Obama’s Victory Shows Not Just How Far We’ve Come, but How Much Further We Have to Go
Hey, remember when I used to update this thing on a regular basis? Well, that was before the play and new workout regiment and all that. I don’t think I’ll ever have the amount of freetime I had before – nor would I want it – but as time goes on I’m adjusting to it more and more and finding the time to do those things that I need to do in order to keep my sanity. Say, for example, updating my blog. And believe me, friends, there’s a lot to update on, and to write about it all would be tedious and take more time than I’m willing to spend on it.
That said…the election. I wrote a bit about the anticipation on Tuesday afternoon. I won’t get too much into the entire spectrum of my emotional reactions to the Obama victory or the various phone calls I got after it was announced. However, I will note that I legitimately teared up when I saw Jesse Jackson crying in Chicago.
I know not everyone is the biggest fan of Jackson, particularly those that would like to keep the focus on stupid media gaffes than all of the great work he’s done for his people and this country. But to see the man at his age, two rivers pouring down his cheeks while he watched Barack Obama declared the next President of the United States and give his victory speech? I thought “sir, you claim full ownership for those tears and let them flow. This is what you fought to achieve the better part of forty years.”
And I teared up. That’s the similarities end. I grew up a poor white Irish Catholic kid in the projects of one of the most economically depressed cities in upstate New York during the 1980s and 1990s, but never would I deign to act as if I had any semblance of first-hand knowledge towards racial discrimination. But I did grow up in a household that held Jesse up as something of a hero and likable figure, which is odd considering the sharp turns both my parents took as they got older and forgot what it was like to dream. I’m thankful that as my parents went in that direction, I grew further away from them politically in the last couple years. So to see the man that my father supported in his bid for the Presidency in the 1980s witness and whom was such an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement (which didn’t just begin and end in the late 60s), it harkened back to better thoughts of my childhood…of which there weren’t nearly as many as I’d like.
That is not to say that The Dream has been fully attained. The struggle isn’t over, and the vision that King had in the 1960s hasn’t become reality. There are people who will tell you that it has, and that Barack Obama winning the Presidency is proof of it; proof that racism is no longer a major problem in this country and that what makes America great is that people advance based on their merit and nothing else.
These people are at best fools and at worst liars. It pains me to say that since some of them are good friends of mine, but these are the same folks that get offended at the mere suggestion of there being any sort of problems with the general attitudes and sentiments held by mainstream America. These are the ones that focus on stuff like flag lapel pins. These are the folks McCain and Palin were pandering to when they’d suggest that Obama was wrong for America merely because he and/or his wife suggested that this country has some very real problems that we need to face. These are the folks that think equal rights of homosexuals don’t fall under the realm of Civil Rights, which they want to think was only a problem when their parents were their age.
There’s nothing wrong with being proud to being an American. However, I’ve always held the view that to be proud of anything and everything American and only hang your head in shame when the problems reach such extremes as to be impossible to ignore and/or condone is nothing more than insincere and comes from a place of sheer cowardice. It only serves to keep your eyes closed to the various injustices that occur in this great land of ours.
So no, just because Barack Obama is President doesn’t mean that there isn’t still some very real problems with race in this country. I’ve heard more “well, he’s half-white” comments in the past several days than I care to. His election to the Presidency doesn’t erase racism and our inability to discuss it in an open forum (though Obama himself did more for the national discourse with his initial response to the Jeremiah Wright scandal than anybody else in the last ten years). It doesn’t erase the inequality. The people that voted for him outnumber but do not minimize the effect of those that did not vote for him simply because of the color of his skin or the ethnic origin of his name. The results of the election don’t change the fact that only one man – Colin Powell – had the courage to stand on the national stage and say that the issue isn’t that people are saying Obama’s an Arab or Muslim when he isn’t, it’s that people are saying it as if it’s inherently a bad thing.
There’s a lot of change that needs to occur in this country, and as such it was the general theme of the election. However, my concern is that we’ll forget how much work we have to do when it comes to racial inequality and the prevailing bigotry in certain areas…and by certain areas I mean geographically and ideologically. Let’s not allow our desire to work towards getting through what’s going to be the toughest economic period our country’s seen since The Great Depression put us into a false sense of security when it comes to racism. Just because you’re fixing the flat tire doesn’t mean that you don’t have to worry about the smoke coming out of the engine.
Martin Luther King had a dream. Barack Obama’s victory on Tuesday night was NOT the realization of that dream, just an important milestone. As important as it was in terms of our nation’s history that an African-American man was elected President of the United States, his road to the White House showed more than anything that we are much further away from that dream than any of us wanted to admit.
So stop saying “The Dream is realized.” Don’t just hang the metaphorical “Mission Accomplished” banner. Let’s get to work – all of us. Let’s work to make our country stronger economically, let’s work to mend the political divides in this country, and let’s work to eliminate the racial inequality and discrimination that runs rampant throughout this land. I’m urging you to wake up not because I want to instill some cynicism in you, but that I do believe we all need to be aware of it in order to keep that hope alive. Some of you may think to yourselves that it just means there’s always going to be problems, and that The Dream will never be fully realized, that it’s unattainable.
Yes we can. Didn’t you learn anything on Tuesday?