Obama Victory: Perspectives

. Nov 5, 2008

The champagne bottles were out, the smiles were immensely displayed, and elation swept the room as heavily as sleet. This was the scene of my place last night, within the Washington, D.C. area, where finally the ominous environment was penetrated by a light of hope. Yes, it probably was a bit too early to celebrate, but can you blame us? Obama had solidified Ohio, the greatest statistical indicator for a Republican victory, not to mention the fact that the Redskins lost the night before. (In the last 15 elections, whenever the Redskins lost the home game prior to the election, the incumbent party, in striking correlation, also lost the election for the presidency.)


This was a victory not only for minorities, but for everyone – a stark indication that progression was grappling America, a new and optimistic harbinger for things to come. Only until now could we finally say that the person holding the highest office in the US (as well as the world) was not wholly (both societally and color-wise) white, was not from a legacy, and was not entirely American-bred. Rather, Obama represents a hodge podge of ideas, of influences, of varying dynamics. He is unique and yet he is all of us, a collective force that allows for compromise and the appreciation of perspectives.

And however you categorize him, the importance of this election is immediate – and palpable. While some may have decried the fact that he was not "black" enough, little did these people realize the history of this country: that even one single drop of any non-White blood ostracized an individual below humanity. The so-called one-drop rule, which absolutely affected black Americans to the point of dehumanization, also affected those of other colors – for Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, and even for certain Whites who were not considered part of the traditional category of white people.

For me personally, this election is huge in many respects. The impact is significant if only because I work in Washington, D.C., and will feel the not-so-late drive of change right in the heart of the city, with my clients wondering what is to come. Additionally, it questions the very core of the status quo. What I mean is this underscore to drive color-blindness as if that is the right solution . . . even when it is not! We must question why, for instance, in my profession in D.C., minorities make up just a little over 10%, and even then, as you look up the ladder in the higher positions, minorities make up only 6%. For a mixed-race American, who has lived overseas in a highly racialized environment and who sees the underlying unconscious discrimination occurring in America, Obama is perhaps the fortune I (and many others) need. While this election does not necessarily signify drastic improvement over the next few years in the area of minority involvement, it is a step in the right direction – a step for all humanity, in the US and in the world.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.Barack Obama

What follows are the perspectives of others who have expressed their opinions about the election, first up from a good friend who currently attends the same law school –Harvard – that educated our President-elect, Barack Obama:

Darrell Bennett: What took place in our nation last night was nothing short of amazing. I have always been hopeful about the direction we could take, but it is overwhelming to see that so many fellow Americans from coast to coast joined in the chorus calling for change. The election of Barack H. Obama to the Presidency is so much more than a political event; rather his ascendency to the pinnacle of State power symbolizes both progress and transformation, past and future. He sees—and has progressed—further than others because he stands on the shoulders of the many giants before him who marched, sat-in, and sat-down to make this day possible. Just as he has transformed the landscape of this nation by engaging the marginalized, inspiring entire communities and reviving the very essence of the American spirit. In the end, it was not the speeches, the rallies, the paraphernalia or his color—as some would suggest—which put Barack Obama over the edge, it was the indelible mark he left in the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions in this country and abroad. For the first time, our President represents more than one segment of our population: he represents the face of America. And I truly believe this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Next come the thoughts of two friends who are recent graduates of the University of Virginia:

KW: I cried twice yesterday. Once in the afternoon while watching the news. There was a 106 year old lady in the Philadelphia area who waited in line for a few hours to vote for the first African American President Barack Obama. Just sitting there thinking of how much she had seen in her lifetime! She had lived through the most violent times in the US racially and was now about to see an African American man voted into office. And she actually is alive to see it, when so many have perished in hopes that future generations can have the same possibilities that others take for granted. The second time I cried was when CNN announced that Barack Obama was the 44th president-elect of the US. Something I never really thought I would see.

JR: This is for sure a time of rejoice! And while Obama doesn't represent the end of capitalism, white supremacy, or heteropatriarchy, his election is an historic moment. I think that indeed we have to support Obama. I am also submitting that we have to be critical of Obama. Politicians, Obama included, respond to pressure. It is our duty, to ensure that we support his politics when they are anti-corporate, anti-racist, anti-heteropatriarchal, and anti-imperial and critique and organize against them when they aren't. This is a real moment to create and build substantive changes. WE ARE IN A REAL ECONOMIC CRISIS, which is scary but it is also an opportunity to open new paths. So pressure Obama, support Obama, and let's start building the long road to true democracy! We have the opportunity to build a REAL and SUBSTANTIVE left (something we haven't had at least since the 70's) if we artfully maneuver the current crises and the tricky political terrain.

Here is what fellow blogger Brian has to say about this election:

Brian: I can't even begin to express to y'all how happy I was last night. It was such a momentous occasion and I hope that same passion and excitement about democracy and the political process carries on into the future. I also hope that everyone realizes that this is only phase one. Yes it's great that a lot of young people, including myself, went out to vote, but this is merely the beginning. As JT said, we need to be active the whole way through to ensure that Obama is working for us and actually creating the change we need. We also need to be supportive of him and realize that he will not be able to fix all the problems that we are facing today. I think the most disturbing thing for me has been the fact that many people view his election as somehow signaling an end to racial barriers, which is SIMPLY NOT THE CASE. The newspapers and media keep saying that the racial divide has disappeared which in turn minimizes the true realities and causes people to neglect those who are still the victims of racial injustice. I don't mean to ramble, but time and time again I have gotten irritated by the sentiments and attitudes of the American people towards race and Barack Obama. I mean honestly, generational differences are not valid excuses for the bigotry and tomfoolery that have been going on in recent months. By accepting this difference in "generational competence" as a valid reason for all the hatred and division that we currently see, people are condoning such behavior and allowing it to passively coexist because the older generation "came from a different time".

Although this was a huge stepping stone and I believe Barack Obama is exactly what we need right now, I think we have a long ways to go in order to reach racial equality, as this campaign clearly demonstrates...I mean c'mon, borrowing from Chris Rock's "Kill The Messenger", Barack Obama is a very smart and talented black man (Harvard Law Review, Blah blah blah), yet a white man as incompetent as George W can get to that same level with ease? Are the barriers truly diminished?

Finally, just below are the thoughts of a former fellow classmate, , who is currently working on his PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology:

Dā: I believe that we are seeing the realization of Dr. (Brother) Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of an America where we are not judged on the basis of the color of our skin. Yesterday was an indication of how far we have come as a country regarding race in America; but it is important to note that, still, the dream has not been fulfilled in its entirety. I hope that people will continue to stay involved in politics and push for the change that President Obama will attempt to implement during his tenure in office because it will take all of our involvement to really bring about that change. Additionally, as we endure and bear this economic crisis, I hope that we will practice fiscal responsibility. Specifically, as we approach the holidays, let us (including myself) learn NOT to live beyond our means in order to prevent the saliency of debt and financial hardship from taking their toll on our lives.

For a very intriguing article on what this election means for race and politics, read Michael Eric Dyson's "Race, post race".