a guest article from SG friend and reader, margaret FK:
This morning I was listening to pundits expound on this historic moment in our history. And in the way that pundits tend to get carried away, they speculated that we are living in a “post racial” society, using the fact that Obama did not run on a ticket of “redemption” for our collective sins against African-Americans but rather a message of hope and a new course for our country as evidence of his “post racial” appeal.
I hate to be a cynic on the day of the triumph of hope, but COME ON! Don’t get me wrong, I do have the audacity to hope that it will indeed be a historic moment when the election results come in tonight, but I think that Obama’s campaign was so effective precisely because he recognized that this is not a post racial society and kept a careful distance from “black” issues (the fact that he is half white, light skinned and talks with a Midwestern twang did not hurt either). And I’m not saying that I think his vision for unity and change is insincere (or even that his twang is rehearsed), or that just because he is half-black means he should be a single issue candidate. I am saying that Barack Obama being elected president does not mean the U.S. has “moved beyond” race as an issue.
Consider the reality of black men in America. The statistics show that fewer than half of black boys graduate from high school four years after entering the ninth grade. More black men earn their high school equivalency diplomas in prison each year than graduate from college. More than half of the nation's 5.6 million black boys live in fatherless households, 40 percent of which are impoverished. 840,000 black men are incarcerated, and black males have a one in three chance of serving time at some point in their lives.
After the parties are over tonight, and everyone has basked in the historic glow of Obama’s legitimately impressive and unprecedented accomplishment, we will all wake up tomorrow to an America still marked by widening inequality, where the ladder of opportunity remains out of reach for certain populations, and where it is increasingly clear that it is propped up against an unsustainable and crumbling economic system.
Despite this overwhelming reality, I am hopeful about an Obama presidency. If he could persuade the majority of the electorate to vote for him, perhaps he can use his great communication skills to call Americans to higher ideals. Maybe he can move us to reconsider the idea that our individual futures are tied to the collective and that we fare better as a society when we care for our neighbors – even when they don’t look like us. This means loosening the grip on our national obsession with amassing personal fortunes and our tendency to create policies that ensure individuals and corporations are unfettered in their pursuit of cash. Maybe this sounds a little too pie in the sky (or even, gasp! commie, to our more conservative friends), but I think we are a country in need of a paradigm shift and that starts with thinking differently - with inspiration. We are undoubtedly going to have an economic wake-up call in the next couple of years – to my mind the important question is, will it bring us together or tear us apart? If Obama wins, I think coming together has a shooting chance (but first he has to win!)