Monday, September 1, 2008
On Making History
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.