Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Is this election about affirming black men?

My heart is beating too fast.  It’s 11:02 a.m.  It’s Election Day, and the nation is waiting to see who will win the battle to the oval office.  Will Barack Obama receive enough votes, or will Mitt Romney unseat the President?
There are so many emotions related to this election.  I’ve spent most of the day pondering what it all means.  The only way to effectively process why my heart is beating so fast is to take a trip back to that special moment four years ago.  It was historical.  It was monumental. I couldn’t stop crying.
What has happened since that night has exposed how deeply we are impacted by race.  No one wants to say it, but this is a war to preserve the dignity and respect of the first black President.  As much as we want to make our decision about the economy, foreign policy and positions taken on a myriad of issues, we can’t hide how race has impacted our decision.
It’s safe to conclude that race impedes and validates people on both sides.  Those who support Obama do so, to a large extent, due to a deep need to affirm the rights of black people to lead.  Many on the other side vote against Obama out of fear that black and brown people are taking control of America.
Yes, we need to be careful not to over generalize when it comes to discussions about race.  Many people have decided to vote against Obama due to a sense that the country will be better served under Romney’s leadership.  They have that right.  We should honor their decision, and not make assumptions regarding the significance of race in making that decision.
Many black people have voted against Obama for similar reasons.  They are not less black or betrayers of the black community for making a decision they feel is best for the nation.  I applaud those who form an opinion after careful consideration.  My point isn’t about the rights of a person to vote against the black dude. 
There is something deeper going on, and that deserves reflection as we approach the end of this journey.
So, my comments are my own.  They may be shared by others.  My thoughts are about years of brokenness that has been exposed over these past four years.  Having a black President didn’t take any of that away.  It intensified the brokenness.  It made it even harder for me to express the pain I carry.  Making things worse are the assumptions of those tired of listening to black folks talk about pain.
These past four years have felt like a collective “shut your damn mouth!”  You have no reason to complain.  America isn’t racist.  We elected a black man. We gave him a chance, so shut all that talk about how race limits you in the workplace.  It’s not true.  That’s what I have felt.
There may be some truth to that analysis.  Things certainly have improved since I graduated from high school.  Black people are granted opportunities. So, why does opportunity feel so painful?
It hurts because of how you get treated when you get there.  I have watched people throw stones at the President.  I’ve watched people question his faith.  I watched him being called liar.  I’ve endured questions about his citizenship.  I’ve watched him being blamed for things he inherited, and it all leaves me aching over the double standard we continue to face.
I’ve watched the President endure the same type of treatment I get every day of my life.  I bring more to the table than most white men.  They are rewarded.  I’m questioned.  I’m attacked.  I’m told I’m not good enough. 
No, it’s not just me!
I see it in the faces of other black men.  I hear the collective moan whenever we gather to share our story.  We all feel it.  I’m talking about talented, educated, successful black men.  We fight for respect.  The only way to gain that respect is to remain silent, play by the rules and beg.
Yes, I said beg! We have to beg for the right to remain at the table.  Our credentials aren’t enough to protect us from those attacks.  That’s what I have felt over the past four years.  If they can do that to the President, who am I to think they will not do the same to me.
The hardest part is in not being able to fight back.  You can’t say a word.  You can’t tell the truth.  You have to convince them you are different from the rest.  You can’t show a temper.  You can’t present yourself as confrontational.  You have to take their bull crap knowing they have the privilege of treating you as a subordinate.
“Mr. President, you are a liar!”  That's what Joe Wilson, congressman from South Carolina, shouted in the middle of one of Obama's speeches. I couldn't believe that mother sucker said that without getting a beat down! Hold my coat. Bring it on!
You can’t fight. You have to take it when they swing!
That’s why my heart can’t stop beating.  Obama deserves to win. Black men deserve the right to remain at the table. 
I so hate having to tell the truth, but this election has implications beyond what we are willing to admit.
Is America ready to be a colorblind nation? Doing that means we have to treat everyone the same. 
No more double standards.

1 comment:

  1. Let me summarize:

    * The election "is a war to preserve the dignity and respect of the first black President"? Were the previous elections merely to preserve the dignity and respect of the prior white presidents? Bush and Carter would be so surprised.

    * The election becomes a metaphor about the acceptance of black men by society. I presume you mean that Obama was less black when he was elected in 2008. Otherwise the metaphor makes no sense.

    * Is racial prejudice still alive and well in our country? Of course it is. And there will be some who won't vote for Obama because of race. Somehow enough people voted for him last time, however. He wasn't elected just by black people.

    * The only reason Obama could be defeated is due to race. You seemingly acknowledged that people might have other reasons for being unhappy with Obama, but then immediately discounted those opinions when you say it's all about race. Which is it? Are we all racists if we don't approve of a black president's record, even though we voted for him the first time?

    * You and other qualified black men are having a hard time. Now that's truth. Is it because Obama failed to make jobs? Or because some greedy businessmen, with an assist from Congress, caused a financial tsunami in 2007 that wrecked the economy that still hasn't recovered? Or is it racism? Or is it just due to all of the above and more? Life really is complex.

    * Obama is a man, and like most men, he has flaws. America didn't elect him just because he was black, but because he carried a message that we believed in. The fact of his blackness was just a symbolic bonus, similar to Kennedy's Catholicism. Another milestone passed. If Obama is not reelected (polls still open as I write), it won't be a referendum on his race, but how well he has performed on the presidential job. Did his actuality equal his promise? If he loses, then he will have been treated similarly to all the white men who preceded him in office. Some liked his job performance and some didn't. To make Obama carry the entire burden of black men isn't fair to any ethnic group.