What I’m audacious enough to hope for
So Obama’s finally the party nominee, with a 50% chance of actually becoming the President of the United States. Dare I hope for it? Of course. But I’ll be blunt: Obama’s far more conservative than I like. I know he needs to be that way to get elected, and I’m willing to tolerate it for now, but he’s very much the best of three underwhelming choices in my eyes.
And yet I admit it: I’m caught up in the Obamamania. I feel the hope. But when I listen to most of my fellow Obama supporters, I can’t help but shake my head at some of the things they expect him to do. I feel for the man; as many people as there are out there who seem to think he’s some kind of “inadequate” poster child for Affirmative Action, there are more who are clearly expecting him to part the Persian Gulf and conjure up cheap gas to feed the multitudes (of SUVs).
Yeah. Well, I wish them good luck with that. In the meantime, let me tell you what I’m hoping for right now, whether Obama wins or not.
- I’m hoping that black men will stop hating black women. I expect I’ll get some hate mail for this one. I’m fully aware that many, many black men have resisted the media’s effort to reduce black women to stereotypes and objects, whether through so-called “good” images like BBFs and BAPs or execrable ones like those endless close-up shots of our half-covered asses. I’ve got enough good black men in my life to know that they’re neither rare nor exceptional. But there’s a dangerously large proportion of black men who have internalized all these negative depictions of us, and they hate us. There’s simply no better term for it. There’s no love in the way prominent black male entertainers lampoon us for profit. They’re not laughing “with” us. There’s no love in a man who proudly proclaims “bros before hos!” or any other male-bonding mechanism that requires the marginalization, rejection, or denigration of women. There’s no love in the tangible, consistent status distinctions black men make between black women and women of other races, ranking us at the bottom; as Kanye noted in Golddigger, “When he gets on (ahead), he’ll leave your ass for a white girl.”(And yeah, I’m specifically naming black men here, even though this hatred is endemic in our whole society, and even though it impacts both black and brown women. Usually I try to stay big-picture, but for the moment it’s this little corner of the picture that concerns me.)
Obama’s wife Michelle is black. Waaaay back when the campaign started and many were questioning his blackness due to his biracial heritage and Huxtable-esque lifestyle, I didn’t. The simple fact of his choice of partner was enough to tell me that he Gets It. He sees how the friction between black men and women, and the endless finger-pointing over who’s to blame for that friction, serves only to enable further oppression of both. He has chosen to fight back. See, that’s how bad it’s gotten: the simple act of loving a black woman has become, for black men, a declaration of radical activism.
So I’m hoping his choice will inspire others.
- I’m also hoping that black women will stop hating themselves. We get bombarded with the same messages, after all, telling us that our primary value lies in having a big butt and a smile (but They should never trust us); or in being the expendable backup to a powerful white woman; or in helping middle-aged white guys through their midlife crises a la Bullworth and Bringin’ Down the House. We are ascribed so little value in and of ourselves. Even within our own community there seems to be an ongoing effort to diminish rather than celebrate our place in society. I left the black church because I got tired of male pastors exhorting me to “let” the black men in my life be men — as if I and only I stood between black men and World Domination ™. (I had no idea I was so powerful.) And here on ABW I continually see comments from otherwise reasonable and intelligent black men blaming black women for the destruction of the Civil Rights Movement, the black family, the black economy… everything but the damned black plague. And if that ever returns, I’m pretty sure we’ll get blamed for that too.So I want Michelle Obama, and Michelle Obama’s daughters, in the White House. I want them to show the world, but particularly the women who look like them, that this is what we are, too. And for fucking once, I want it to be not a mark of virility or “openmindedness” or radicalism to have a black woman at one’s side. I just want it to be normal.
- I want black and brown people all over this country to believe again. The specifics of this belief are all over the place in my heart, but if I had to put words to it, I want us to believe in our own potential again, both as individuals and as a society. (I suppose I want that for white people too, but they’ve already got plenty of examples of success to reinforce this belief.) New immigrants tend to believe, I’ve noticed — and for a long time, I’d patronizingly and cynically assumed that this was simply because they hadn’t been here long enough to see the lay of the land. We’re almost a feudal society these days. Thirty years of Reaganomics have resulted in a grotesquely wealthy ruling class and a vast underclass of debt slaves. We’ve grown so used to this disparity, so socially-engineered and beaten down by it, that we’ve very nearly stopped believing that change is possible. I’d begun joking with friends in Canada and Europe that I’d come crash with them when the US collapsed into anarchy… and there was always an unfunny undercurrent of seriousness to the joke.Now I suspect that I owe every new immigrant an apology. Many of these folks have come from worse situations than even my sci-fi-trained imagination can conjure up — not many allegories for Rwanda or Darfur in SF — and yet they still have this optimistic “can-do” attitude. They wield that attitude fiercely, like the weapon it is. The simple belief that things can change provides the necessary impetus to change, and to work for more change.
We all need to remember this feeling, and wield it as a weapon for ourselves. Whether he wins or loses, I don’t think Obama alone can spur it, not by any stretch — but I think his candidacy will help. Hell, I even think Clinton, regressive as she’s been, has helped. Just the fact that so many people are ready to work against the status quo, and that they’re so energized, because they believe… of course that will help too.
So my hope is that what we’re witnessing is a watershed moment; the beginning of a much-needed seachange to true progressivism, rather than the Progressive Lite offered by both candidates. Then we can really get some work done.
So those are my hopes.