h&f 0057 Barack: Not a Black Achievement (More than that…)

International Herald Tribune)

...the smile of a president (source: International Herald Tribune)

“They said he canceled fireworks at the Tuesday night celebration to underscore the seriousness of the moment.”

That is a President, sober but not somber as he recognizes where he stands and rightfully assumes the mantle without fanfare, because it’s where he legitimately expected to be.  Lottery winners jump and shout.  You would hope that a President-elect would not be so shocked.

So, all credit to Barack Obama, but the real achievement of this election was not only his own.

No, this was bigger than a black achievement. On a much larger and more relevant scale, the real achievement was that enough people in the United States actually decided that a black man would hold the office heretofore defined by a very specific prerequisite having nothing to do with qualifications for the job.

Barack is unique, in and of himself and in this particular disposition of American and world history.  However, he is not the first black person to be qualified for the post.  Even further, we could still posit a reasonable argument for favorable phenotype…  If Michelle had been a very light-skinned black woman, would an Ivy League educated Obama have been able to escape elitist perception in the minds of black voters very familiar with the high coorelation between black achievement and the apparent search for lighter and lighter blood lines?  If Barack himself were black as that last crayon in the box, would non-black voters have been as comfortable with his stunning intellect, poise, and track record?  Given the relevance of these questions, we must still imagine a ways to go before considering this the post-racial moment many are so anxious to declare.

So the real achievement, even with these underlying imperfections, is ours.  We, the people, have taken a small step. May we keep toward a society not colorblind, a plain disability, but rather toward full recognition of humanity and potential in each other, one that can imagine that potential being enveloped in any color or geography.

Proof of intense progress would see this moment as ripe for a new Republican party, too.  Republicans have defined themselves as the “values” party while each year invalidating that stance with a clear embrace of racism in some quarters and malignant neglect of it in the upper ranks of the party.  The real division between Republican and Democrat for that electorate is…race.  Apart from that, most black voters show patterns of belief and values consistent with the Republican party.  Case in Point: In this same election, Blacks in California overwhelmingly voted for maintaining the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  Yet, some commenters were shocked at what was perfectly expected among black voters.  Imagine now the feasibility of a black republican candidate who is anti-abortion, for controlling assault weapons, pro some form of affirmative action…  The so-called black republicans to date have openly held very undeveloped views of race and race-relations in America, assuming no need to even examine corrections that we have to make if we are to move forward as one nation.

We may also have given a great boost to people worldwide.  Even those sympathetic with black people and the black struggle in the US are not yet sympathetic to our basic and shared humanity.  Don’t confuse these observations with any sort of rant.  We are marking real progress, but it is not of the kind that we can build on by itself.

Obama is a beautiful outlier, an iceberg tip finally appearing above water with the entire body (and bodies) of the struggle lying beneath the water.  He’s exceptional in his own right, and not, since the body of the berg can only be built by similarly committed and qualified people, mostly black but not nearly all black.

Let’s keep marching toward the promise of truly collective will and intelligence, toward the integration of all of the human capital that can make a country move forward under one flag.  WE have achieved.


~ by ericjhenderson on November 7, 2008.

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