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On Making History

September 1, 2008

Barack Obama is the Democrat Presidential Nominee. Historical, for sure. I don’t really have anything to add to the enormous amount of press about that. So I will go in a different direction:

Is that enough?

Is it? To me, it isn’t. Sure, it’s pretty mind-blowing that Obama got the Democratic ticket. I didn’t even really think he was going to win that (due to my distrust of the voters of America – and not just the white ones). I thought that, by default, Hillary Clinton was going to get that nomination because, at least, she was white. That was the theory.

So it really gave me some hope to see that Obama was still able to get the nomination. Of course, for me, that’s not quite enough. Because, first, I feel like he may only have been able to win the ticket because his strongest opponent was a woman. And I’m not saying that in terms of “women aren’t capable” – but I’m saying that in terms of history. The Democrat bigots had a choice – “where is our rich white man?” He wasn’t there. And so, they had no choice but to make history with their votes – wherever they went. I’m not going to play the Oppression Olympics – I’m not going to try to decide if sexism or racism is ‘worse’ in our society – but I just don’t know what would have happened had Obama’s opponent been a white man. Clinton confused the “liberal” bigots just enough, so that race wasn’t as big of a deal in the primary. Just enough.

More than enough?

Either way, though – shouldn’t I just be excited about what Obama’s nomination (no matter his opponent, etc.) means to this country? To people of color? To mixed people of color? There’s finally somebody on the presidential ticket that seems to represent me (at least somewhat) in a real sort of way, and here I am picking holes in it. I just sit here, too terrified to let myself get really excited. Trying to battle down the hope that continuously rises inside me about the prospect.

Because, for me, this isn’t enough. It isn’t. I don’t want to see Obama get THIS CLOSE without getting all the way. Because, for me and a lot of the world, that’s just going to say, “See? A person of color can’t REALLY be the President.” It tells the Democratic Party – “See? It doesn’t matter how strong or charismatic a leader a black candidate is, they can’t REALLY win the Presidency.” And then, I fear, we won’t see another viable candidate of color for the next 50 years. Because this would prove that this country really isn’t ready for a non-white president.

Why? Because people are so ready for a change. Republicans are getting tired of their party. McCain is crazy and has pissed a lot of people off. People are showing up in record numbers. More and more people are registering to vote. The tide of potential change – and clamor for change – is rising high. And so, if – in spite of all this – Obama doesn’t win, it will give us the answer we all fear: that this election really IS about race – and racism and stereotypes and prejudice are still so strong that we can’t punch through.

So damn negative and defeatist, aren’t I? A perfect demonstration of how burdensome the spectre of race is in this country. Getting weighed down by all the media white-washing, the racial slurs, the ignorant comments, the B.S. claims laid by white liberals, white privilege in all its forms, so often being the only person of my skin-tone in a room . . . It’s beaten me down enough that I don’t WANT hope. That I just assume that it can never be and don’t want to put myself in a position of hope, to raise myself high enough to get swatted again.

Because – what if OBama won? What if it turned out that there WAS hope? That we could show ourselves and the international community who REALLY lives in the U.S.? What if I could turn on the tv and see a report on the first family of this country – and they WEREN’T white? If, suddenly, I had more in common with the president because of his mix-raced background and experiences than the Bush dynasty had with the president? What if?

I can’t even begin to fathom what that would all mean. The hope it would give the kids I work with. The powerful force of TRUTH it would convey to statements to youth of color that “you can do/be ANYTHING you want.” And the inspiration and motivation it would bring to people of color in this country working for change – because it would prove all of us beat-down negative naysayers (like me) wrong. And all I want – so badly – is to be proven wrong in my beliefs about race in this country.

So I’m terrified. And excited. And terrified again. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to survive the next two months in the lead-up to the election. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to control my anxiety and confusion. I don’t know how I’m going to act like it’s all good and I’m not so worried when this election means EVERYTHING . . .

I don’t know.

All I know is that I hope that there’s a smiling photo to go with my post on November 4th. And that I’m scared to hope that.

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2 comments

  1. I am conflicted as well.

    I want to believe that everybody is really excited about the possibility of a man of color being president, and not just because it sounds like the right thing to say or because it is the new era replacement for "and my best friend in middle school was…" I want to believe that white people are equally as tired of racism as an institution and want to see it topple so we can all lead fully actualized lives.

    I am trying not to dwell on the historic connotation of white female vs. black male archetypes and factions that have succeeded in leading to disunity when unified fronts could have made all the difference- see suffrage movement, the 60's, labor unions… It seems so obvious that it would again be the classic choice of man of color or white woman. Will white women willingly work against white privilege and institutionalized racism? Will a man of color work against institutionalized sexism and the violence of wars inside and outside our borders, within institutions as well as within households.
    But history doesn't have to repeat itself if we have understanding, right?

    I also realize that if he is elected, he also brings 3 women of color with him and the 1st lady and children of presidents also come into wider avenues of outreach, so what work could they do as a family, with access to power of institutional level?!!!! I see potential…

    That could be so amazing if just a big enough ripple of energy spread to really get things moving in the right direction.

    But power is a Mutha#$(&! and doesn't like to give in willingly)- but could we change just enough to start a global snowball effect of goodness? It seems we have been on the cusp for so long it has to be on the verge. (Like the mountains of tokens in those games where you aim and drop in another coin hoping that the slider arm will push the pile of tokens over the edge. Sooooooo close…soooooo cloooose…

    I want the world to be a better place. I want the United States to not be wicked. I want business to be ethical and resources to be shared and respected. I want an earth that lives and thrives.
    I want universal health care, an end to war, equality, justice, etc… etc…

    But the cynic in me nurses a lot of doubts.


  2. Right up until the day after our election, I was too terrified to hope that Rudd would get it. It seemed inevitable that he wouldn’t – Australia was pretty much in the same shape as the US, politically, and Rudd was (is) a white, middle class man.

    But the fact that he was articulate, educated, spoke mandarin and seemed likely to apologise to Aborignal Australians (he did!) gave me the deep fear that my country would once again tell me that I had no place in it, that I was not like them, and that they wanted the exact opposite to me.

    Thankfully they didn’t, not this time. But Rudd is not the shining beacon of hope that Obama is. He was just better than the alternative. I am scared scared scared that America will turn its back on hope – I think a lot of the rest of the world is watching, hoping…

    This song http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/keating/thelightonthehill.htm from a musical about one of our earlier prime ministers, always makes me tear up… This:

    “the message, loud and clear:
    ‘Bring us back our comfy bloody country
    Take us back to simple days of yore
    Nothing alien or scary,
    La-de-da or airy-fairy
    Just put it back the way it was before.'”

    I don’t think I can ever forgive John Howard for what he did to my country. And what he made me believe was the inevitable truth.

    I hope hope wins.



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