebook, I get personal emails from him, I receive text messages and listen to podcasts, I have received direct online outreach to donate to his campaign…which I did. It was fast, easy and I got a shirt! While this may not be Obama per se, I can have real interaction with his campaign and staffers and get the inside scope when I want it.

All this was going on in a world devoid of many of our Immigrant elders leaving the natives to continue in worlds where the elders are not listened to, not because they are not respected, but because they have not learned how to speak the language of the Natives . Though while noticeably absent from the Native environments, some may now be jolted into the realization that it's time to lose some of their DSL (Diversity or Digital, as a Second Language) accent and begin speaking the language of those fluent in diverse and digital worlds.

There are clearly many other factors contributing to this campaign. However, the fact that Obama so wisely and elegantly tapped into the diverse online world that often is “virtually” devoid of race, creed, or color, and instead brings people (or avatars) together based on ideas, principals, and interests…to me is a clear indication that a bright new day is dawning. I am so thrilled to join a diverse group of supporters in this virtual and live celebration and invite the Immigrants who are not yet there to join us!

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For a summary of press articles recognizing this idea read Karl Fisch's post, "Democracy 2.0."

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