Monday, November 3, 2008

Crowning Obama - America diminishes my history for "his story"

Tomorrow "history" will likely be made yet again this year. On the heels of having been the first African-American man ever selected nominee of one of the two major political parties in America, Sen. Barack Obama stands poised to be the first African-American President of the United States. And I, a Black American woman, will have had absolutely nothing to do with it. Given the shoulders upon which I stand, I’m fine with that.

Call it generational, call it voting against my interest, call it stupid – call it whatever you like, but I will be casting my vote for the candidate who has most spoken to the issues about which I care deeply. Will she win? Absolutely not. Does that matter to me? Not especially. I’m not, after all, trying to “gain the world.”

Now this is not a decision to which I’ve come in haste. Like many Black children of the Civil Rights era, I want to see a Black president in my lifetime. That being said however, the fact a candidate looks “Black Like Me” (props to John Howard Griffin) cannot be the sole reason I vote for him. As my grandmother used to say, “It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.” And as I watched the manipulative, albeit skillful machinations of the Obama campaign over this seemingly interminable campaign season, I took issue with plenty of what he did - beginning with his maneuvers in the state of Florida.

As a registered Florida Democrat with firsthand experience of the Republicans’ theft that gave us Bush 43 in 2000, I went to vote on January 29th not only to choose a presidential nominee, but to say YES - to Verifiable Paper Ballots. Closer to home, I needed to say No - to Amendment 1, a property tax reduction amendment geared toward the wealthier of us in exchange for cutting local services to the least of us, most notably our schools.

Sen. Obama's “Yes We Can” train hadn’t yet picked up much steam, particularly in the Black community - as evidenced by our very low voter turnout. But once it did, with the help of the dreaded and patently unfair caucuses, Black Floridians adopted a new line: “We didn’t go and vote because the DNC said it wouldn't count.” Excuse me? Shouldn’t voting on local issues, whose effects if passed, we would immediately feel in our everyday lives be at least as important as choosing a presidential nominee?

And who would a thunk it? Blacks, having been considered "three-fifths persons" constitutionally upon the birth of this nation and beyond, had their voices further devalued by an America-identified-Black, constitutional law professor! No sense of history repeating itself there.

In a response eerily akin to Stockholm Syndrome, many Blacks were just fine with that disenfranchisement. I’ve been told, on more than one occasion, “We have to get him in there first.” And then - what? He’ll respect you in the morning? Guess their Mamas never shared that old adage, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free."

Blocking our 1.7 million votes because the majority weren't cast for him may have been a great political strategy in the eyes of those to whom strategy matters. But strategy doesn't matter to me –democracy does. And as I continued to watch while he played to the crowds on the dust-ups regarding flag pin/no flag pin, campaign financing/no campaign financing, Rev. Wright & Trinity/no Rev. Wright & Trinity, NAFTA/ no NAFTA, Hamas/no Hamas, no on FISA/yes on FISA, etc., etc., I was convinced he and his crew would just hold up their collective fingers, test which way the wind was blowing and proceed accordingly. Not exactly the strong, principled, Black man he’s been made out to be.

Somewhere deep inside though, I'd really held out hope the senator from Illinois might somehow be different from the politics as usual to which we’ve become accustomed. As he grudgingly spoke the dreaded "R" word in Philadelphia back in March, I was cautiously optimistic. But once that photo-op was over, the elephant was swiftly returned to the corner it has inhabited since the advances of the Civil Rights movement. I knew then, I could not support him.

Popular opinion insists Sen. Obama is the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream. Now let’s see. Has he used his campaign to address poverty and those it affects most in this country? How about our prison industrial complex continuing to disproportion-ately swallow up Black and Latino boys at such an alarming rate? Did the disparity in sentencing, proven to be racially motivated by The Sentencing Project make it in? What about the lack of decent schools with qualified teachers in every class? Geoffrey "Whatever It Takes..." Canada as an advisor on education would have been a great move. Did I miss the part when he talked about the lack of affordable housing that breeds homelessness or worse? Well, I can see why he wouldn't have wanted to talk about that - Grove Parc and his community organizing might have really been under scrutiny. But okay, what about our broken judicial system meting out both the death penalty and life sentences to those of a decidedly darker hue, faster than The Innocence Project can blink? Dallas D.A. Craig Watkins, a young Black man with a true understanding of Dr. King's dream, could have helped him with that one. I guess America's only ready to elect a "Black" president if he doesn't talk about any issues important to Black people.

I don’t know the content of Sen. Obama’s character. If we're honest, few of us do. But I’m almost certain I felt those shoulders upon which I stand slump mightily and often during this long campaign season. As we all flock to the polls on Tuesday, to exchange our first viable chance at substantive change for an alleged “sui generis” candidate - will it be history or his story? Only time will tell.


The Fabulous Kitty Glendower said...

Wow, you done said it all.

Deb said...

Hey Fabulous!! Been a long time for both of us right? Thanx Kitty, I just wrote what I felt. You know, I really wanted to feel the elation and excitement I saw on the the faces of so many people last night, but I just don't. Hell, I'm mad no tears came, to tell you the truth! I'm working on a post about crying today though - talked to my oldest and he made a point that I'd not thought about - at all. All we can do now is be vigilant, do our part, hold his feet to the fire and be honest, no matter the outcome. Only time will tell.

Great to hear from you again!

ea said...

Geesh, miss a week checking on blogs and Deb comes back to life with a vengeance!

Good post. Obama, oh never mind. I think it would be good to continue to remind people that MLK, Jr. was staunchly anti-war when war was simply a tool for U. S. hegemony and imperialism. Obama probably thinks the Poor Peoples' Campaign was the advertising effort to convince poor people to give their money to him. He's such a saviour and all.

Deb said...

ea...¡Hola Chica, es muy bueno oir de usted!

Thanx! I finally felt I could take some time to catch up! You said:

"Obama, oh never mind."

You are too funny! The sentiment, though, is dead-on. I can't tell you how worn out I felt in the final days of this thing as I stated my case for voting against the Changeling and for Cynthia McKinney. "Oh never mind" pretty much sums it up.

Believe me, your point about Dr. King's anti-war stance isn't lost on me though it seems everybody else has either forgotten, or done some revisionist history to justify the absolute nonsense about Obama being the realization of his dream.

You're dead-on again with that Poor People's Campaign comment! I read this over at Sugar's:

Seems for some, the gold is already flaking away from that shit he shined up.

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