Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two weeks o'hope--WHOOPS--I mean ONE week o'hope...

So it's been two weeks since America woke up and realized that the night before wasn't a dream--that we had, indeed, elected Barack Obama to be our next President of the United Staets.


And there's been a lot of speculation about what his presidency will mean. For example, a recent poll came out that disclosed that over 70% of Americans thought that a President Obama would be able to fix our financial troubles. Human rights organizations are placing great hopes on a President Obama closing down Guantanamo Bay's detention facilities, and advocates for reproductive rights are anticipating an overturning of Bush-era draconian policies that don't allow for sex education and distribution of contraception to developing nations.

I do hope that these things come to pass. But one prediction that I don't think will happen is the end of racism.

I'm sure most regular readers of this blog will also see the absurdity of believing that the election of Barack Obama to the highest office in this nation does NOT signal an end to racism. Because racism, particularly in its institutional and cultural form, is too big, too widespread, and too amorphous to be ended by as historic a moment as the election of our first openly mixed-race, African American president.

But...

What I do think Obama's presidency offers us is a chance to continue the discussions and dialogues on race that the long primary season and presidential race began. Discussions about sexism vs. racism (or as I like to think of it, the silliness of trying to rank oppressions and the emergence of a recognition that sexism AND racism are inextricably twinned in many ways), the history of African Americans in this country, the history of racial formation and other racial and ethnic minorities in this country, and just a general conversation of our everyday musings and encounters with the big "R" (whether you want to call it race or racism or whether you want to talk about how to live life as an anti-racist person).

So I invite everyone reading this to contribute some possible topics for discussion, and if possible I will try to initiate the dialogue in this space, but of course I also encourage all of you to continue conversations wherever you live. It won't be easy, it will often be uncomfortable, and I don't know what any of us will change others' minds or our own. But the only way to make change happen is to try. And having the conversation or multiple conversations seems to be the best way to start trying.

[NOTE: Amendment 11:41pm EST: I just realized that I didn't count my weeks correctly! Which was confirmed by the comment, below (Thank you Sang-Shil!). Which just goes to show that math skills really aren't my strong suit. Or maybe it shows my desire at revisionist history in terms of wanting that initial giddy feeling to have started earlier than just Nov. 4. Funny what hope will do to you--makes you feel you've been living in the brand new world order much longer than you have...]

2 comments:

Sang-Shil said...

Uh, hasn't it only been one week, and not two? I voted on Tuesday, November 4th and today is the 12th... but I know what you mean. And for some reason it *does* seem like it has been longer than just one week.

I'm not sure this is what you're looking for, but I'm curious about your thoughts on Obama's "mutt" remark made in his first press conference. I've read opinions that say he has the right to self-identify, but I've also read opinions that he's sending the message that it's okay for people to call (and think of) mixed-race persons as animals.

If anyone has any other thoughts on this, I'd be interested in hearing them.

Jennifer said...

Sang-shil,
Thanks so much for reminding me about my counting skills! I had actually realized that I miscounted the weeks and fired up my computer to make the correction. I wonder how many folks I confused, or maybe that was just myself.

But, am I crazy or does it feel like it HAS been longer than a week that I wake up smiling instead of having anxiety dreams about election fraud? I wonder why that is? Because for many of us, we have been working towards and waiting for this day to come for SO LONG so we want to believe that it was always the case? Is there a social psychologist in the blogosphere who wants to chime in?

It's funny, that "mutt" comment, because it was a bit dischordant when I heard it replayed OVER and OVER again on various news channels. TO be honest, it didn't quite hit me hard in the way it might by someone who identifies as mixed-race or who had grown up being called a mutt. But I also know a few mixed-race friends who have really embraced that phrase with pride who, I imagine (I haven't asked) would have felt tickled-pink that Obama made that comment as a way to signal his own comfort-level with his mixed-race (and I'd add mixed-cultural) status.

But I think this warrants more commentary and I will dedicate a blot post to this very topic--so look out for it soon! Thanks for the suggestion--and please chime in yourself with your own 2 cents.