Archive for December, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

I’m Down With Obama, But…

 obama ali Im Down With Obama, But...

OK, I wanted to wait until everyone’s Obama high wore off before I dare write this and I know I’m risking the ire of every negro in the land and the motherland but I have something to say and, frankly, me pissing everyone off is really nothing new.

It all started with the coverage of the 2008 Presidential Election Day.  You saw countless interviews with members of the African-American community standing in lines across the country speaking on how proud they were to have a chance to vote for the first Black president.  Now don’t get me wrong, even I teared up as I cast my ballot for Obama but as I watch interviews throughout the day, something started to bother me.  I began to notice how many times I heard African-Americans saying things like “I haven’t voted in 15 years but I’m inspired to vote for Obama” or  “I’ve never voted before but I’m here to vote for Obama.”

 There were so many black folks saying that they never thought about voting until Obama’s candidacy.  So many black folks saying how they never felt it was important until now or that Obama made them believe in the political process again.  Now as inspirational as Obama’s candidacy is, I still couldn’t help but bristle a bit at the number of folks who never attached any importance to voting until Obama came along.   Why did it take a black presidential candidate to make black people interested in presidential politics?  A community whose parents and grandparents died for the right to vote somehow felt content staying home, until a black man ran for president.   RUFKM? (r u fucking kidding me?) 

But wait there’s more….

Now, after Obama was elected, I am suddenly hearing and seeing all these interviews that speak of how there is a new image of the black male.  That black men are going to start pulling their pants up and gaining some pride in their image because of Obama.  How educated is the new cool and success will no longer be measured in bling and bitches.  I heard an interview on Michel Martins “Tel Me More “ on NPR where she spoke to moms who were so happy that their sons now had a role model other than rappers an athletes.  Forget their actual dads, they now had Obama.  There was suddenly a new quest for excellence in the black community and Obama was leading the parade.

We also heard about how this may be a new age in the black family.  The black family may make a comeback because of the Obamas.  We now had a real life Cosby Show to look to now for examples of a successful nuclear family.  It’s a brand new day in the black community!

Is it me or is this a little scary?  Our community wasn’t inspired by our children getting gun downed in the streets.  Our community didn’t get inspired by a 50% drop out rate.  Our community wasn’t inspired hearing that only 25% of registered black voters voted in that crucial 2000 Florida election where we could have single-handedly changed the results of the election.  Our community wasn’t inspired by our wedlock rate and the lack of black marriage. Our community wasn’t inspired by the cultural pathos that runs rampant in our streets everyday.  We weren’t inspired by the pathetic condition of our inner cities and the lack of morality bred in our children.  We weren’t inspired by the fact that most black children grow up without a father in the home.  We weren’t inspired by the fact that so many black children place no value in education choosing instead to seek out the models of success as taught to them by hip hop.  We weren’t inspired by an underlying adversarial relationship between our men and women.

But let me get this straight.  A black man runs for President and wins and all of a sudden we’re inspired and want to get our shit together?  Doesn’t that scare you just a little bit?  It lends credence to the notion that without a magical negro leader, black folks are lost.   And sure, I’m a little torn.  Im conflicted about even saying this out loud, but I something just sticks on my proverbial craw about Obama inspiring us to do things that even witnessing children dying on our streets before our eyes couldn’t do.  Are we that desperate for a savior?  We don’t give two squirts of duck shit about doing better until Obama wins?  Huh?

Our communities have been floundering and flailing about for a decade, why does it take one man to convince us we have the ability to act on our own behalf for positive change in our own communities?  Why does Obama suddenly make us care?  Why do we always seem to depend on someone else to give us value?  Do we not think we’re important enough?  Is it the long rumored America-inspired self-hatred where we inherently feel that we are not worthy without the validation of others?  Obama has now given us value so we can feel good again?  We can be suddenly be inspired again to do better in our lives?  We now have permission.

I don’t know.  Don’t get me wrong, anything that achieves forward progress and make folks want to do better is alright with me.  But the notion that has to be attached to a person or a movement and not something that is an eternal fire in our bellies bothers me. For centuries we have relied on a collective quest to overcome.  A collective notion of success and equality.  We were our brothers keepers and we kept our eyes on the prize.  But now, we seem insecure in our own journey toward self-actualization.  Our communities are so misdirected and disjointed and without structure that we are totally lost without someone ramming a direction or message or slogan or t-shirt motto down our throats.

  We seem to thirst for leadership.  We want so desperately for someone to validate what we know already.  That we are smart, powerful people with the power to achieve anything.  That we are survivors and the strongest of the strong capable of succeeding in spite of any challenge.  But without someone telling us and showing us, we just don’t quite believe it.  We want to believe it , and in our quiet moments or as we shout in church we tell ourselves that we are great and that God is good.  Then we leave and go back to our every man for himself lives, clumsily navigating the duality DuBoise spoke of.  Never really succeeding at either.  Never knowing what to believe or what to do.  Until someone shows us.

I don’t know.  Maybe its just me.  Maybe Im just feeling ornery or PMS’ing but something really annoys me about so many people in our communities never bothering to give a damn about their condition until Obama became president.  Don’t get me wrong, I cream for Obama with the rest of them but I’ve also voted in every election since I was 18, volunteered in my community, worked in legal services and generally tried to make my community a better place without a magical negro telling me to.

But I never look a gift horse in the mouth, I cant be mad at anything that inspires folk to do better.  Even if it is a magical negro.  I’ll just sit back and enjoy the next four or maybe eight years.  And when he’s out of office, God help us.  Again.