Yes, WE CAN!
November 5, 2008 § 1 Comment
Once upon a time, the idea of an African-American even visiting The White House was unheard of. Last night history was made. Barack Obama became the first African-American President-elect of the United States in a landslide victory. Come January 20, he will enter the gates of The White House on Pennyslvania Ave, not as a guest, but as America’s new leader.
As I watched the news unfold on my television throughout the night, as so many others around the world did, I couldn’t help but feel anxious to see the final results. And at 11pm when the words flashed across the screen, revealing who our new president would be, I rejoiced! In no other election, had I felt so inspired by a candidate.
His inspiring nature is what ultimately sailed him to victory in a sea full of doubters.
Yes, there were always doubters. And not just the ones that you’d expect offhand, such as those plagued by an unyielding fear of embracing the Other and a reluctance to acknowledge the ever-changing world.
I myself, an African-American female was a doubter–at first. Not because I didn’t believe that Obama had the intelligence, tenacity, resourcefulness and passion to lead a successful campaign. He did exactly that by leading a grassroots campaign that started from nothing and emerged into one of history’s most strategic, organized, far-reaching, fruitful and passionate campaigns.
Spreading his “change message” throughout the country, state-by-state, he inspired millions to see that each one of their votes could make a difference.
But, would this be enough?
I asked myself this question several times. History had shown me that the cynicism I held when it came to the politics of my country was warranted. So, it wasn’t my lack of faith in Obama that kept me a doubter for a while. Unfortunately, it was my lack of faith in Americans and the political system as a whole.
Flash backward to the election of 2000 where our political system failed us miserably.
Voting fraud. The Florida recount. Even now, no one knows for sure exactly what happened and how it happened. We just know that the results of that election were questionable. The idea that we couldn’t trust our political system was forever etched into the back of our minds, so much that many of us began to question if there was even a reason to go to the polls again. That apathy is what got us another Bush term in 2004. That was the first election I was eligible to vote in and I was passionate about the issues. Hence, I voted. Unfortunately, that year the voter turn out wasn’t good and despite what seemed to be an overwhelming disdain for our current President, his reelection was a breeze.
While I knew that I would continue to exercise my right to vote in this 2008 election no matter what, would others?
I feared that some of the people in support of Obama, especially African-Americans still might not bother to vote because they felt like their voices weren’t large enough to carry him to victory. I feared that racial bigotry would win and sadly there would be many people in our country that wouldn’t vote him into office at all because of his skin color. My biggest fear was that the political system would fail us again like in 2000.
It was during the Democratic National Convention that I shed all doubt and started to become a believer.
Obama delivered his 44-minute acceptance speech with confidence and passion in front of an audience unmatched in size, filled with hope.
“But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s been about you,” he said.
In that moment, it all clicked.
This was about us. The power was in our hands, and ours alone. I, like so many, had forgotten that power. But, racial bigotry from a few could not startle the collective power of many this time. Bigotry could no longer win when I saw the magnitude of the crowd–consisting of all colors and ethnicities cheering with fervor.
This rainbow coalition was proof that there were millions of Americans out there that were no longer fazed by race. Finally, the majority was ready and willing to support a man because he was a formidable candidate for our country, despite his skin color. The majority was ready to put the welfare of the country before racial politics.
Hence, electing Obama was essentially for “the greater good,” during a time in our country where the economy is falling apart and our leaders are constantly failing the people.
It was in that defining moment that I realized this man would win this race.
My eyes filled with an overwhelming amount of tears as I watched him finish his convention speech and saw the soon-to-be First Lady approach the podium beaming with joy to embrace her husband. The tears were in hopes that the struggles of our ancestors were not in vain.
From then on I was confident that change would come. I was a believer.
Today I let the events of last night soak in completely. And as I did, another believer of change came to mind. One of my favorite historians and civil rights activists, W.E.B. Dubois, spoke of “the Veil” and the feeling of double-consciousness that exists within all blacks in America in his book, The Souls of Black Folk.
“One ever feels his twoness-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”
I have felt the presence of double consciousness in my life, yet I, like so many others, have found the strength to lift “the Veil” and strive for success despite inevitable adversity. Actually, I guess I’d have to say I have a feeling of triple consciousness, for I am a woman, yet I am also black and an American.
Where and to whom does my duty lie? Can all three spirits dwell in truth?
That’s when I realized that despite this historical victory, America will never be truly colorblind. One would think that racism can be eliminated as as we become a more progressive nation. However, the idea of race is a socially-constructed faucet of our society that has been instilled in us for hundreds of years, from the time our ancestors from The Motherland were sold into American slavery up until today.
We will always see race. Yet, with Obama’s presidential win we have proof that “the greater good” can at least trumph race, which means a change has come. The best part about this change is that it has inspired and brought together millions of people with a common goal to move this country forward.
“Not in my lifetime will we ever have a black president,” has been a recurring thought in the minds of people like my parents and grandparents who endured more racial struggles than I will ever truly know. Now, a new mindset has emerged. It is one of confidence and hope that says, “Yes, we can!”
Indeed, we can and have.