On Voting While Black, or Why Obamamania Must Continue
I’ve written about Obamamania following his 2008 election, particularly how it rose the bar for Black men across the country (in both positive as well as unrealistic ways). This election shouldn’t be close – for every legitimate attack that has been made by the Romney/Ryan campaign regarding President Obama’s economic policies (which, is also up for debate – the policies or the ineffectiveness of being able to implement them, which doesn’t necessarily reflect on the President or his policies), they take two steps back with regard to social responsibility, civil rights, women’s rights, and I jokingly tweeted that “If Romney gets elected, all those abortions we’re relying on for when you don’t make it out in time/have equipment malfunction are gone,” there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that we are on a fast track to contraceptive rights going back 50 years with the new Supreme Court addition on the horizon. Moreover, I watched all 3 debates and concur with most analyses – Romney came out fists-of-fire in Round 1 and stunned Obama; Obama defended and came on the rebound in a physical Round 2; Obama with a 3rd round KO…but Romney supporters still think the challenger put up a great match ala Rocky, and could still be a great champion. What was evident is that, while Mitt Romney is passionate about America, loves this country and he likely is a solid, decent human being, I cannot seem to trust him to save my life.
This could be in part because I’m Black. Truthfully, I carry a background of mistrust of white men, especially older white men. Thanks to being born in the late 80s, I wasn’t alive 20 years earlier to verify whether or not every white person, especially white men, called everybody Black a nigger, coon, jungle bunny, pickaninny (sp?), porch monkey or some such other racial epithet. I can’t verify that all white people treated Black people like shit. What I believe is that there was a culture that considered these actions permissible or even an appropriate way to treat other members of the society such that I
can’t don’t believe or trust many older white guys. They come off as, still, unable to handle the magnitude of the reality that Black people are still in America AND are free.
Yep, I can’t shake the idea that old white people are either private (as opposed to formerly public, or at least without fear of cultural reproach) racists or they just had to take it on the chin and not just learn, but accept that these formerly inferior people are and now have been for a snippet of time, equals in all essential means (and plenty fight having to accept that). It’s a new social ontology of how white people are situated, with their top dog position in much greater flux than it’s ever been. Is it such a leap that in a country that has arguably the worst recent history (call it 200 years) of racial…harmony, if we were to go back into 1963 and had me, the brown skinned intellectual, walking around Birmingham, AL, that many of the angry, reddened faces at my presumptive air of knowledge would be white and the thoughts and/or words emanating from them wouldn’t be trying to kill me with kindness? With all of that said, I struggle to believe that when older white people (and because older white people raise younger white people, white people in general) tell me they have everybody’s best interest at heart, that they don’t mean the traditional “everybody” that excludes minorities, gays and lesbians, the socially disadvantaged, the economically disadvantaged (and not the nebulous middle class, of which there is a class beneath them that receives virtually no attention beyond Medicare/Medicaid), and basically those who aren’t in power or even near power.
Now, this doesn’t have anything to do with Mitt Romney or Barack Obama – this is a belief that is held and one that informs my politics and my voting, much in the same way that Paul Ryan’s Catholic faith and belief in Ayn Rand informs his politics, much in the same way that many in the Bible Belt look for Christian values in their candidate of choice because those beliefs inform their politics and worldview, and being Black and what that means to me plays a hefty role in my politics because being Black in a purportedly post-racial world that still carries the inarguable reality of race gives me pause to be sure that my interests and the interests of those who have to suffer through the same reality of being raced are at least being taken seriously and admitted into the purview of general American interests. I don’t have the actual power to do that, so taking what it is to be Black in America into my political considerations is how I’m able to. It’s how any of us are able to make our voice heard, share our opinion, essentially participate in government at the most basic level – voting with our beliefs and interests of ourselves and our compatriots in mind.
This is why Obamamania should continue.
For 3 very basic reasons, I voted for President Obama. I was ecstatic at being able to choose a LEGIT (note: not a failed Al Sharpton or Jesse “I’ll Cut Your Nuts Off” Jackson bid for President, but a candidate with the backing of an entire party) African-American President in 2008. The simple fact that we did created a watershed moment for this country, and the world, as somebody who didn’t look like the other 43 guys, didn’t have a similar background or even a similar heritage as them, got voted in. That aside, he represented a fundamentally different approach to governing, one that appreciated the whole of America rather than just a part; one that wanted to extend assistance to those who need it while helping entrepreneurs who could help build more companies for the future; and one that could repair the world’s view of America by being more in touch with diplomacy and the current culture of the time. He gave us the best chance to do these things, but admittedly, I was going to vote for the qualified Black guy. It was like awarding a scholarship to two equally qualified guys, one Black and one white. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody but I’ll choose the Black guy basically because he hasn’t gotten the chance historically, he wouldn’t get the chance to prove the expected critics wrong without having the job for a moment (nobody can work well with a noose around their neck), and because all things being equal, it’s a good thing to help another Black person be able to succeed when possible. This reason still stands, and that’s because…
4 years later, he’s a more experienced leader who has had his successes and his failures, but his path has been unwavering and his resolve has stayed the course. He’s now the experienced, legitimately qualified candidate. The job didn’t change the guy that we voted in for change, and by and large, change in many ways has come. While not every measure he attempted ended up fruitful, Obamacare will likely redefine how citizens are able to access healthcare going forward, he killed Osama bin Laden, and he’s committed to ending the decade long wars overseas. More could have happened, but on the social agenda front he ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and came out in support of gay marriage. He’s in tune with contemporary times, which can’t be said for ThatMittIDon’tLike. While he doesn’t represent the candidate of hope and change from 2008, Obama does represent a future for America that I can trust and believe in, and that’s what we vote for as citizens.
Finally, I voted for President Obama because the other option appears worrisome. Again, Mitt Romney strikes me as a guy who isn’t a bad man, but enjoys power and any strong businessman has a cutthroat tendency toward the most expendable at the first drop of problems in order to save himself and his business. While wise for a business (and not totally ethical), it’s an unwise approach to leading the nation. Invoking my Black principles that I’m voting on (much like the Christian values and the economy and the like are the principles and issues at play when others vote), me and the people who look like me still are undervalued and the threat of a post-racial nation would be made real with a Romney election. He represents the values of a post-racial society; one in which the raced realities of people (and what follows from them) are ignored; where the value of a person is inextricably linked to one’s income; where the institutional problems that barricade minorities from advancement go untreated like a cancerous spot on the country’s skin; and where ultimately, the same problems that arise from a raced society – where white men win and everybody else is playing catch up – come back to haunt us from using the same system with a different name.
So for 4 more years (you too, white people), let’s let the Obamamania run wild again. If Hulkamania, littered with steroids, sex scandals, the biggest turn in the history of professional wrestling and a reality show on VH1, can run wild again and again and again, Obamamania should get one more call to perform.