Monday, November 03, 2008

'Dreaming of a Black President'

The Independent asked famous Black Americans to reflect on what an Obama presidency means to them. Among those asked are Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Samuel L. Jackson, Jesse Jackson, and Spike Lee.

I liked what Maya Angelou said in part because I have come to appreciate her voice in recent years:
"I never thought I'd see a black president in the White House in my lifetime. I didn't even dare dream it. I feel like a child approaching Christmas, you can't believe election day is finally here. It's been so long since we've had people – Asian and black, white and Spanish-speaking – come together and say YES. Some did during the civil rights struggle but not as many as today. What it means if Mr Obama is voted in, is that my country has agreed to grow up, and move beyond the childish idea that human beings are different."
Tony Morrison was, perhaps, the most thoughtful of those quoted:
"This election is critical, vital to more than just people in the United States. It's going to make a big, big difference which way it goes. The worst thing is not Senator Obama losing, it's who wins. I am encouraged by the polls and by him but I have lived long enough to know that elections have been systematically stolen. Luckily, I think everybody knows that and is sending about 5,000 lawyers to the polls.

I don't believe in the Bradley Effect – there were a lot of reasons he lost. And this time is different. First of all the country is different. Secondly he's different. And thirdly a lot of white people are different. Several weeks ago I read about the Reverse Bradley Effect, where whites down in the south say they are voting Republican because of their neighbours!

I think the situation is dire, I cannot think of a large issue where things are going right, and Senator Obama will have an extremely difficult time. But there are two things that one should remember. The first is a cliché, but he himself has said it, 'It's not about me, it's about other people'. He cannot do it on his own, he needs the force of those who voted for him. The second thing – and one of the reasons I really respect him – is that he surrounds himself with really smart people, and not just smart people that say what he wants to hear. He likes the dialogue, the questioning, the one who tells him the truth as opposed to the one who strokes ego.

I think the promise with Senator Obama is that we return to an idea known as "the common good" and we have not had that in eight years. I mean, you can't get sick in America, you will be bankrupt. This administration has been very clear in its assumption that privatisation is best. There are jails where you have to pay room and board, you get into debt and when you get out you have to pay it back. And some people who do not have means to borrow go out and steal again. I know that the Democrats are more inclined to take the right position and not regard taxes on the extremely rich as some sort of insult to them.

What am I going to do on election night? I have three choices: I can go to some friends; I was invited to go on a TV show; but I think under the bed may yet prove the safest place to be."
You can read the full report here.

Dream on is my thinking. The American nightmare is far from over ... with or without Obama.


Maya Angelou Picture Credit
Toni Morrison Picture Credit


Shus li said...

Hi, Ridwan

I am enthusiastically supporting Obama on this eve of the election. Thanks for the wonderful words from Maya Angelou.

Best to you,


Dade said...

Hi, Ridwan.

As recently as two years ago, I did not believe I would see an African-American president in my life time. Today, everything changes.

Still a very long way to go. But, as the Chinese proverb goes: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."


Ridwan said...

Hello Shusli. It is indeed a pleasure to read you again.

I trust you are well and sincerely hope that your enthusiasm brings the desired result tonight.

We are watching closely from South Africa.

Peace my sista,

Ridwan said...

Hello Dade. Brother you have been a committed believer and I have thrown a lot your way (not personal of course).

I admire your support and commitment to change. In these closing hours Obama surely looks more presidential than McCain.

If he wins I will have to admit that my best instincts have betrayed me.

Still, like you say, there is a lot of work that must be done.

Peace brother,

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your message today, Ridwan! :-)

When I was a child you could not be Black here and vote, although you certainly could be Black and get beaten in the streets. Now I have voted at a place manned by Black election workers and guarded by Black police, and I voted for a Black candidate for U.S. President.
This situation is not just window dressing because the fact that it even took place means something about the quality of life for every Black person every day.

The nightmare will go on, of course (the whole thing started as a nightmare, a bad trip on the Mayflower, the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria, etc.) but there is no reason to make it worse by allowing McCain/Palin in.

Remember that if things get so bad that there is a revolution (if one believes in that model and believes it could happen here) it could easily be a revolution to the right, not the left.

With only a few decades left to do something about global warming, it's really important to have the best person possible, and the key word here is possible.

Onward, as you say! :-)

Ridwan said...

Thank you for looking in PZ. I understand and sincerely appreciate what you are saying.

I wrote over Dade's blog that we were excited when we voted for Mandela in 1994.

This US election is similar to the 1994 SAfrican election. The nation had demanded change and there was a certain coming together in the months that followed.

That coming together has sadly lapsed and for many (even most) the hope is gone.

America is bigger than Obama of course. If change is going to come it will have to more than Obama.

Still, this being a special night I wish you well my friend. For at least the next few hours I will accept the possibility Obama represents ;0)

If he gets elected I will join you and others to press for a more humane America, one that acts with decency and moral authority at home and abroad.

For me the litmust test will be how Obama deals with the Middle East.

Peace PZ,

Rick Hanjan said...

Dear Professor,

Today I stand a proud American knowing that the people of our nation are now awake and ready to walk in the positive direction for a better America and a better world. Today I am very proud of my country.


Rick Hanjan

Nazish said...


I began reading your blog a few months ago and just wanted to write that I highly enjoy it and its interesting content. It gets me thinking more broadly.

Keep it up

Ridwan said...

Rick it is a pleasure to read you my brother. Congratulations on Obama's win ... I am happy to read that you feel hopeful and positive.

I watched much of the election coverage from a very hot South Africa and when he won Ohio I knew it was over for McCain.

Keep well and catch me up on your experiences in grad school.

Peace and struggle,

Ridwan said...

Nazish thank you for your kind words and encouragement.

You are welcome here and I hope you will add to the comments when you can.

You made my day ... thank you ever so kindly!!

Peace Nazish,