Friday, November 07, 2008

An interesting piece

From the NYT: An Eternal Revolution. I don't 100% agree with it, but it makes many thoughtful points.

And yes, I am feeling more excited about the whole thing.

Various points:

Seeing Bush walk out of the White House to congratulate President-Elect Obama (yes, I too like the sound of that!) -- it made me realize that these next several months mark the end of seeing, not just that man, but any white man walking out of the White House to take his place at the podium and address people as the Prez. For four years -- likely eight years -- every day will be an historic occasion, as Barack Obama arises and conducts the affairs of state. That will be nice -- it's Democrat+. By which I mean, I usually consider having Dems in power nice in that I can hear things I believe in, even if they promptly go on to do many things I do not believe in. But at least they don't insult my intelligence, they give me soothing lies, which is something. But this will be a plus -- soothing soundbites that don't reflect reality, I'm sure, but the additional plus of seeing someone whose public image, at least, people can respect and children admire and look up to, especially young black children, who now have a powerful counter to all the silly portrayals of blacks on TV. That is powerful. Yes, I know, I'm late to the game -- blame it on my thesis (Daktari did =p

I guess my resentment is the feeling among some that "this changes everything", which I can't abide by, cuz it kinda doesn't. The end of slavery didn't "change everything", nor did 9/11 -- but they opened up the possibilities, they changed the long term trajectory of change, and that's worth crowing about. I mean, also in the NYT, Judith Warner wrote a touching but absolutely silly article in some places, in that she says
his moment of triumph marks the end of such a long period of pain, of indignity and injustice for African-Americans. And for so many others of us, of the trampling and debasing of our most basic ideals, beliefs that we cherished every bit as deeply and passionately as those of the “values voters” around whose sensibilities we’ve had to tiptoe for the past 28 years

Umm... it can't possibly be the end of pain, indignity, and injustice if there still exists disproportionate pain, indignities, and injustice for black people. Last I checked, we did not all achieve equality of capabilities, and this brilliant, if cynical/snarky peace did not come true:
What does this promise land look like? This Obamerica? Shortly after Obama is sworn in, the police, instead of subjecting blacks and Hispanics to capricious traffic stops, will only stop them to offer free tickets to the policeman's ball. Throughout the country, they will address blacks and Hispanics as sir and ma'm. The overcrowding prison problem will end, because all of the blacks and Hispanics who've been sent there as a result of prosecutorial and police misconduct - probably half - will be set free. And all of those police who have murdered unarmed blacks only to be acquitted by all-white juries will be retried. Blacks will have the freedom to shop in department stores without being watched.

In the media, all of the black Hispanic and Native American and Asian American journalists, who, according to the Maynard Institute's media watcher, Richard Prince, are being "shown the door," will be rehired. The progressive media will spend as much time on the torture of black suspects in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles as they do torture at Gitmo. Blacks will be liberated from the crime, entertainment and sports pages exclusively and appear in other sections. More cerebral sections as scientists, engineers, astronomers. Jonathan Klein and other cable producers will stop managing black opinion so that it doesn't alienate its white audience and voices other than those of black correspondents from Rev. Moon's church will be awarded air time. Global warming denier Michelle Bernard will be replaced by Jill Nelson.

Jesse Jackson will be appointed lead editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal. and Al Sharpton will assume duties at The National Review. Rush Limbaugh will inaugurate a series called "Great African American Inventors." Spike Lee will be invited to run Columbia Pictures and Amy Goodman will take over at NBC. The Newspaper Society of America will apologize for the lynchings and civil disturbances caused by an inflammatory media over the last one hundred or so years. A choked up Rupert Murdoch will read the statement on behalf of his colleagues.

God, I love that list.


I believe the possible trajectory for what we can do changed on Tuesday. The otherwise largely steady stream of racial status quo had been flowing for a long time, here murkier, here clearer,** one could be excused for thinking it wasn't going to change course. And then it did, a l'il bit. But the possibility of large trajectory changes is there, and that is a good thing, and something to be excited about. (God, maybe D was right about the thesis and my curmudgeonliness... but no, come to think of it, I always get more cynical when I feel like people are getting too overjoyed about something really important... curse my metal heart... =)

You know when the impact of what we have done hit me again, besides the fact that we will see O-fucking-bama* come out of the White-fucking-House every day soon? It was this 'un, on a friend's Facebook page as their picture:

As a friend of mine who's not given to superlatives said when she finished her thesis: "Fuck yeah."

Speaking of finishing theses...

*(These are "good fucks", not bad fucks. Of course, according to the FCC and perhaps the Supreme Court, I apparently inextricably and certainly mean that the O is fucking the Bama and Whites are fucking the House.)

**(Here more eutrophied, here less... couldn't resist, sorry.)


Daktari said...

I'm sitting here having a great chuckle at your expense. I feel like I'm watching your coming out party. =)

I think this post is interesting for many more reasons than I have time to elaborate upon right now, so I'm going to let it stew in the grey matter for a while and then get back to ya.

Suffice it to say that I don't think that President Obama represents the same thing to me that it does to you. Further, I don't think that President Obama means to me as a white American what some people seem to think it should mean to me as a white American. In the same way, I don't think this means to you as a black American what some think it should. All of this making me think that perhaps I should write a post on that subject.

Oh, and just so you know, I've gotten my own dose of the impact of this event when a friend of mine sent me the following text message last night:


Of course my response was far wittier than I had a right to be, but I find it refreshing to be the butt of racial jokes for once.

J said...

It's as much an act of will as anything else. Having been not a happy camper for a good bit of the ages 11-23 or so, I don't much like still being in the "can't you just be HAPPY about it?" camp, even when I think it's completely appropriate to not be overly happy. But, my philosophy in recent years has been, only question reasons for being unhappy; being irrationally happy within some kind of sane limit should go relatively uninterrogated. This little self-agreement is because the same analytical parts I use to break down the news I spend a great deal of time applying to myself, to both good and bad effect.

I have little patience for symbolism, though, because I feel like the recurring thing I've seen growing up from public figures, and things as trivial as student/school stuff in high school, is really really good symoblic wind-up, and no follow-through. I really could care less about symbols most of the time, as long as the real work is done. It's important, on the other hand, to recognize the importance of symbols to others -- which I should appreciate because I spend a great deal of time now and again complaining about the portrayal of black people in the media -- and while the overwrought "everything is different" drives me crazy, and having grown up in one of the most diverse towns in the United States I think I purely don't have the same emotional base others do in regards to the first black president (not bill clinton). I always presumed it would happen -- and I was pure-dee pissed a lot of the time that the only way it could happen right now was by dodging/ignoring the still quite present wages of discrimination. As I once told my students in regards to affirmative action, between slavery and Jim Crow, it's as if someone has beaten you down with a tire iron for a six days... and then expected you to be able to get up on your own two feet to compete with them at the end of the 7th. There's much more to talk about there, but Obama didn't do much of that except in broad generalities. but I digress.

Perhaps, having a year or two on me and coming from a different culture entirely, this does mean something different to you. I told my mom, I always assumed I'd have a black president in my lifetime. That it's now is a bit surprising, but I guess I also always assumed the first black president would get into office by being either a) a republican, or b) someone who had truly finally organized the poor and repressed. I'd be interested to know if voting among those groups went up -- probably, considering ACORN and Obama's organization itself -- but still not most of 'em. And to me, there's a two part posit: a) the worst off in our society are the ones whose rights I'm concerned with the most (after the millions of foreign deaths I attribute to the US); b) if the worst off in our society do not same to have changed their basic calculus and have not perhaps been drawn to vote in large numbers, I'm somewhat dissatisfied.

Which brings me back to why I go on about the 2-party system, and other countries -- whenever I bring up the success of extremely leftist candidates in other countries and their occasional electoral successes, some of my friends point out that the structure of the US prevents similar rises, some of which were achieved through continuous mobilizing and support of the equivalent of a "3rd party." Which, be that as it may, when you're repeatedly told by your allies you're shooting too high and shouldn't aim for the brass ring, they're basic point being "it can't happen here," you start to believe them perhaps.

But that's neither here nor there. I'm in it for the haul, and I'm trying to be happy because, hey, might as well. My philosophy is that if you can't laugh at the mundane, horrible, or even slightly dissatisfying while fighting for more, well... um, then you should. Be able to.

Yeah, that ran out of steam.

penn said...

I really like the thought of changing potential trajectories. In my head, that's what I've been thinking recently, but you verbalized it really well. I still remember discussing this all with you before I left -- sitting in 2060 with me struggling to understand race and still not grasping it, but what did stick with me is the fact that a symbol does not necessarily equal change. But it DOES signify change . . . just not sweeping, large, monumental change. This symbol represents change in the, uh, landscape. The parameter space, if you will. And this makes me so excited.

It's the same reason prop 8 in California has made me so sad. Honestly, I've had a hard time getting excited about this election (tho I do start to tear up every time I hear someone on NPR say "President-elect Obama"). To codify hate into the constitution of a state -- and into the constitution of an ostensibly progressive state -- makes me so angry. This has also changed the parameter space but not in a good way.