I just watched the newest episode of The Boondocks (click here to watch). It did its job – made me laugh while being provocative and satirical. If someone asked me what character I am, it’s a cross between Uncle Ruckus and Huey Freeman. But that’s another story for another time. The episode was a re-creation of the 2008 election and the Obamamania that ensued. I often wonder how my life would be different when certain events happened had I not been in the all-Black environment of the AUC (specifically, I’m thinking about Hurricane Katrina and this election). But again, that’s another story for another time. What I’m writing about right now are my memories of that election time, and the mania that came after it, during it, and before it.
I’ve got friends who pay a lot more attention to politics than I do. And one of them said, “I knew he’d be running for President after his Democratic National Convention speech.” First of all, whenever someone says that, it’s like the proof of a Nostradamus quatrain – retroactive clairvoyance doesn’t mean anything. And truth be told, I’m so politically apathetic, it didn’t matter much to me. The country wasn’t going to REALLY change. So I let my friend do his talking, feel good that he was like a poor man’s Wolf Blitzer or something, and kept it moving.
But after he announced he was running, you could feel the heat in the air, the passion (particularly amongst Black people), the pride, the sensation, whatever other term you want to throw out there – the legitimate chance for a Black president. For better or worse, Barack Obama became the posterchild for all things Black – the Black family, his Black church, etc. I’ve seen countless articles about how men can “find their Michelle” or how women can “find their Barack” like it’s how you find Jesus. I even remember seeing an article saying Michelle Obama should run for President in the future, partly because of how she carries herself. I’m sorry, but I don’t give a damn how somebody carries him or herself – I want to know how you’ll run the country. But before I rant, I just want to reminisce about the primaries and the election itself and the propaganda machine that was infiltrating Black folks.
– False Claim #1 – This ends the Black struggle.
On election night, I received a phone call from a family member of mine. This particular family member has struggled to keep a job for years, but she was elated and called me, of all people. “We’ve got a Black president – I’m gonna get a job in 2009!” Obama isn’t a savior; he’s a damn President. You still have to do the legwork. This type of savior mentality attributed to Obama scared the hell out of me then. That his election will mean a new life for Black people. No, it meant a new life for that Black person. Black people are still struggling and no one person will end that struggle. It still frightens me that this hope always gets placed on one person’s shoulders. No doubt this has something to do with the glorification of the one-man-who-can-do-it-all phenomenon that we’ve come to love, but it was never Obama’s job to single-handedly remove Blacks from the hellhole we’re in. And what’s scarier is the assumption that his election officially marks the finish to the struggle. That idea just boggles my mind. That racial injustice will be done away with because we have a Black president. That equality will run boundlessly in a country built on systematic inequality because we have a Black president. That this kind of drastic, ideological shift in the country will happen overnight because we have a Black president. Are you out of your damn mind? Or that there can be an absolution of all injustices, past and present, by white people on Blacks in this country because there’s a Black president. That if he can do it, any of us can. The flip is that Obama is the 44th president of the United States. There were 43 white men in the past 225 years who became President out of how many millions of possible white men? Fact is, being President of the US is not just something anybody could do, race/creed/sex etc. aside. Few have been tapped for that honor, and plenty of them weren’t good at the job in the first place. So to think, “Well it’s even now – anybody can do it now, right?” worries me because the nature of the job itself is such that no, not anybody can become President. You need a lot of luck to get into that position in the first place, and most people don’t get that luck.
– False Claim #2: His family matters.
I don’t give a damn about his family. Why should you? Much like in False Claim #1, we see many people pinning the hopes of the Black family on the Obamas. Look, I don’t care if his wife is fat, ugly, beautiful, smart, dumb, articulate, caring, loving, angering, war-mongering, abusive, or crazy. I don’t care if his kids’ hair is nappy or permed. That doesn’t have a damn thing to do with what he’ll do in office. But SO many people got so enamored with his stable home life. “I want a Barack,” many women said. “I want a Michelle,” many men echoed. That’s all well and good, but his home life doesn’t mean anything to me.
– False Claim #3: He’s so articulate! He reminds me of Martin Luther King, Jr.!
The whole cross-promoting of Obama as MLK #2 is faulty advertising. Folks at Morehouse sold shirts with that purposefully on there, in an attempt to keep the propaganda machine going. Look closely at Obama’s campaign – he didn’t promise Black people anything. He’s not a civil rights activist – he’s a politician. A very well-spoken one, but a politician. As far as articulateness goes, this has been a long standing problem I have with Black people – if a Black person is articulate and using big words, we clap. I remember watching a State of Black America thing one time, and someone (a popular Black intellectual, but I can’t remember who) was asked a question. He didn’t answer the question, choosing to answer by trying to frame the question. In the midst of framing the question, he was very loquacious and verbose and he lost me and a few other people in the room with me. When he finished, everybody in the live audience clapped, and all I could think was, “Y’all didn’t know what the hell he was saying.” I appreciate the ability to speak and captivate an audience, but not to the extent that the emphasis comes on THAT he’s speaking, and not on WHAT’s being said.
I could make a longer list of False Claims regarding what the outcome of the vote would mean or why one should vote for him, but it’d waste my time. I am going to, however, continue to reminisce about it all. I’d love to say that I voted for him because I loved his policies. They seemed better than the alternative. I wish I could say I voted for him because of his excellent track record. Nope, didn’t really give two shits about it. What was my primary reason for voting for him? Hell, to be a part of something historic. Truth be told, I didn’t want to vote for anybody. I was registered in Georgia, which I knew would go Republican anyway, so it would have been a wasted vote (remember the 2000 election – most votes doesn’t matter, gotta get the right states to win), and because amidst all the jubilation that a Black man had a chance to be President, I was still concerned about the raising of the bar that comes from it. That now, Obama aka Black Jesus is the new standard that all Black men will be compared to, which is an unfair comparison. I’m all for needing a high standard to achieve, but now if you aren’t on Obama’s level, you haven’t made it. Obama is like an Olympic athlete in that most athletes CAN’T make it. I’m not sure how else to say this other than he’s an anomaly – he’s the exception, not the rule. But I’ve gone away from why I voted for him.
I voted for Obama because he’s Black and I figured why not. What’s the worst that can happen here, another 4 years of shoddy government? In my mind, I voted for Obama because it was worth a shot – not because he’s the great new visage of the Black family (keep in mind, they grew this thing together and to be honest, Michelle is on Oprah status for me – I don’t find her physically attractive at all and would probably only be with her for the benefits. I stand by these claims, as neither Oprah nor Michelle are cute to me.), not because he can give a great speech, and I figured his policies were not as bad as McCain’s. You know what’s happened as the reverse of Obamamania? The Obama hatred. I’ve seen shirts with his likeness as a monkey, for example. You know what happened on the heels of Obamamania? The REAL United States finally came out to play after being in hiding for some time. After lulling people to sleep. After getting us to think that we’re finally “beyond race.” If the evidence for this county being beyond race is the election of Obama, let the counter-evidence be admitted: Tea Parties, the discrediting of Obama left and right during and after his campaign, calling him and anybody connected to him a “socialist,” and the overall backlash of his election.
My fears of apathy are still around. My worries haven’t been assuaged, but enhanced. Obamamania has come and gone, and I can still remember the events of election night. Obama was announced as the winner and guns went off all around the city of Atlanta. I went to Taco Bell on the way home, and everybody was honking their horns. Even the man at the Taco Bell asked me to “honk your horn two times for Obama,” which I did. I can’t lie, I got caught up in it – it reminds me now of what it was like to be at Mardi Gras, where you let the spirit consume you, in a way. It was literally a mania of sorts. And to be really honest, I legitimately worried what would happen nationwide if McCain won. I really thought there’d be rioting. Obamamania will do that to you, I guess.
For the record, I probably would’ve been one of the rioters though.