Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Presidential Election: Saying the "R" Word

 I'm voting for President Obama because he's Black. There, I said it. Of course, that's not the only reason I support the president, but it is a reason that bears some explanation since race has become such a submerged yet volatile topic in this election. Just to mention the "r" word is to evoke howls of protest from (mostly) white people who don't want to see what's right before their eyes.

 I see the White House (the WHITE House!) as the ultimate lunch counter and the presidency as the highest position that People of Color could not attain no matter their qualifications. Till now. This is, as Joe Biden would say, a BFD!

Anyone who lived through the Civil Rights movement of the '60s remembers the dignified Black protesters dressed in their Sunday suits sitting calmly at lunch counters in restaurants that brazenly refused to serve "coloreds." They sat in silence as enraged white citizens poured hot coffee on them, called them names, and spit on them. They sat in quiet witness as police came and dragged them to jail for daring to assert their right to be treated as human beings.

From the very beginning I've watched the Obamas assume their role as First Family with a combination of pride, admiration, anxiety and stark terror. Just as those dignified protesters did decades ago, Barack Obama, Michelle, Sasha and Malia have put on their best clothes and most dignified demeanor to access the position that is theirs by right as a result of a free and fair election.

They entered the White House knowing that by doing so they were calling down the viciousness and violent intent of a still very active racist minority. From day-one the First Family has been exemplary, and from day-one they have all been targets - both rhetorically and very literally. There have been more death-threats against this president than against any other in history.

Not only is the president and his family the target of overt racist hatred on the part of the ignorant, this hatred is being used by the opposition party to undermine Barack Obama's presidency. "Dog whistles" (words and phrases that are not overtly racist, but call up racist assumptions and beliefs in those who are predisposed to "hear" them) are scattered throughout discussions of President Obama by prominent members of the Republican Party. The skin color of the president of the United States of America is being used to gather opposition to his reelection.

Because our system of government has become so dysfunctional, it is very difficult for anyone who occupies the office of president to move forward with a progressive agenda. President Obama had just finished being sworn in as president when congressional Republicans were meeting to plan how to ensure his failure. They used every trick in the book to undermine him and yet he still ends his term with a list of accomplishments including two Supreme Court appointments, an end to DODT, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Healthcare Reform, Wall Street Reform, end to the War in Iraq, revival of the U.S. auto industry, the Lilly Ledbetter Act and more. He also is the gatekeeper, wielding his veto pen as a saber daring anyone to go too far right. All this and the specter of more Supreme Court appointments is reason for me to support President Obama - enthusiastically! -  despite serious questions about drone strikes and the National Defense Authorization Act.
Rockwell painting that President Obama displayed in the White House - causing much attention and controversy.

At the end of the day, after the consideration of accomplishments and areas of concern, this is what I come home to: I intend to vote for President Obama in support of our nation's first Black president.

He and his family have endured ugly, racist attacks with dignity while working hard to do the business of the government and the world on my behalf. I intend to stand with them.
Sasha Obama looking out the window of a secret service car.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully stated. I'd add that - symbolically - having this man as our President has changed the way the US is perceived beyond our borders, too. He's bright, he projects warmth and depth-of-understanding, and he breaks the long line of rich white men who've been in charge for so long. His racial identity IS a big deal. Especially when the other guys are so boldly intent on taking it all back!