Friday, November 7, 2008

Euphoria

Warning . . . . this is going to be very, very, very long.

Today’s date is Friday, November 7, 2008

Yesterday I spoke to an old friend of mine who wondered why I had not blogged about the historic election of Barack Hussein Obama as president of the United States on November 4, 2008. Here I go although I wasn't sure if I would ever even publish this (hence the length). Honestly, I hold an opinion that is not the popular or mainstream one. It helps to get my thoughts out anyway.

Let me preface all this by saying that for a long time I have been completely detached from America and American politics. There was a long period in my life where a real goal of mine was to pack it up and leave this country. It is not a stretch to say that if I had not met and fallen in love with my DH, I probably would not be living here today. There are aspects of being an American, living in America that are repugnant to me. The excess. The selfishness. The hubris. The sense of privilege. There is indeed a reason why America is not well-liked abroad. Instead of being a gentle giant it is, in its foreign policy and to its own people, especially people of color, a big bully. American history is replete with examples of how from its inception it has constantly and almost obsessively maligned and sought to destroy all people of color physically, psychologically and socially. There was a time in my life when I was sure I was living in the belly of the beast and my goal was to get out. It did not make sense to me to align myself with a sinking ship because as the old RastafaraI Nyabinghi chant goes, “Babylon (surely) gone down.”

Accordingly, I do not believe in the American political process with its Electoral College system. I honestly believe that there are powers that be, higher and more powerful than the president who ultimately decide who takes that office. I do not know how they make their decisions but I suspect it has to do with protecting their own interest, namely their money, their power and their influence. Why bother with making people vote then? Well, the U.S. is in name a democracy. That is what it prides itself on. For this reason, it goes over to foreign lands, making war and deposing heads of states. When Bush stole the election of 2000, he had the effrontery to point fingers at Mugabe’s government to criticize their political process as “undemocratic” and “unfair.” To be sure, the forefathers of this country knew that there had to be some kind of way to protect their interests. These were wealthy White men, property-owners with huge financial interests. They knew that what Joe the Plumber wanted would be, decidedly, a piece of that all-American pie. But they also knew that the common man still had very clear memories of being a British colony, taxed without them having a say. So very astutely, these forefathers made sure to allow the common man the right to vote so that he would feel like he did indeed control his own destiny by choosing who would be his president. But they were very careful to institute a filter, i.e. the electoral college so that if the popular vote came through and the popular candidate won by popular vote, that vote could be toyed with, shifted and changed to make sure the right one came into office. This is how Bush came to steal the 2000 election, except technically, it wasn’t theft. It worked exactly the way it was supposed to. So I do not believe the process for electing the president is necessarily fair and upright. And it is only recently, after having children, that I have re-gained an interest in participating in local politics which I believe are really where democracy plays out (although greed, corruption and deceit are part and parcel of any kind of politics—local or national).

So fast forward to now. From the beginning, I was not overly impressed with Mr. Obama. I’m a confirmed cynic so his message of hope and coming together really did not faze me at all. I am not into lofty language and charisma. I am into substance. So I was not overly impressed choosing instead for Mr. Obama to show me his substance, i.e. concrete plans and ideas that would perhaps lead this country to a turn around. To be sure, I was not looking for a Black messiah to heal all the wrongs that racist Whites (active racist and those who refuse to dismantle White supremacy). I never believed that was what Mr. Obama’s goal should have been so I was not disappointed that he didn’t set forth a plan for Black people. I think that needs to be perfectly clear. He clearly stated his goals, which was to unite this country. Of course, the cynic in me realizes that no one man can unite this hugely and wildly divided country. It always seemed a bit disingenuous to me, that at this time when people are really suffering under the Bush administration, to come with that message. But it was brilliant. People needed to hear it. I watched folks dazed under that message . . . screaming, “Yes We Can!” And all I asked myself is “How?”

I often wonder why now is the appointed time for a Black person to be named president (I use the term Black loosely because Mr. Obama is actually half-Black and half-White—he is not African-American either so I think if I were AA that would detract a bit from my elation). Is it because the powers-that-be are more than happy to let him take over a sinking ship? Do they see something and know something that the average person doesn’t know? Are they about to do something to ensure that the ship goes down while Obama is at the helm?

Now, to some people I’m supposed to be euphoric about Mr. Obama’s election because he is the first Black president. It seems that for some Black people, this is the overcoming, this is the mountaintop that Dr. King referenced. This is symbolic (I think it is necessary with every symbol to sort out what exactly that symbol means and this is what I have been doing constantly).

I think by now everyone has read that (annoying) e-mail poem:

Rosa sat so King could walk so Obama could run so our children could fly.

Well, actually, Rosa sat so that these racist White folks would allow her to take a bus ride like any other human being, to be like any other human being. King walked for equality that racist White folks were bent on denying to Black people. It is not yet clear why Obama ran—time will tell that story. Rhetoric does not equal real reason although I hope his rhetoric does in time prove true. And I am teaching my children right now that they can fly. That nobody can stop them from flying. Obama did not have to run for me to believe that and teach that to my children. The hugest injustice that has been done to Black people all over the world is psychological. The internalization of an inferiority complex. I’m not blaming Black people. It is difficult to damn near impossible to have a good self image with all of the violence, blatant and more hidden, that racist White people have perpetrated against Black people in all kinds of ways. Right now, Black people’s self-esteem seems to have gotten a huge boost. For that reason, I’m glad that Obama has been elected. Will this be the cure to what ails us psychologically? Maybe. If nothing else, it represents a good first step for Black people, a strong infusion of the idea of “Yes We Can” that Marcus Garvey championed decades ago under the mantra “Up ye mighty race . . . you can do what you will!” Maybe now Black people will start to believe it and start to take responsibility for their fate and future. For this, I’m hopeful. After all, we cannot make any more excuses. Racist White folks will not entertain our complaining any longer because they have given us our first Black president (you will note that many are congratulating Black people on this “achievement”). But why I gravitated more towards leaders like Marcus Garvey is that he preached that our self-worth was not predicated on the White stamp of approval. White people could forever and a day refuse to let us into their institutions (the presidency being, it seems, the pinnacle of all White institutions), and we would still know with every fiber or our being that we are worthwhile, beautiful, worthy. For many Black people, being let in has been the ultimate goal. The ultimate confirmation of our humanity and worth. This brings tears to my eyes. I remember sitting in college class with an esteemed professor who taught me that prior to desegregation, Black people were doing wonderful things. They were finding ways to educate themselves well. There were towns alive and thriving where Black money was circulated hundreds upon hundreds of towns within the Black community before it ever left. Not every Black person thought that desegregation something to actively fight for. There was no need to prove our worthiness to folks who did not want to by default acknowledge that. Somehow, we got caught up in worrying about how White folks saw us. Trying to make ourselves acceptable in their eyes. Changing ourselves. Abandoning our own nation building institutions and our own interests to be let in. Only to find that these people had no intentions of truly letting us in. So here we sit, still suffering, still struggling. But at least no one can legally tell us we can’t and don’t belong. At least not in word. Obama’s election represents the definitive proof that we have indeed arrived. Is it?

Another joyful declaration that I have been hearing is that Obama will give Black children a shining example of what they can be, a great alternative to rappers and basketball players. The problem is that the media and even Black people are still treating Obama as an exception to the rule, an anomaly. The media is insidious about it because they attribute his success to the fact that he is half White (of course, they don’t say it but they don’t have to). Black people show just how damaged our self-image is because we seem to buy into the idea that the well-educated, wealthy, well-to-do, intact Black family is indeed a rarity. Again, now, we can aspire to be all that because we have seen that it can be done. I say that the reason why so many Black children aspire to be basketball players and rappers is simply because they see so many—there is the belief that it can be done (even though the likelihood based on probability and straight numbers is small), it is something normal. Young people look at Young Jeezy and Allan Iverson and see folks who came from right where they are right now. If our educational system stays the way it is, if we as Black people don’t take more responsibility for our children’s education, there is just no way that becoming an Obama will be a realistic aspiration for our children even if he is the first Black president of these United States. The onus is on us to make becoming an Obama (even better and more successful) than Obama a realistically attainable goal for all our young. This requires work. Real work. Not symbolism.

So as it is clear to see, there’s nothing euphoria-inducing about my position. It is very much grounded in reality and very cautiously optimistic. Some may take my calmness about the whole situation as “not caring about the struggles that Black people have been through”. The fact that I’m not excited about Obama means that I’m a “hater”. That I am not holding hands, lighting candles and singing Kumbaya now that he’s elected means that I don’t have hope and I’m not interested in change.

Look, it will be wonderful when I’m teaching my children about the U.S. presidents for them to see number 44—a Black man. I’m hoping to have a long list of accomplishments to attribute to #44. I know that this is something their ancestors might never have been able to imagine. But I’m thankful for the resiliency of the human spirit and my ancestors who have shown me that nothing can stop you for becoming what you want to be. I especially thank my father. Upon visiting the village where he is from a few years ago, it struck me very strongly how much of an accomplishment his doctorate is. This town had no roads. No running water. I fully appreciate just how much drive and determination it took for my father pull himself out of that and become who he is today. I’m proud of him. I’m blessed that I have that example. I’m blessed that inside of me, without a doubt, I already knew before Obama came on the scene that, “Yes, I can.” And my children will know that without a doubt. And I know that without a doubt all Black people can. We can be what we will. We didn’t need Obama becoming president for this to be true. It was true all along. The only problem is that we allowed these racist White people (through our disorganization and because of our fear) to make us believe that it wasn’t. Let us not look to them now to give us the green light that it is okay to believe in ourselves again, to believe ourselves worthy once again.

So, yes, I voted for Obama. I wasn’t trying to make history. I wasn’t trying to make sure I see the first Black president. I was voting in hopes that there would be a landslide victory too large for anyone to reasonably steal without some serious uproar. I was voting in hopes that the election just would not be stolen again. I wholeheartedly believe that if the country was flying high and everything was peachy keen, McCain would be in office today. In my opinion, the hands of many White people were forced because self-interests/survival trumped racism. We are undeniable on the brink if not in the throes of the 2nd Great Depression. Oh, but you better believe that Mr. Obama will be held to the highest of high standards. It is over the next few years that we will see just how racist this country is and can be. I do not think for a minute that real, fundamental, psychological change has come to racists in America. They did what it was clear they had to do in order to survive.

I voted for Obama because he is a change. He is a change that happens to have a Black face. To me, he is not the Black face that represents change. I would have voted for any Democrat or any body willing to try something different than what Bush and his administration has been doing. I am expecting this democratic administration to do better for the common folks (as this has been the trademark of the Democrats since FDR) than a republican administration. In other words, I voted the democratic ticket. The bonus is that the democrat is Black.

So what would really make me excited? Oh, I’d be very excited to see a Black leader of any Black nation revolutionizing his/her country, bringing his/her country right into the first world. I’d be excited to see that leader breaking down corruption, stimulating his/her nation’s economy, providing food, medical care, education, basic infrastructure. I’d be excited to see that change. That would give me a huge self-esteem boost. It would require not kowtowing to White folks. It would require blatantly defying White folks. It would require just not giving one good damn about what White folks think. It would require complete self-interest and a commitment to self-determination at all costs. It would require fierce defense of self. I would be proud and excited to see that.

As for the here and now, I’ll get excited about Obama after 4 years and seeing the change actually here. I’ll get excited when words turn into action.

Right now, I’m cautiously reserved relishing hearing some of these right-wing conservative seethe and sulk now that a nigger Black man is in office. They’re doing all they can to keep from shouting “damn it!” while on the air. (Tee-hee, tee-hee . . . take that!)

8 comments:

St Theresa lent me her halo said...

I completely agree.

And, he actually *is* African-American since his father is Kenyan. I mean, the name fits him better than most of us. LOL

Obama doesn't represent enough of a progressive spirit for me to care about this, but I'm happy for the ppl who are happy. And, I smirk in the general direction of racist assholes.

80sBaby70sSoul said...

I agree, but with reservations. Obama is the first person of color to run for president that actually had a shot at winning and I believe that is because he is NOT African-American (as in, he does not share the cultural upbringing of African-Americans). He is Kenyan and White American. He was raised by a white mother and her white parents and has only visited his Kenyan family. That makes him worldly enough to be intriguing, yet decidedly American (like meat and potatoes, bad wallpaper, midwestern american). America still is not ready for a Black president. Someone who has the pain and suffering of their enslaved ancestors running through their veins. However, change comes gradually, and Obama is definitely ushering in a transition phase in American history.

While I do agree that we did not need Obama to win in order to be taught or to teach our children that they can fly, we must admit that most of our brothas and sistas did. Regardless of how we may feel about Black internalized self-hatred, it exists! And this is the moment when those of us who were still sleeping finally got that slap in the face. Not everyone has had examples of people actually pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. This is their example.

My biggest issue with your post is that you seem to not be taking time to smell the roses. I understand your cautiousness and I, too, am very wary. We know he is a politician. We know he will not totally revolutionize this nation. We know he is inheriting a shit load of crap that will not be cleaned up in 4-8 years. We know that he can not possibly implement all of his proposed changes. But I don't think that is the point. If he can stay alive for an entire term or two, THAT is progress for African-Americans. If he can stand as proof to black folks that we can be whatever we put our mind to; if he can stand as proof to white folks that a black person in power is not something to be afraid of; if he can stand as proof to the international community that it is not the American people who suck, its their power hungry political leaders; then he will have succeeded in my eyes. Everything else is gravy.

As I have always said, I am African by descent and American by default. But the fact still remains that I do not have an African country that I can call home. I (and at least 5 generations before me) was born here. While I will definitely be taking the time to find out which country I truly belong to, there are many of my brothas and sistas (myself included) who would rather make things work here. I do not disagree with the idea and practice of holding America accountable for its promises and making this country take a long hard look at itself through its our mirror of morality.

I encourage you to take the time out to be unabashedly excited, even if for only a minute. Because when slavery was abolished, we were still fighting an uphill battle, but we were free, and look at where we are now. And though we are still fighting an uphill battle, we must take the time to recognize the amazing milestones along the way.

Neo.soul said...

Although I'm more excited than you are right now ... as a foreign national living legally in the US, I totally understand where you're coming from!!!!! Totally ....

Chi-Chi said...

Hmmm . . . 80sBaby70sSoul, I'm not really able to put a finger on why it bothers people so much that I'm not "taking time to smell the roses" especially since I am not asking anyone to not smell the roses. By all means, please do. I just don't really feel like it's time to slow down and smell the roses just yet. And yet I can still acknowledge that this is a milestone. Like, my youngest son, it's cool that he can pull himself up now and hold on to things and move himself around (which is a milestone). I'll be really excited (and smell the roses, if you will) when he starts to walk.

Oh, and I completely agree (and acknowledged I think in my post) . . . not everyone has had my example of being able to overcome and I know what this means that to many who have been consistently beat down. I rejoice for them and hope that it brings tangible change to their lives.

Oh, and I think by marrying my DH and making a family here, I think I've showed that I'm committed to trying to make it work here. Which is why I've taken an interest in local politics again. Can we actually make it work? That is yet to be seen.

@St Theresa lent me her halo--I hear you completely.

@neo.soul--thanks for visiting my blog. Glad you understand some of my ramblings! :)

80sBaby70sSoul said...

LOL...I guess what I'm tryna say is, this IS America "pulling itself up and holding on to things to move itself around." You and I may not live to see this country actually "walk." This may be that only milestone we get to acknowledge.

Oh, and its already been 5 days. The roses are already wilted. I'm pretty much where you are now!

Chi-Chi said...

I get you girl . . . it's true. Sobering but true. :)

Just Me said...

Well...I couldn't agree with you more. I think you better articulated what I've been feeling than I could have. I too am looking forward to words turning into action.
Sabrina

Leah said...

Wow. I'm speechless. You sound so bitter, yet so genuine in your feelings...I wish I could have a broader discussion with you. I'm a Caucasian (the "color" of my skin doesn't define me) college student who happened across your blog while searching for political blogs. I can't begin to relate to what you write and feel. I sincerely hope your opinions of America aren't the same for the majority...that would be a scary situation.

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