Wednesday, November 05, 2008

CAN YOU BARACK IT LIKE THIS?

“There won’t never be no Black President!” I’ve said it and I know I wasn’t the only one. No, I’ve heard many speak of Jesse Jackson or Shirley Chisolm and the importance of their campaigns. But the significance was always symbolic. Never did anyone really believe that they would become President of the United States. There won’t never be no Black President! That was my belief.

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:


My dad…

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.

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21 Comments:

OpenID Teendoc said...

Preach, brotha! Can I get a witness?

5:49 PM  
Blogger MohanJjoseph said...

Wow!

6:06 AM  
Blogger Girl With Curious Hair said...

This was brilliant and beautiful. It made me cry all over again, after being tearful since Tuesday night.

Thank you!

7:51 AM  
Anonymous nourbatta said...

I've got goosebumps. That was a beautiful testament to the election, to President Obama, and to America today. Thank you so much.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. That was beautiful. As a white woman from an almost all-white Midwestern town, thank you. This isn't just about black and white. This is about the people who still believe in the fable of the American dream. My faith has been restored and my hope has been rekindled. And you said it perfectly. Thank you.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Gesikah said...

Beautiful!

As a white women living in the Deeeeeep South, I have to say I was right there with you in doubting it would ever happen. After the last 8 years, my faith in humanity was pretty much shot. I never thought that the MAJORITY of people in the US would vote for a candidate who was, well, any minority really, but especially black, given ANY alternative.

Thank the Gods I was wrong.

I think the real testament to what this election means is that...I feel like my foundation as been shaken. In a good way. We now has to ask ourselves, what ISN'T possible?

I just wish my grandparents could have lived to see it.

10:02 AM  
Blogger New Millennium Nigga said...

Thank each and every one of you for saying so. For my own reasons, your comments came right on time.

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orlando, you just blew my socks off with this post. There are profound insights here and you have GOT it. :)

12:39 PM  
Blogger Stormin said...

This was just beautiful. Yours is definitely a voice that needs to be heard far and wide. Thank you for this.

6:29 PM  
Blogger KarenR said...

My daughter was born in China, adopted 8 years ago. One day, she asked me if she could be president some day. I said "no, because you are not a native-born American." (She's also mad that she cannot be Pope, but that's another story). When I voted for Obama, I thought, someday, the law will change, and my beautiful daughter could be president, too.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Tyko said...

Beautiful words.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Tha Darksibe Vibe! said...

Fantastic post man. You hit it right on the head. Let's not celebrate a black President, but a President who happens to be black. I wrote someting myself on my blog. Check it out and let me know ur thoughts.

http://thadarksideblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/yes-we-can.html

11:19 AM  
Blogger Tori said...

a classmate of your from high school sent this to me, and i'm so glad she did. well said. incredibly well said. thank you.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

I've been thinking the same, although I could not put my thoughts to words as eloquent as you. Great post.

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