Friday, July 25, 2008

Having Had Some Time

Having had some time to reflect on the ascendency of Senator Barack Obama has been an enlightening experience. For me, he has been a rebate on the so-called black tax. The black tax is the ever present burden of consciousness associated with being black in America. Once you are aware of the stifling realities that cut short the ambitions and dash the hopes and dreams of so many black people in the country, it seems that your feathers are never really in full splendor. Every happiness and accomplishment is ever so slightly diminished by the knowledge that – here, by Grace am I, but there by the complexities of America are so many of my community. Somehow, in Barack Obama’s rise, I feel I’ve been given back some of those fractions of happiness and slivers of satisfaction that I’ve left on the path. My happiness and exultation in his success is unburdened, it is free, full and overflowing.

To that end, he has already made an immeasurable contribution. On the eve of the final primaries I was speaking with the security guard at my daughter’s school. He is an older black man who came to Atlanta in the late 1950’s. As we stood and talked he told me about the various places in Atlanta that black people couldn’t go when he was younger. He rattled off places that I know and frequent. He told me about the changing street names because white people didn’t want to have the same addresses as black people. He went on to say that, “Breh, I can’t believe I’m seeing a black man running for president in my lifetime.” With that, tears welled up in his eyes. He finished by saying, “I hope he wins. It would mean a lot.”

I don’t profess to know, nor do I even have the tools to help me appreciate the humiliation that black people must have gone through in those days. What I could see in the security guard was the effects of the staggering taxes he has had to pay in order to maintain his dignity and his manhood in the midst of such an antagonistic society. What I am learning to appreciate about Obama’s success is what he means to ordinary black people like me and the security guard.

Quite apart from the public slogans and the political fracas, Barack Obama has a meaning for a lot of black people that is quiet, private and profound. His dignity, intellect and comportment are things that we can be proud of. In his eulogy to Malcolm X, Ossie Davis suggested that, “It is not in the memory of man that this beleaguered, unfortunate, but nonetheless proud community has found a braver, more gallant young champion.” In a manner similar to Malcolm X, Barack Obama has given us another opportunity to hold our heads high, spread out our arms as if on the mountain top and experience hope, pride and happiness without reservation.



luvlife0702 said...

i thought a lot before commenting but i felt that since everyone had drunk the kool aid, some of us who chose the water instead should say something.

first, unlike my income tax (which i've also not paid for a couple of years), i refuse to be taxed for being black and my consciousness does not tolerate sharing pride with someone because they share shades of melanin with me, nor am i ashamed of them for the same reason.

i suppose the post-racial myth is just that and since we aren't willing to go beyond skin color we (aka black folk) should not expect anyone else to. if we will join with each other in feeling proud of something we have not done then we should be willing to be brushed with a taint for some other things we have not done (aka profiling). we can't have it both ways.

as for pride, i love when anyone in the human race DOES something to make our humanity go forward. but warm air aka speeches mean nothing to me. nice words. well trained words. but just words. he may share profession with Ghandi and Mandela but when he's DONE some shit even close then i'll be down with trying a sip of the kool aid. I like my speeches the Mohammed Ali way: tell me what you gonna do and then execute like a mother you know what. so i suppose i have to wait.

til then.... i'm gonna go look for the chopper to fly in and save the day when just another politician does and says what he needed to do to get elected. (that's his only job at this point after all). we also must remember there are hundreds of other elected officials that will decide whether or not he gets to do what he plans to do. and so the voters' job will be to keep their fingers and toes to the fire if they want to see their dreams fulfilled.

and all i have to do when anyone challenges me on his 'promise' is to look at every major city in the USA that has, or has had a black mayor, (which is almost all of them) and then i suppose i could go to Africa and the Caribbean and South America and Asia to find innumerable examples of 'brown promise' gone so horribly wrong because having melanin and a smooth voice and pretty words dont mean squat. nor do those WORDS mean much to a homeless man, a sick old lady or a kid aging out of foster care.

so i'll wait until his first Annual Performance Review to go gaga instead of losing myself in the interview.

kamau said...

luvlife...your staunch devotion to merit and specific examples of work is laudable, but your cynicism is toxic. you seem to think you operate in world where symbols don't mean anything and people don't or shouldn't have heroes for whatever reason. if your hyper analytics render no one eligible then that is your world and i hope you find yourself sufficiently inspirational to do the job for yourself. the sentiment of the security guard and my own, for that matter are, profound. when the security guard says they used to tell him nigger go in the fuckin back, and now a black man who he respects is running for president means a lot to him - what do you say? that's bullshit because he is preventing the post-race reality from being realized? your position is what it is and i respect that, but it seems to entirely overlook person to person connection, human hopes and dreams that people have that are visceral. i don't need an annual performance review to be inspired. i don't doubt that i may be disappointed in the end, but that doesn't prevent me from feeling right now. and...while i aspire to your alleged level of humanism, i still feel connected to black people, whoever they might be.

tamara said...

hey ruth,
whenever i read kamau's blog, i can always count on a reply from you. i always appreciate your take on a variety of situations that kamau brings to the table. i know you love to challenge people and play the devil's advocate,and you are capable of defending any position, regardless of how you truly feel because i've witnessed and experienced it firsthand. i don't even know if i should be commenting on your comment, but it struck me as so bitter and negative. it just made me sad. regardless of if you support obama or not, categorizing anyone who supports obama as someone who has "sipped the kool-aid" is belittling. i do find it difficult to believe that you have never felt connected to another black person based upon their skin color, that seems impossible. i also don't believe that being taxed in america is optional. i am genuinely interested in how you are able to work that on a daily basis. peace,tamara

esk said...

kamau, you have done very well to articulate many of my feelings about the barack phenomena.