Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What they're saying

I originally got a "gig" on the front page here at DD because I made an attempt to write a weekly roundup of some of the discussions going on in the diversosphere called Blog Voices. Over the months, I've veered off that course, but I thought that the day after the United States elected the first Black President, it might be time to check in and see what folks are saying. This is definitely not an exhaustive look, but I checked in with some of the folks whose writing has had an impact on me and would like to share those with you.

First of all, Kai over at Zuky wrote an amazing piece before the election that he titled The Palin' Identity that captures the message of this campaign in a very powerful way. I'll give you a taste, but mostly encourage you to go take in the whole thing.

The reason why the McCain-Palin campaign has appeared erratic throughout the election season is that their strategic communications have been conceived and crafted according to the language of implicit cultural code rather than explicit thematic cohesion. On the surface, their messages appear scattershot, misaligned, contradictory and confusing; but that's because these messages are designed to appeal not to crisp logical consistency, but rather to murky socio-cultural undercurrents and subterranean sentiments which have fueled, informed, and warped white identity politics since the birth of this nation.

What's extraordinary is that this time around — at this particular crossroads, against this particular candidate — it's not working...

I think it's safe to say that two generations of steady anti-racist work in the wake of the Civil Rights movement have had a profound effect on mainstream attitudes. The stigmatization of racism, so often decried as mere "political correctness", has in some ways succeeded in driving the most toxic forms of racist hatred underground, resulting in a popular culture which at least tolerates a superficial modicum of racial diversity.

Tim Wise weighs in at Racialicious with an essay titled Good, and Now Back to Work: Avoiding Both Cynicism and Overconfidence in the Age of Obama.

Those who say it doesn’t matter weren’t with me on the south side of Chicago this past week, surrounded by a collection of amazing community organizers who go out and do the hard work every day of trying to help create a way out of no way for the marginalized. All of them know that an election is but a part of the solution, a tactic really, in a larger struggle of which they are a daily part; and none of them are so naive as to think that their jobs are now to become a cakewalk because of the election of Barack Obama. But all of them were looking forward to this moment...

It’s like this y’all: Jesse Jackson was weeping openly on national television. This is a man who was with Dr. King when he was murdered and he was bawling like a baby. So don’t tell me this doesn’t matter...

It was a victory for youth, and their social and political sensibilities. It was the young, casting away the politics of their parents and even grandparents, and turning the corner to a new day, perhaps naively, and too optimistic about the road from here, but nonetheless in a way that has historically almost always been good for the country. Much as youth were inspired by a relatively moderate John F. Kennedy (who was, on balance, far less progressive than Obama in many ways), and much as they then formed the frontline troops for so much of the social justice activism of the following fifteen years, so too can such a thing be forseen now. That Kennedy may have been quite restrained in his social justice sensibilities did not matter: the young people whose energy he helped unleash took things in their own direction and outgrew him rather quickly in their progression to the left.

There was a theme I saw in a couple of places. First of all, from Carmen D at All About Race.

It feels good to be in love with my country right now. Oh, I always love her. But sometimes we fight and we don’t get along as well as I’d like. Even though divorce is never an option for us, right now we’re like newlyweds.

And then from rikyrah at Jack and Jill Politics.

Our resident Chicken Little-NMP- said something during the primary season that I never forgot: she said watching Obama win like this made her feel like an American. Not a Black-American or an African-American, but an American. And, I knew what she meant, because it’s how I’ve felt too. I would watch Obama rallies and SEE the America that I wanted to live in, and I was willing to work for that.

The Field Negro shares a comment by one of his readers. I'll put the "spoiler" here, but go read the whole thing.

I wanted to vote for these people, who did not live to see a day where a Black man would appear on their ballots on a crisp November morning. In the end, though, I realized that I could not vote for them any more than I could vote for Obama himself. So who did I vote for? No one.I didn't vote...I stood there, and I thought about all of these people, who influenced my life so greatly. But I didn't vote for who would be the 44th President of the United States. When my ballot was complete, except for the top line, I finally decided who I was going to vote for - and then decided to let him vote for me. I reached down, picked him up, and told him to find Obama's name on the screen and touch it. And so it came to pass that Alexander Reed, age 5, read the voting screen, found the right candidate, touched his name, and actually cast a vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Oh, the vote will be recorded as mine. But I didn't cast it.

Then again, the person who actually pressed the Obama box and the red "vote" button was the person I was really voting for all along...So, no, I didn't vote for Barack Obama. I voted for a boy who now has every reason to believe he, too, can grow up to be anything he wants...even President.

Of course anyone who's ever read Blog Voices before will know that I can't complete a trip like this without a visit to Nezua at The Unapologetic Mexican.

I WEPT. And today, I am weeping. On and off. The smallest thought or image suddenly touches me again and I crack open with relief, hope, or gratitude. Excitement. Calm.

Nobody knows for certain what lies ahead. But I think we all can agree, nothing will be the same as it was. And not in a dour, scared, “9/11 changed everything” sort of way. For once.

Something has been righted. I don’t need now to wrestle over how large or exactly what “it” is...

I cannot hang this morning with people jumping immediately into negativity. Can’t do it quite yet. I understand the process and the points, but I can’t go there quite yet...You can choose a negative moment anytime. Go ahead. Right now, you can. Think any thought you want about me, him, yourself, the street, the sky, the body, the next moment. Paint it dim. Or don’t! Or think positive. And use that positive energy to get to the place the complaint pretends to desire...

I do think we have been traumatized in a collective sense. I do think we are afraid to hope, afraid we are being spied on, that martial rule is about to descend, that nothing good can happen here; afraid dark massive shapes are hulking under any patina of benevolence…I understand trauma. And societies can have it, too...

We have amazing stores of power in us, of energy, of psychic, spiritual, mental energy. That’s why we can heal ourselves and sicken ourselves and others around us. Obama is not perfect, but from what I see, he believes in orienting upon the restorative, constructive, and healing properties of that energy. And any people who do that in a day or a place have my attention.

Today, I am amazed. Today, I feel anything can happen. Today, I am alive with dreams.

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