So what now?

That’s the question, isn’t it?  What now?
Last night was great.  As you might imagine, I wasn’t dancing and crying like everyone else was.  I did have to hold a few back when I saw Jesse Jackson crying, though.  That was, perhaps, the most poignant thing of all.
For all the talk about Jesse and his beef with Obama, somehow we forgot that Jesse’s a product of the civil rights movement.  We forget very often that Jesse Jackson has done more for black people — and, probably more importantly, poor people — than most of us could ever dream of.  He’s been blasted out of the water by those on both sides (I’m pretty hard on him), but he is a legendary figure worthy of our reverence.
And he sat there at Grant Park and cried like a baby.
See, that’s the thing about Jesse.  In recent years, he became more pragmatic in his approach.  He moved form stuff like PUSH and Breadbasket and moved the game to Wall Street.  He knew the deal — black folks had to get into the right networks to make things happen.  He made mistakes with those projects, but Jesse got it.
And I firmly believe Jesse gets it now.  Barack Obama got himself into those networks, played the game, and he won.  Maybe that’s a part of the Obama victory that isn’t that inclusive, but fuck it.  Obama beat the matrix.  I tip my hat, and I’ll do it on command if he asks me to.  That election, in every way, was a certified ass whoopin’.  Chris Rock said Obama couldn’t win by decision.  It had to be a knockout.
He knocked John McCain out.
I’m reluctant to praise the first black anything.  It’s a big deal, absolutely, but I’m leery of affirming the notion many have that the first black _____ is the first black person qualified to do a job.  That ain’t what it is.  That is a testament to the dedication of whoever that first ______ is, because he’s got stories that’ll make your toes curl.  It says nothing, however, about black people.
I guess that’s why I’ve never swelled with pride at the sight of Obama.  He showed a black man could do it.  I always thought a black man could do it.  He didn’t show me anything that I didn’t already know.
I am, and have been, floored by the man, though.  So impressive, so cool, so strong, so prepared.  I’ve never seen anyone like him before, and I may never see anything close to it again.  His persona is so powerful that he was clearly black — with a name that made blackness impossible to avoid — and still won this election.  It wasn’t that people overlooked his blackness.  It wasn’t that people felt good about voting for the black guy.  It’s that he could have been cross eyed — but not blind — like David Patterson and still won this election.  
Barack Obama is that bad of a motherfucker, and I will not take his singular credit away by going overboard about what this means about the progress of this country.  Barack Obama isn’t President-elect because America’s sooo much better than it used to be.  He’s President-elect because he could not, and should not, have been denied.  Don’t pat anyone on the back for that right there BUT Barack Obama.
(Never mind that the only explanation for how a Democrat wouldn’t win this year was racism.  Seriously, if the Democrats couldn’t win this one, they’d have to go away and never return.  This isn’t App State beating Michigan.)
But people can pat themselves on the back for what they did.  Not for voting Obama in, though.  It’s for the energy that surrounded this election, the heightened political awareness of those that have been disenfranchised, the way that so many people took agency, for the first time, in their political future.  Those that are rarely heard packed up and went to speak with ballots, and that was deafening.
Tuesday was probably the most American day in the history of this country.  See, the one thing I love about voting is that people don’t get to pick where they vote.  You gotta go where The Man says to.  That means that the self-selection that has me living in a neighborhood full of white people I never see at the gas station or grocery store wasn’t going on here.  It made voting lines the most diverse places in many places, people coming together because they had to.
And man, I saw every bit of America you could imagine.  Never again will I see that diverse a group of people, not separated by race or class or anything else, together for the same reason, all excited about what they were doing, even though they were really doing different things.
People care now.  Part of that had to do with Obama representing the inclusive vision of America that had been sold but never delivered.  Part of it is out of desperation, with the economy eight shades of jacked up.  But whatever it is, it is here.
So what now?  Down to keep it up?  You better be, or else Obama is gonna be just like the rest of em.  He got unequivocal black support without saying very much to us.  Time to make sure he knows those votes weren’t donations.  They came with an implicit agreement that he better keep up.  Otherwise, he could be a great President, but he’d just be another President.  You repay those that got you where you are.  Y’all better be sending him bills.
Obama won this election because he won nearly every black vote and 2/3 of the Latino vote.  That overcame what happens every year, white people voting for the GOP at about a 3:2 clip.  Yeah, there were a lot of white people down with the Obama program, but let’s not extrapolate too much from who 43% of the white population voted for in an election that should have been a landslide.  Things are certainly better than they were 40 years ago, but I’m not sure why that’s something to brag about.
Those that so often haven’t felt so American changed American history.  You may not feel pride reading that, but that doesn’t matter.  It’s what it was, and it was a power move like few other in the United States.  Just…damn, man.  Damn.
Today is a day to believe in America, even if you’ve never done so before.  But give all credit where it’s due.  Congratulate Barack Obama on his amazing campaign and his new office.  Congratulate yourself for whatever you did to aid the political process.
And so there’s no confusion, I’m not leaving white people out of this.  A lot of wonderful people, some of whom were quite courageous, came together to help Obama make this happen.  This was, if nothing else, a day that spoke to inclusion.
Should have been like that the whole way, and I can’t lose sight of that.  I’m not one for giving people credit for acting right.  At the same time, I know of people ashamed to tell their fellow white friends that they were voting for a black man.  In such a world, those that stated their affection for Obama loudly and proudly deserve credit.
It’s show-and-prove time for all of us.  So what now?

14 thoughts on “So what now?”

  1. Well done as usual. I knew you would have a unique voice on the matter and you didn’t disappoint.
    Along with holding Obama accountable, we have to keep sight of the fact that the president cannot pass legislation, so we’ll also have to do our part and stay informed and keep our representatives accountable as well.
    This election is a momentous occasion, not just in light of Obama’s election, but our participation in the process. Hopefully communities of color will remain to be a formidable force in elections.
    Democracy is said to be of, for and by the people. We the people need to stand with Obama and not leave him to do the work alone.

  2. I found myself getting emotional because my father should have been here to witness this day. My grandparents, friends, former professors and colleagues who have passed away over the years should have been here for this day.
    However, my parents always taught us the base philosophy of society: you can’t speak about anyone’s home unless you clean your own. We shouldn’t have to beg, plead, ask, vote and pray that someone else can even make a dent in solving our own travails. Many of us know that we need to hold ourselves more accountable, regardless of who takes office, yet we grow complacent and/or just don’t give a damn to even try.
    Maybe for some, this seminal moment may inspire an internal change that allows them to expand W.E.B. DuBois notion of the Talented Tenth into the Talented Millions or something to improve our society. Maybe some folks just become even more complacent and are waiting for the Obama administration to save them from despair because of their votes. Yet, no matter what, we can’t assume that somoene can help us until we do something ourselves.
    Once again, a far better scribe than myself found the right words for the moment. Thanks.

  3. i knew you’d get it right. well said. and yeah, we prolly do need to go a lil’ easier on jesse. my theory is that he and some of the other civil rights leaders (john lewis) suffer from a type of civil rights era post traumatic stress syndrome. this C.R.E. P.T.S.S. was at the root of his on-again-off-again endorsement of Obama and other brain farts during the race.

  4. Obama brings youthful vigor, a beautiful family, and a tide of support to the White House. Kids are walking down the hall of my wife’s school wearing his shirts and shouting his name. That’s a lot better than the last two elections, so I’ll take the more-than-half-full part as happy people high-fiving and paying closer attention to the process. I try to imagine his presidency making a difference in spite of a Congress that has been in “control” for decades. I say lets go for it; even glaciers melt.

  5. I have to second Chrichelle on this: “We the people need to stand with Obama and not leave him to do the work alone.”
    This is an exciting time…more folk than I’ve ever seen believe that they can make a difference; and that is very special.

  6. Hi there!
    It is interesting that you write this because MANY people are moving past the celebratory feeling and are entering that phase of reflection and self-accountability about WHAT it will require for every one of us to change this country.
    I don’t think that many have asked that question before. The mentality has been that it’s up to THE POWERS THAT BE to steer this country.
    I wrote a post about the Obama-ssiah mentality and I welcome your thoughts.
    Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

  7. You finally said what I’ve been trying to say since the election. I give Obama credit for running a spectacular campaign, but I don’t give him credit for doing it while black… He has the potential to be a great leader because he has every person of color in the United States already following… But we need to stop talking about his race. I think its time we looked past that.
    My father said to me well before the election, “If we continue to talk about race, whether it be Obama’s or McCain’s… we will never make history. We will simply relive it in a different color”

  8. So your question is, “What now”?
    The short answer to that can be found on the following web site:
    As the web site points out, for Barack Obama, public service has not been just the slogan of a campaign; it has been the cause of his life. It is now time to show him that We the People can rise to his challenge and join that ‘Cause’.
    I am just as committed to President-elect Obama as I was to candidate Obama, and I am prepared to go to work for him. How about you?

  9. ok ok ok so we’ve gone beyond the “racial barrier” that I keep hearing about…but yet you people keep making remarks like “we finally did it” or”we as a people, finally got a black man in” or some bullcrap like that. Honestly, it shouldn’t matter, and it wouldn’t matter if black America wouldn’t keep rubbing it in the face of al the ignorant rednecks. FYI – your black savior “Obama” is half white. So you only half-did it. Good luck next time

  10. I read this when it was originally posted but did not comment. When I say Jesse crying that night I could not help but think that he was remembering the struggle. My mind flashed to pictures of Jesse marching arm in arm with MLK Jr and thought this is what they fought so hard for. Despite Jesse’s mistakes and error in judgement from the comments made about Barack that moment was about history. It was a moment that everyone in the world was waiting for and could not believe was happening. It is the first time that I can remember actually witnessing a historical moment that was not a tragedy. No matter my feelings about Jesse Jackson in my heart I knew what he was feeling and I know that the others that fought so hard during the civil rights movement was feeling the same.

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