Thanks, But Don’t Get it Twisted

So I know we’ve all been telling each other congratulations on President-Elect (I LOVE typing that!) Obama’s win, but let me be perhaps the first to say thank you. Thank you for any and everything you did to put him in the White House, whether it was voting, registering folks, phonebanking, asking strangers if they voted, comparing and contrasting the healthcare proposals for your neighbor—you made a difference.

And what a difference it is. It didn’t really sink in that he’d won until Friday’s press conference. All week, I’d walked around in a dream world, fueled by frequent tears and a serious lack of sleep. Sure, I was using Obama’s name like Aloha (hello and goodbye, bitches) but I didn’t really get it until I saw him standing behind the podium with a miniature presidential seal on it. And then some reporter chick asked him if he thought a new president could make a difference. And he said: “Of course, that’s why I ran for president.” My girl and I gave each other a fist bump right there in the conference room. Yes, a Black president!

But this week has also illustrated exactly what hasn’t changed. The fact that we (yes, I’m included) have to qualify Barack as a Black president shows that race is still a factor in this country, despite what the pundits will have you believe. The fact of the matter is, Barack is an exception. He’s the Black dude at work who’s “not like other Black people” (I’ve actually been told about myself, smh; something about having an advanced degree and speaking well). Seriously, the very fact that we say he has “transcended race” confirms that there is still a hurdle to be jumped. No, let us not get it twisted: The fact that many folks were uneasy on election night—afraid that McSame and his party could somehow pull off an upset—is a real problem. The only explanation for this candidate/my candidate/the best candidate to be doubted up until the last minute is that we know there are still people in this country who decided not to vote for him strictly because he isn’t a whiter shade of pale.

I don’t write this to be Debbie Downer; I write this to remind us not to forget. Let us not be fooled into thinking our work is over when it comes to race relations. Let us not nod in agreement when politicians point to Obama’s success and say we can get rid of programs that help minorities get first-class education that gives them access to the middle class. Let us not fall into complacency and think that we have reached the mountaintop. Yes, Obama’s election is a superlative achievement, but it just got us a bit further up the steep path that was cut by Martin and Malcolm and Huey before him—there are still miles to go before we sleep.

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