I read the Eugene Robinson (pictured above) piece, “Obama Campaign Instills New Pride” and felt the need to comment here at Black Tokyo. Mr. Robinson writes for the Washington Post. His column is distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group, 1150 15th NW, Washington, DC 20071. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to leave your comments!
Obama campaign instills new pride
Whoever wins this election, I understand what Barack Obama meant when he said his faith in the American people had been “vindicated” by his campaign’s success. I understand what Michelle Obama meant, months ago, when she said she was “proud of my country” for the first time in her adult life. Why should they be immune to the astonishment and vertigo that so many other African-Americans are experiencing? Why shouldn’t they have to pinch themselves to make sure they aren’t dreaming, the way that I do?
I know there’s a possibility that the polls are wrong. I know there’s a possibility that white Americans, when push comes to shove, won’t be able to bring themselves to elect a black man as president of the United States. But the spread in the polls is so great that the Bradley effect wouldn’t be enough to make Obama lose; it would take a kind of “Dr. Strangelove effect” in which voters’ hands developed a will of their own.
Zurui’s comment: Not only white Americans but other Americans that tend to vote Republican and not for a “normal” candidate.
I’m being facetious but not unserious. In my gut, I know there’s a chance that the first African-American to make a serious run for the presidency will lose. But that is precisely what’s new and, in a sense, unsettling: I’m talking about possibility, not inevitability.
For African-Americans, at least those of us old enough to have lived through the civil rights movement, this is nothing short of mind-blowing. It’s disorienting, and it makes me see this nation in a different light.
Zurui’s comment: As a long-time former Republican (yep, I have to admit it although I did not vote for Bush) and as a child of the 60’s that experienced the Detroit riots in my neighborhood on 12th Street firsthand, racism in the South, a few incidents of institutional racism in the military, and just straight up B.S. that has damaged the image of the United States, it freaks me out that I am seeing America (so far) becoming a true melting pot or mixed salad by backing a minority candidate for the highest office in the nation.
You see, I remember a time of separate and unequal schools, restrooms and water fountains — a time when black people were officially second-class citizens. I remember moments when African-Americans were hopeful and excited about the political process, and I remember other moments when most of us were depressed and disillusioned. But I can’t think of a single moment, before this year, when I thought it was within the realm of remote possibility that a black man could be nominated for president by one of the major parties — let alone that he would go into Election Day with a better-than-even chance of winning.
Let me clarify: It’s not that I would have calculated the odds of an African-American being elected president and concluded that this was unlikely, it’s that I wouldn’t even have thought about such a thing.
Zurui’s comment: Leaders or motivators such as The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm Little (X) and the people that marched with them met the wrath, resentment and hatred that a confused and afraid group of Americans harbored. This group wanted to retain the status quo. Currently many Blacks have stated that it would seem unlikely that an African-American would reach the level that Barack Obama has because some nut case (God forbid) would see that “his or her” America remains the same by any means necessary. Thus many Blacks would not or could not image an African-American being elected president.
African-Americans’ love of country is deep, intense and abiding, but necessarily complicated. At its hour of its birth, the nation was already stained by the Original Sin of slavery. Only in that past several decades has legal racism been outlawed and casual racism made unacceptable, at least in polite company. Millions of black Americans have managed to pull themselves up into mainstream, middle-class affluence, but millions of others remain mired in poverty and dysfunction.
Zurui’s comment: People have selective memory and tend to forget that 33% of Congress voted against the Civil Rights Act of July 2, 1964. A law that outlaws segregation in the US schools and public places and eventually helped those Americans in the struggle: the working class, Blacks, Asian immigrants, Native Americans, Latinos, women, and disenfranchised white and other “labeled” Americans; all of whom were deeply impacted by the decision to pass the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. A decision that called on people of color and lower-economic status to fight for “right” when their rights were loss. Does this sound familiar in this day and age with the War on Terror?
During the conflict in Vietnam, all but two members of Congress, that’s 98%, voted to essentially uphold a treaty that was primarily created to block further Communist gains in Southeast Asia? The problem I have with that is what gains were being blocked here in America when the average, let alone Black, American asked for a basic defense of their freedoms? Do the math, Blacks were asked to sign up for the draft even before their voting rights were guaranteed!
A few black Americans broke through into the highest echelons of American society. Oprah Winfrey became the most powerful woman in the entertainment industry by appealing to an audience that is mostly white. Richard Parsons, Stanley O’Neal and others became alpha males in the lily-white world of Wall Street. Through superhuman skill and unbending will, Tiger Woods came to dominate a sport long seen as emblematic of white privilege.
Zurui’s comment: President Johnson asked for a resolution that will allow “him” to express the unity and determination of the United States in supporting freedom and in protecting peace in Southeast Asia.” All of this at a time when we needed to resolve to do more to support freedom and promote peace here in America. I refer to the 1960’s when looking at America today because once again the nation is at war at home and abroad.
Back then, it was believed that the Tonkin Gulf Resolution will help “hostile nations understand” that the U.S is unified in its determination “to continue to protect its national interests. Did anyone at that time ask the Members of Congress, to understand how hostile States in our Nation continue to protect their interests by determining that unity will not be national? Now, we in America are experiencing an unity that has not been seen in a very, very long time. Will it translate into nations understanding that the U.S. is unified in its determination to protect its national interests for the right reasons. Can we once again keep our eye on the prize?
Along came Barack Obama, a young man with an unassailable resume and a message of post-racial transformation. Initially, a big majority of African-Americans lined up behind his major opponent in the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton. The reason was simple: In the final analysis, white Americans weren’t going to vote for the black guy. Better to go with the safe alternative.
But an amazing thing happened. In the Iowa caucuses, white Americans voted for the black guy. That’s the moment Obama was referring to when he said his faith in the American people was vindicated. For me, it was the moment when the utterly impossible became merely unlikely. That’s a huge, fundamental change, and it launched a sequence of events over the subsequent months that made me realize that some things I “knew” about America were apparently wrong.
Even if John McCain somehow prevails, that won’t change the fact that Obama won all those primaries, or that he won the nomination, or that he raised more money than any candidate in history, or that he rewrote the book on how to run a presidential campaign. Nothing can change the fact that so many white Americans entrusted a black American with their hopes and dreams.
Zurui’s comment: Blacks were not ensured the right to vote until August 4, 1965. If you are an eligible Black voter and did not vote…. Well, I will let you finish the sentence. Remember, it was only 40-years ago that Blacks in certain parts of America could not even sit at the same counter and eat with Whites or drink from the same water fountain.
We can all have a new kind of pride in our country.
Zurui’s comment: True! While many in American embraced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech of August 28, 1963, there are many, as Malcolm X quipped, that feel: “While King was having a dream, the rest of us Negroes are having a nightmare.” Well now maybe we can wake-up and see that dreams do come true!