"Although it seems heaven sent, we ain't ready to see a black president"
Had he lived, the late Tupac Shakur would likely have been glad to eat his words in light of the events of November 4, 2008. Illinois Senator Barack Obama is now the President-Elect of the United States of America. Besting his opponent Senator John McCain of Arizona, Senator Obama has cleared over 300 electoral votes, nearly doubling the count of Senator McCain. Key to this were reputed battleground states of Ohio and Florida, both of which went to Obama. Other developments included Obama making strong stands in normally Republican strongholds like Montana and Indiana. Footage has been shown of not only American celebrations in many communities but in communities around the globe: Japan, Kenya, France, Haiti, Indonesia. People are rightfully celebrating a man whose vision, sophistication and determination clearly resonated with a global audience.
Despite my own enthusiastic support, up until Tuesday, I had to fight off a lingering skepticism, wondering if most of America could ‘go there’ and vote for a black presidential candidate (on either side of the party coin). Bless me, most of America did. Black Americans who lived through Jim Crow and the tumult of the 20th century Civil Rights Movement (including many family members of mine) are seeing what was once thought to be an abstract dream finally made manifest.
A black woman will soon become the First Lady. Two black children will spend a good portion of their childhoods in the White House. America’s armed forces now have a black Commander-in-Chief. In a bit of nice turnaround, predominately African-American Washington D.C.’s status as a ‘Chocolate City’ now has reached its full potential, to have black faces residing both inside and outside the White House.
As far as the issue of America being ‘post-racial’ goes, this is certainly a big door to kick down. Still, the challenge now becomes for people to continue to work on their personal and family goals as well learning to work together with people from different backgrounds to achieve change locally, which feeds into what communities need regionally and nationally.
Despite the unassailably progressive step that was made in most of the electorate voting for Barack Obama, many of America’s individual cities and towns still suffer from racialized tensions which plays out in varying ways depending on the ethnic population of a given region. In Detroit, the biggest political controversy in its history has only recently begun to wane—former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is currently in the second week of a four-month stint in county jail, relating to guilty pleas on four felony charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Even in jail, Kilpatrick is still a polarizing figure—supporters who appeared at his formal sentencing called for him to be freed and Kilpatrick’s father called it a railroading. Bernard Kilpatrick and several others (including staff on the current city council) are currently under an FBI probe into possible corruption involving city-contractor grants and whether Kilpatrick’s non-profit civic & political committees (officially he has five) were being used for private purposes (including paying his criminal defense attorneys) . Meanwhile, Christine Beatty, the former chief of staff (and former mistress) of the ex-mayor still awaiting her trial on perjury charges, not set to begin until January. Meanwhile, there are still thousands in the metro area who are culturally allergic to urban Detroit, who take every opportunity (especially online) to bash it on principle, assuming the worst of the local electorate, who will loyally wear sports gear from local teams but are quick to tell anyone from out of town that they are not from Detroit, per se’.
Now that there is a President-to-be who is genuinely from an urban background who has worked to improve conditions for urban districts, hopefully most if not all his planned urban initiatives will have traction, especially working with sympathetic local and regional officials. Implement mass transit. Push for progressive educational reforms. Radically rethink the war on drugs.
I credit Senator Obama with reaching out to those who did not vote for him at his acceptance speech. Just the same, I can’t feel sorry for any of those people who were in the McCain-is-Superman camp, who carped that Obama was a closet Muslim and therefore terrorist in disguise, among other canards. As the right-wing cranks like to say, “why don’t you just get over it?” Oh, before I forget: Barack. Hussein. Obama.
Here’s to at least four years of some truly revolutionary change.