I remember back in 1984 when rumors started flying that Walter Mondale might pick a woman to run with him on the democratic ticket. My reaction was to be completely dismissive; a sort of “what’s so new about a woman in the back-up role?” kind of thing.
And then I sat and watched as he nominated Geraldine Ferraro…and I cried.
What got released in me that day was something that for 30 years told me that I didn’t belong, didn’t have a place at the table. I saw myself in Geraldine Ferraro. And all of the sudden I felt included in the scheme of things in a way I never had before.
I saw that same feeling on the faces of African American delegates to the ’88 Democratic Convention when Jesse Jackson spoke. And since it had happened to me only 4 years previously, I recognized the look.
I don’t want to be alienating to anyone, but the reality is that white heterosexual men in this country don’t have a point of reference for this kind of experience. You have grown up seeing yourselves represented in every position of power that can be imagined. But perhaps with some empathy, you can understand a bit of what it feels like to have that sense of marginalization being communicated every day in ways that sometimes are overt, but most often covert, to the point that the feeling sinks deep into your bones and you don’t even notice all the time that its there.
And then one day POW!!! Someone like Ferraro or Jackson breaks through…and the world of possibilities opens up again.
For the past day or so I’ve been reading blogs written by African Americans to see what they are saying about the Obama victory in the Iowa caucuses this week. Some didn’t even mention it. Some don’t support or trust him. But for many, they shared that feeling of anticipation that perhaps the door is breaking open, the one that says you belong. Lets take a look.
Perhaps the best place to start is with Skeptical Brotha:
I’m sorry I took too long, but as Gene Robinson of the Washington Post has said, this is a “Goosebumps moment.” As I write and listen once more to the victory speech, the tears are coming and I feel as emotional as a pregnant woman does. I will be in church on Sunday morning and nobody will be able to hold me down because I will be a shouting fool.
I needed this as my grandparents needed Martin and Malcolm. I needed this because I need to believe in something again. I needed this because my spirit has been shattered, my joy has been stolen, and my hope in my country destroyed…
Basking in the glow of this historical moment, one I’ve dreamed of for 25 years, I’ve overcome my bitter and sarcastic cynicism, and I have decided to endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States.
dnA over at Jack and Jill Politics sums up “The View from Harlem” this way:
All the Obama volunteers told me how hard it was, even in Harlem, to convince folks that an Obama presidency was possible. Not just because Harlem now lies in the shadow of the Clinton building, but because people in Harlem’s barbershops, restaurants and schools didn’t think a black man could win. The very circumstances of our own lives pushes the possibility past the realm of belief.
But Harlem believed last night. We all believed last night.
But not everyone is won over just yet. Here’s what The Field Negro had to say:
Damn it Barrack, I wish you wouldn’t do this. I really do.
You need to stop teasing all these black folks and well meaning white folks out here.
I caught your little act in Iowa last night, and it was impressive. I gotta give it to you my man, you have some skills.
Honestly, my ankles are hurting from jumping on and off your damn bandwagon. And right now I am feeling like jumping on again. People have been telling me that I should stop being so cynical and get on board the Obama train but…..I mean I am just saying. Having a black Prez would be cool and all (at least a half a one anyway). But will having a black Prez cause our children to stop popping each other like they are all living in a video game? Will it cause one more misguided teenager to put on some protection before he has sex with some poor fatherless girl? Will it stop corporations from being greedy? And will it stop that racist cop or DA from doing something he would have if a white Prez was in the White House? I am pretty sure it won’t. Our problems are much deeper than having one of us acting as commander in chief.
Still, the symbolism would be nice. And it would say something about A-merry-ca. I for one would have to reconsider some of my views of A-merry-ca and all the people in it. I would certainly start looking at my white neighbors in a more positive light. After all, if I am going to rip them when I think they do wrong, I have to praise them when they do right.
So I might ride with the half and half man for now, but I don’t want to get too involved, because in the back of my mind I am still aware of where I live.
But behind the sense of celebration for some and doubt for others comes the fear. If you didn’t check out the article by Lowermanhattanite titled Pride and Palpitations that budhy linked to yesterday, I highly recommend it to you. Here’s a bit of it:
But I want you to understand what that nervousness and yes, I’ll say it-fear was about as Barack Obama thanked his supporters and urged them onward. I don’t know if you’ll ever really understand it and why it comes so quickly to the fore for Black folks. I guess, you need only to look at not distant, but recent American history and how deadly cruel it has been to Black people on the cusp of busting a door wide open…
We have developed an unfortunate Pavlovian response to the repeated sight of our best and brightest being blown away like so many dandelion bits in the wind.
We have our moments of pride, and then…then, those uncontrollable palpitations. Worrying about when the ax will fall. Or the grenade. Or the bullet’s sharp crack, the diving security and guests, and the inevitable cut to a shocked newsroom.
And finally, those who are definitely NOT on the Obama bandwagon are most often quoting an article by Grace Lee Boggs titled Is Obama Black Enough? She begins by giving a short synopsis of the “civil rights movement” followed by the search for black leaders and ends with this:
But neither Obama’s ethnicity or Hillary’s gender is enough to earn my support. Neither is calling on the American people to confront our materialism and militarism or challenging and proposing alternatives to corporate globalization. At this critical period in human history that is what we should be requiring of ourselves and of any presidential candidate, whatever their race, gender or religion.
Fortunately new leadership is emerging out of obscurity, at the grassroots level, building community instead of running for office.
So, there you have a bit of a summary of the diversosphere blog-talk about Obama. No matter what happens with his candidacy, the ground beneath us shifted a bit last week. We’ll have to wait and see how it settles.