Friday, January 16, 2009

Obama's victory is just one step

Please head over to The Guardian's "Comment is Free" blog to read my post on the meaning of Obama's ascendancy. Leave a comment. And join me to further discuss this issue on The Best of What Tami Said, this Sunday at 4 p.m.
I supported Obama during the 2008 US presidential campaign for his policies, intelligence, thoughtfulness and world view. That he will make history as my country's first self-identified black president is a tremendous bonus, though "bonus" seems too cheap a word.

Prior to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many African Americans were barred from voting; less than 50 years later, a man with African ancestry has been elected president. For black Americans, this is an undeniable sign of progress. A functional black family in the public eye can help "normalise" blackness in a society that still views us as "other". And I love having a fiercely intelligent, outspoken and beautiful black woman as first lady. Most of all, I appreciate what Obama means for younger generations.

Americans tout our egalitarian democracy to the world: anyone can be president, we say. But some of us know this isn't quite true. Ask the parents of little girls or gay teens or Muslim, Hindu or Jewish children whether they believe it is possible for their children to one day rule the nation. But now things might be different for little black boys. As my parents did for me, I will tell my son that he can be anything he wants to be. And I will have more confidence that this is true. This is good for my country. We can say that we are one step closer to achieving the ideals we hold dear.

One step closer, but not there yet. That is why my elation over an Obama presidency is tempered with worry. Read more...


Claudia said...

Great post, Tami! Thank you for acknowledging that yes, we can celebrate and rejoice in this moment, even though there is still plenty to do.

(Some of the comments are a little rough, but I'm guessing you are used to that kind of feedback by now?)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this very thoughtful article on what Obama means. I believe there is a tactic in all this "well racism is over if we elected a black president" stuff. The powers that be are a lot smarter than most people think. I believe it was either the New York Times or Time magazine in 1970 or so saying that "feminism was dead."
It's fashionable for Gen X and company to say we're post-feminist. Not in my place of employment we are!!
People mistake the difference between systemic state sanctioned oppression/racism/sexism/ism of the isms and individual achievement. It's a system when black women are paid 66 cents on the dollar. It's a system that creates creepy work environments that only benefit straight white men, and where there may only be a couple of women and one black man in production positions. Sure I can work hard and achieve, no problem, but I've also had to pay money out of my own pocket for extra coaching and training on my own time, because I got sick of being dissed as the only woman in the room. It means I spend more to achieve the same results as my white male peers, and this is a fact.
White people don't see racism, even though it is plainly there all the time. Recently, I went to the movie "Milk" -- all straight people should go see that movie by the way. I went with a lesbian and gay male friend. Afterwards, over coffee and beer discussing the movie, I asked them: "Did you pick up on how accurately they depicted the racism in the white gay male community circa 1978?" Neither of them had noticed at all, but I gave the movie points for including it. The sexism of course was overwhelming, because back then gay male and lesbian communities had little to do with each other, for very good reasons I may add. I pointed out all the parts where racism was clearly there, and then of course they could remember the scene or the statements, but the didn't "hear" the very racist words of their own accord.
The system will be much harder to get at, and I think that is where the real frustration for black people is only going to begin. You'll get saddled with those awful words "post-racism" just as academia is trying to be post-feminist or post-modern at the expense of lesbian and women's basic human rights. Remember, it's a tactic, the oppressors have been at it for a very long time. We need to push hard from the grass roots if we expect real change. I can depend on Mr. Obama to not be overtly awfully hompophobic a la Bush, but I also know that even his wife changed her last name to accomodate patriarchal tradition... and on and on it goes.

MilesPerHour said...

I would agree that there is much work to do and progress is never ending. Like every "evil" we must be diligent to keeping a watchful eye because as soon as we get complacent we will get stabbed in the back.

I think it will be a very interesting 4-8 years as the media brings every single thing they can dig at to our eyes and ears. We need to pay careful attention to what we believe as some will try to tear down what good has been and will be built up.

MacDaddy said...

I commented on the Guardian blog. Great piece. Proud of you.


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