I will admit, before the 2008 election, I was intrigued by the idea of having a Black President. There was an electric feeling in the air…that something was going to magically change, like Barack Obama, human that he is, was going to wave his hand and change everything. In the days preceding the election, Duke’s campus was rife with excitement. There were town hall meetings, class discussions, espresso induced discussions and friendly debates over dinner about the implications, political, social and cultural. I could sense it but I felt outside of it. Despite all of my attempts to involve myself, something about it didn’t feel…monumental to me.
On the night of the election, I found myself in my dorm room, alone, twisting my hair and watching CNN with one eye while the other was plastered to a Latin textbook (doscendo ergo sum). Yes, that’s where I sat, alone, much more concerned about the correct translation of Res Publica Conquassata than about the Black man who would be taking the reins of this shit-show of a country. At that time, I kept the thoughts to myself but I firmly believed that he was “just another politician”.
I tried everything to involve myself in the election and the political process of this country, trying with all my might to emulate my peers, to feel excited, bolstered…HOPEFUL about the “new direction” of “my” country.
That is the lone word scribbled in the margin of my journal entry for November 5, 2008. Everyone, I wrote then, keeps throwing around this word without thinking of what it means. Are we really questioning, or discussing this idea of change? What, I asked, do we expect this change to resemble?
I was preparing to graduate then, and my major concern was finding a job. The economy that mattered to me but I was smart enough to understand that there wasn’t a magic band-aid, that Barack Obama, as wonderful a man he was, couldn’t promise me a job. Plus, at that time, the type of change that was important to me had nothing to do with politics. I was more concerned with the value of Black bodies. This has always been a concern to me. But I also realized that this was more of a social issue and policy could not hardly influence the way that others view Black bodies. That is a topic for another post.
I remember feeling in the pit of my stomach that not much would change. That in some shitty way, this could escalate the racial “situation”. “Society and race” Joel Lipman writes, “are a fucked up set of twins, scared of their own shadows.” This could make it worse. There were the racists among us that wouldn’t take kindly to this. And then it happened. That unsettled feeling bubbled up inside of me when I heard the news. Oscar Grant.
I know the two events, Obama’s election and Grant’s murder, were unrelated but unfortunately they were correlated in my mind. This was my confirmation. Just before a Black man is sworn into the highest office in this country, a Black man is slaughtered in a train station. Around the same time, Fox News referred to Michelle Obama as Barack’s “Baby Mama”.
If this was the amazing change that we were waiting for, I wanted out.
Here I sit, almost two years after that election, wondering if anything has changed. I mean what has truly changed? What did you feel during the election? What do you feel now?