CAN YOU BARACK IT LIKE THIS?
I woke up this morning. The sun seemed to be shining just a little bit brighter. I thought it was me, but then one of my boys called. When I told him about my observation, he told me he was driving to a meeting and had noticed that the sky was a most beautiful blue. I’m sure you can guess what was going on; a new day has dawned.
There won’t never be no Black President! This ain’t South Africa. Black people ain’t the majority. Shit, I was surprised that with White people voting, they let a Black woman walk off with a million dollars at the end of the second season of “Survivor.” A Black President?! Of the United States?! Come on, man. Ridiculous.
There won’t never be no Black President! Yet there I sat last night, my children up after their bedtime because I didn’t want them to miss this. The impossible was becoming possible before my eyes. Pennsylvania… one nail in the coffin. Ohio… another. For weeks I’d been saying that I didn’t just think Barack Obama would win, but that he would crush, leave absolutely no doubt. But as Tuesday progressed and I waited for the numbers to come in, I started remembering all the reasons why this was impossible.
There won’t never be no Black President! I thought of a friend who relayed a staggering “Facebook” story. He’s Black. He’d gone to school with White kids. One girl, in particular, had harassed him on the school bus. She’d called him a nigger… repeatedly. And though others – including the bus driver – didn’t join in her chorus, they did nothing to stop her from spewing her hate. This wasn’t Selma in the 60’s. This was New York in the ‘80’s. Oddly, that girl – now a woman – sent him a friend request on Facebook recently. I couldn’t help but laugh the laugh born of agony when I read his email about the whole thing. “This is a metaphor for America,” I thought. “He’s supposed to forget she called him a nigger and be friends. After all, she’s forgotten.”
There won’t never be no Black President! Shit, a Black man can’t even pick up his wallet without the NYPD blasting him with forty-one reminders of where he stands in this country. A Black man can’t have a bachelor party without being reminded of the same. President?! Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell would find it laughable… except they’re dead.
There won’t never be no Black President! Yet, there I sat watching Wolf Blitzer count down to the closing of the polls in the West Coast. I’m a numbers guy. The numbers were adding up, but… It couldn’t be. And then… they called it. Barack Hussein Obama would be the 44th President of the United States. A friend who’d stopped by shed a few tears. I cheered… I think. I don’t totally remember. Another friend refused to celebrate, sure it was too soon, sure that something could still go wrong. But there it was on the screen before us, for all to see… President-Elect Barack Obama. Then it hit me.
There won’t never be no Black President! There will only be a President who is Black. That may seem like an irrelevant distinction. But it makes all the difference in the world.
Barack Obama’s story is not simply the story of Black America. It is the story of America. It is a story of immigration and integration that captures the imagination. It is a story of the heartland meeting the motherland and making love.
Barack Obama’s story was penned by Horatio Alger AND Maya Angelou. Barack Obama’s story captures the dream that is America and places it within a slim frame, behind a charming smile and gives it an eloquence that would make Dr. King say, “You better preach.”
There won’t never be no Black president! As I watched celebrations - planned and spontaneous - around the country, I didn’t see Black America. I saw America. I saw the bright-eyed hope of fights to be fought in the future and the wrinkled faces of battles lost and won in the past. I saw the children of Asia and Europe and South America and, yes, Africa. I saw men and women. I saw gay and straight. (You can’t tell people are gay by looking at them, but that was a lot of people. There had to be some gay people in there somewhere.)
There won’t never be no Black President! But not for the reasons I imagined. There won’t never be no Black President because the country doesn’t need one. We need a President who speaks to and calls on what unites us, not what divides us. We need a President who inspires many of my friends, none of whom were Black, to text me with messages like “HNIC, baby!”
We need a President who will inspire my friend who is a blonde White woman to call me last night in a state of absolute euphoria to report that “your borough is rockin’.” Spontaneously, Brooklyn had taken to the streets and DeKalb Avenue was alive with the joy of the NEW “real America.” (Bye bye now, Sarah!) In that America a White woman from Boston finds herself literally “dancing in the streets,” as the old Motown hit once said, as a drumming circle provides the beat. She reported that the celebration was so wild that the buses couldn’t run. So, to clear the street. They got on the bus and celebrated with the passengers. No one had to sit in the back of that bus. No one sat at all. America had stood up to the politics of hate and division and on that bus, on that night, they all jumped to their feet to celebrate.
There won’t never be no Black President?! A friend sent me this email on election day:
Just turned 79.
He voted for Eisenhower. Twice.
He voted for Nixon. Twice. Yikes! (He admits he regrets it)
He voted for Goldwater.
He voted for Ford.
He voted for Reagan. Twice.
He voted for Bush Sr. Twice.
He voted for Bob Dole.
He voted for W. Twice. Yeesh. (He was dissapointed with W)
But this morning he voted for Obama.
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Hope really is alive and well in America today!
There won’t never be no Black President?! We don’t need one. We need a president who will inspire “an old dog” to learn some new tricks. We need a President who will inspire a Black grandmother in North Carolina to weep as she stands in line to exercise her right to the ballot, crying because she “knows now why God kept me around so long.”
We need a President who makes a point of including gay Americans in his victory speech. We need a President who goes out of his way to pronounce the names of leaders and nations correctly. We need a President who so obviously adores his family that I find myself wondering whether Theo and Vanessa will be moving to The White House with them.
We don’t need a Black President. We need a President who is of the people, who was elected by the people, and who will be for the people. Only time will tell if Barrack Obama can be all of that once he resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But I believe. And I rejoice that I’m not the only one. My apologies, America. I got this one wrong.
There won’t never be no Black President?! We don’t need a Black President. We need a President who calls on the best of who we are and the greatest of what we can be. And if that person should happen to have two X chromosomes or almond shaped eyes or a turban or a life-partner of the same sex or a name we have some difficulty pronouncing, we now know that we are capable, as a nation, of “learning new tricks,” of placing the best person in the highest office in the land. This time around many of us feel we found that person. His name happens to be Barack Hussein Obama. He happens to be Black. And he happens to be the next President of the United States of America.