What they’re saying

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

I originally got a “gig” on the front page here at DD because I made an attempt to write a weekly roundup of some of the discussions going on in the diversosphere called Blog Voices. Over the months, I’ve veered off that course, but I thought that the day after the United States elected the first Black President, it might be time to check in and see what folks are saying. This is definitely not an exhaustive look, but I checked in with some of the folks whose writing has had an impact on me and would like to share some of what I found with you.

First of all, Kai over at Zuky wrote an amazing piece before the election that he titled The Palin’ Identity that captures the message of this campaign in a very powerful way. I’ll give you a taste, but mostly encourage you to go take in the whole thing.  

The reason why the McCain-Palin campaign has appeared erratic throughout the election season is that their strategic communications have been conceived and crafted according to the language of implicit cultural code rather than explicit thematic cohesion. On the surface, their messages appear scattershot, misaligned, contradictory and confusing; but that’s because these messages are designed to appeal not to crisp logical consistency, but rather to murky socio-cultural undercurrents and subterranean sentiments which have fueled, informed, and warped white identity politics since the birth of this nation.

What’s extraordinary is that this time around – at this particular crossroads, against this particular candidate – it’s not working…

I think it’s safe to say that two generations of steady anti-racist work in the wake of the Civil Rights movement have had a profound effect on mainstream attitudes. The stigmatization of racism, so often decried as mere “political correctness”, has in some ways succeeded in driving the most toxic forms of racist hatred underground, resulting in a popular culture which at least tolerates a superficial modicum of racial diversity.

Tim Wise weighs in at Racialicious with an essay titled Good, and Now Back to Work: Avoiding Both Cynicism and Overconfidence in the Age of Obama.

Those who say it doesn’t matter weren’t with me on the south side of Chicago this past week, surrounded by a collection of amazing community organizers who go out and do the hard work every day of trying to help create a way out of no way for the marginalized. All of them know that an election is but a part of the solution, a tactic really, in a larger struggle of which they are a daily part; and none of them are so naive as to think that their jobs are now to become a cakewalk because of the election of Barack Obama. But all of them were looking forward to this moment…

It’s like this y’all: Jesse Jackson was weeping openly on national television. This is a man who was with Dr. King when he was murdered and he was bawling like a baby. So don’t tell me this doesn’t matter…

It was a victory for youth, and their social and political sensibilities. It was the young, casting away the politics of their parents and even grandparents, and turning the corner to a new day, perhaps naively, and too optimistic about the road from here, but nonetheless in a way that has historically almost always been good for the country. Much as youth were inspired by a relatively moderate John F. Kennedy (who was, on balance, far less progressive than Obama in many ways), and much as they then formed the frontline troops for so much of the social justice activism of the following fifteen years, so too can such a thing be forseen now. That Kennedy may have been quite restrained in his social justice sensibilities did not matter: the young people whose energy he helped unleash took things in their own direction and outgrew him rather quickly in their progression to the left.

There was a theme I saw in a couple of places. First of all, from Carmen D at All About Race.

It feels good to be in love with my country right now. Oh, I always love her. But sometimes we fight and we don’t get along as well as I’d like. Even though divorce is never an option for us, right now we’re like newlyweds.

And then from rikyrah at Jack and Jill Politics.

Our resident Chicken Little-NMP- said something during the primary season that I never forgot: she said watching Obama win like this made her feel like an American. Not a Black-American or an African-American, but an American. And, I knew what she meant, because it’s how I’ve felt too. I would watch Obama rallies and SEE the America that I wanted to live in, and I was willing to work for that.

The Field Negro shares a comment by one of his readers. I’ll put the “spoiler” here, but go read the whole thing.

I wanted to vote for these people, who did not live to see a day where a Black man would appear on their ballots on a crisp November morning. In the end, though, I realized that I could not vote for them any more than I could vote for Obama himself. So who did I vote for? No one.I didn’t vote…I stood there, and I thought about all of these people, who influenced my life so greatly. But I didn’t vote for who would be the 44th President of the United States. When my ballot was complete, except for the top line, I finally decided who I was going to vote for – and then decided to let him vote for me. I reached down, picked him up, and told him to find Obama’s name on the screen and touch it. And so it came to pass that Alexander Reed, age 5, read the voting screen, found the right candidate, touched his name, and actually cast a vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Oh, the vote will be recorded as mine. But I didn’t cast it.

Then again, the person who actually pressed the Obama box and the red “vote” button was the person I was really voting for all along…So, no, I didn’t vote for Barack Obama. I voted for a boy who now has every reason to believe he, too, can grow up to be anything he wants…even President.

Of course anyone who’s ever read Blog Voices before will know that I can’t complete a trip like this without a visit to Nezua at The Unapologetic Mexican.

I WEPT. And today, I am weeping. On and off. The smallest thought or image suddenly touches me again and I crack open with relief, hope, or gratitude. Excitement. Calm.

Nobody knows for certain what lies ahead. But I think we all can agree, nothing will be the same as it was. And not in a dour, scared, “9/11 changed everything” sort of way. For once.

Something has been righted. I don’t need now to wrestle over how large or exactly what “it” is…

I cannot hang this morning with people jumping immediately into negativity. Can’t do it quite yet. I understand the process and the points, but I can’t go there quite yet…You can choose a negative moment anytime. Go ahead. Right now, you can. Think any thought you want about me, him, yourself, the street, the sky, the body, the next moment. Paint it dim. Or don’t! Or think positive. And use that positive energy to get to the place the complaint pretends to desire…

I do think we have been traumatized in a collective sense. I do think we are afraid to hope, afraid we are being spied on, that martial rule is about to descend, that nothing good can happen here; afraid dark massive shapes are hulking under any patina of benevolence…I understand trauma. And societies can have it, too…

We have amazing stores of power in us, of energy, of psychic, spiritual, mental energy. That’s why we can heal ourselves and sicken ourselves and others around us. Obama is not perfect, but from what I see, he believes in orienting upon the restorative, constructive, and healing properties of that energy. And any people who do that in a day or a place have my attention.

Today, I am amazed. Today, I feel anything can happen. Today, I am alive with dreams.

12 comments

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  1. I kept hearing in my head as I was reading.

    • RiaD on November 5, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    it’s a Great Leap for america….maybe for mankind, who knows?

    & yes, i voted for Obama because he embodied the america i want us to become.

    i agree with Nezua

    I cannot hang this morning with people jumping immediately into negativity. Can’t do it quite yet. I understand the process and the points, but I can’t go there quite yet…You can choose a negative moment anytime. Go ahead. Right now, you can. Think any thought you want about me, him, yourself, the street, the sky, the body, the next moment. Paint it dim. Or don’t! Or think positive. And use that positive energy to get to the place the complaint pretends to desire…

    i just require a day or two, to take joy & revel in what has been accomplished. to exclaim ‘whew~just think if it had gone the other way!’ & ponder that outcome for just a bit. & celebrate how far we’ve come. then we can work on more.

  2. … from elle, phd:

    The whole time, my son was fidgeting, waiting “our turn.” When we finally made it into the room, the people working took our voter’s registration cards. One of them looked at my niece’s, then raised his eyebrows.

    Oh, shit, I thought.

    “Ma’am,” he began, “Are you a first time voter?”

    “Yes sir,” she said.

    His expression softened into a smile. “Congratulations,” he said, then turned to his co-workers. “Hey! First time voter here.” They began to bang their tables and tell her congratulations, prompting people in line to clap and smile. The woman in front of us pointed to her daughter.

    “Her, too. She’s three weeks past 18.”

    More applause.

    The whole post is good, but that part really hit me hard.

    Another great round-up, thanks for this.

  3. Palin was considered a legitimate candidate. Compare her accomplishments to Michelle Obama’s who wasn’t even running for office. WTF? Get real.

    Nor did I understand women when they said they could relate to her. So you’re saying you admire a vacant, ignorant, and scheming but good looking woman? Alrighty then. I don’t relate to Michelle Obama either: she had more class than me, dresses better and has a more impressive resume and has accomplished more but really whatcha gonna chose for a role model for your young women and girls?

  4. that I would have liked to include. Its at BooMan Tribune and was written by TerranceDC titled A Change is Gonna Come.

    Terrance has a unique perspective in that he is not only an amazing writer, he is an African American gay man. The essay celebrates his joy at the election of Obama. And then in the comments, he’s heard about what happened with prop 8 in California. Here’s what he said at that point.

    It’s funny, In twenty-four hours I gained new faith in America. And quickly lost it.

    In twenty-four hours, everything changed — and nothing changed.

  5. My schedule being what it is, this can change weekly…but that’s my schedule this week.

    So I stopped by the local pub–owner is a friend of mine–and ran into a guy who, when I first met him, described himself as registered independent but generally voting GOP.

    He came over today to tell me that, for the first time in his life, he voted a straight Democratic ticket.  He went further than that, though:  He began ranting about how the GOP is not conservative anymore, that they’re becoming a bunch of crazy, fringe neos–not a direct quote, but you get the gist.

    Mark is white but not racist: if the GOP has lost him, they’ve lost the middle.  (heh)

  6. on “The View” yesterday.

    The realization that hit me and really messed me up for the rest of the night was that as an American, I always thought of myself as an American with all of the promise that America holds, but suddenly last night I felt like I could put my suitcase down finally.

  7. in the New York Times Tuesday night, an article titled And Then They Wept.

    History will record this as the night the souls of black folk, living and dead, wept – and laughed, screamed and danced – releasing 400 years of pent up emotion.

    They were the souls of those whose bodies littered the bottom of the Atlantic, whose families were torn asunder, whose names were erased.

    They were those who knew the terror of being set upon by men with clubs, of being trapped in a torched house, of dangling at the end of a rough rope.

    They were the souls of those who knew the humiliation of another person’s spit trailing down their faces, of being treated like children well into their twilight years, of being derided and despised for the beauty God gave them.

    They were also the tears of those for whom “Yes We Can, ” Obama’s campaign slogan, took on a broader, more profound meaning.

    “Yes We Can” escape the prison of lowered expectations and the cycles of poor choices. “Yes We Can” rise above history and beyond hatred. “Yes We Can” ascend to Martin Luther King’s mountain top and see the promised land where dreams are fulfilled, where the best man wins and where justice prevails.

    During this election African-Americans, their hearts weary from disappointment, dared to hope and dream again. Tonight their dream has been realized.

  8. You Are The People, here’s a wonderful letter to Obama from Alice Walker.

    Just a bit of it.

    A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters…

    Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

    We are the ones we have been waiting for.

    • kj on November 7, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    i am saving this essay to read like i’d save a good piece of silk.

    and this link from NPK to nola’s bloggers.

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