The euphoria has yet to wear off, and probably won’t for a while. The “shock and awe” of the looks of dazed black people walking down the street really says more than could ever be explained. Many folks I talked to are virtually speechless and just walk around shakin’ their heads, not so much wondering what has happened or how it happened but overcoming the wonderment of why it didn’t happen – understanding America as we do – why Barack didn’t lose.
What was obviously supposed to be a day of “mass depression,” despite mountains of hope, as another disappointment settled in on Black America, turned into a day – now a week – of frenzied prayer and praise, as we all still pinch ourselves that this is really real. We are now perplexed as we try to reconfigure our analysis of what America is and what it should mean to us (Black America). We no longer can rest on our analogies of on what America is based, what America was, nor root our perceptions of America totally in race reality, though race is still very real throughout this nation, as the economy trumped race. Still, we can’t believe our eyes, nor wrap our heads around what this really means to us, our children, our country, and the world. It’s not just auspicious – this occasion of electing Barack Obama President of the United States. It’s audacious, or bodacious – as we say in the hood (as in, “That’s some bodacious sh*t, right there). No matter how you say it, it’s still unbelievable.
Photos and video of the Obamas being welcomed by the Bushes at the White House, an otherwise almost surreal stretch of the imagination in the transition of power, gave us an unimaginable snapshot of what the next four years will project; a brotha’ walking around the White House, that’s not a servant, or a staffer, or a tourist, or a diplomat, but the President.
Our psyches, so deeply engrained with the historical prospects of whiteness that it almost looked odd to see Barack Obama at the White House. The privileges to executive power that were once exclusive to whiteness, at least in this case, can longer be taken for granted in the way that it has over the last 220 years or so. All because one black man not only had the audacity to run but the audacity to win. One week after what the world witnessed what was once thought to be improbable, if not impossible, we now find ourselves wrestling with a new reality in America.
If you think the whole idea is messing just with us, trust me when I say white people are wrestling with this too. Never in the history of America have things gotten so bad that they would throw white people out of power. That was never a consideration before now. Now, we also know if President-elect Obama had finished fifth from the bottom of his class, like Senator John McCain, or attended six state or community colleges, like Governor Sarah Palin, Obama never would have been a consideration for President, much less elected President.
So goes the privileges of whiteness, and as we saw with George W. Bush, pedigree has no limits on achievement and reaches far beyond the deepest dearth of intelligence. Pardon my digression, but it was relevant to the point of Barack being intelligent and audacious enough to play past the historical privileges of race, class and culture to do what no other person of color have ever done: wrestle the mantle of leadership from white cultural dominance.
Though we now see Obama as the head of the government “to be,” we are not foolish enough to believe that he will run the country. There’s a difference between leading the government and running the country. With many of the historically discriminatory institutions and systems still in place, one slip and the country will run over him. I’m sure he’s aware of that, as it was announced that guns sale were up in the South and Midwest. The cautionary perception here is that America had an election, not a “take-over.” Let’s be clear about that. But Barack Obama has received a mandate to lead this nation out if its modern day depression – bankrupt and dissolute as it is.
Obama’s election is more a signal to the return of intelligent government, as one had to be highly intelligent to navigate this national election and the traps that came one after the other. Obama had the benefit of the economy collapsing in the midst of a national election, which reinforced the concept that dumbness has its limits and we had reached it. Many white people and Latinos jumped off the race ship to save their family’s and their personal wealth.
The color of salvation is whatever makes the most sense and can withstand critical scrutiny. McCain’s salvation proposal made no sense, and his pick of Palin could not withstand critical scrutiny. In short, white people saw bread lines again and said I’m votin’ for the brotha’. Their children, whose prism was not shaped by race – but popular culture – helped them make the adjustment and technology did the rest (made Obama financially competitive). That’s what this really was.
Now we all must sit back and watch this take shape before we can understand what it really means. Just know Barack Obama will need us all to make the change he had the audacity to make reality, winning the Presidency – more than a success for himself, but a success for the nation. That’s what the notion of a Barack presidency means, and that’s a bodacious charge.
Articles by Anthony: