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cross-posted to Jack & Jill Politics This morning, I was finally able to process my emotions and express them as words. Here is what I wrote for the UK's Independent newspaper. We rejected so much history and so many rules that have bound us. We rejected fear comment by Baratunde Thurston, Thursday 6 November 2008 I cannot stop crying. I am stunned. Barack Obama is the next president of the United States of America, and I cannot stop crying. America closed the deal. Yes, we did. It is hard to focus right now. My mind is traveling sporadically through space and time. Large moments and small are mixing. I am in South Dallas, Texas, being hugged by the elderly black election judge I met during the primaries. I am six years old and have just learnt to swim. I am cheering with my Dominican barbers. I am being called a nigger by white children on a camping trip in my youth. I am standing on Goree Island in Senegal, the final resting place of so many of my ancestors and the birthplace of my own possibility. I am shaking Barack Obama's hand in August 2006. I am trembling at my mother's bedside moments after she passed away in October 2005. I am exhausted. I am restless. I am America. This is happening. We shook the world. We won. Last night, at five past 11, a collective roar made its way across living rooms and restaurants and the streets of cities and towns. Strangers sought each other out to hug one another and share in this moment. At my own watch party, chants of "Yes we can!" gave way to chants of "Holy shit", and the transformational nature of the moment was sealed when I gave my New York City cab-driver an Obama button and he gave me a free ride. And what a ride this has been. The manner of this campaign is as important as its ultimate outcome. Grassroots organising met peer-to-peer networked technologies, learned from old school campaigning and was remixed through new school art. And it won. We won! Our new president. Our new president, Barack Hussein Obama, truly represents us, America and the world. He is Kenya and Hawaii. He is Chicago and Kansas, and through his gifts, his timing and his good fortune, we have risen to a great occasion. This campaign was a fire that forged a president and a people, and we have emerged stronger for the trial. It is not simply that we chose an African American or a Democrat for our first post-baby boom leader, although those are all significant milestones. It is not simply that we chose a communicator and scholar and a man who so clearly demonstrates family values through the love and respect he shows his wife and daughters, although those too are significant milestones. It is not simply that we chose, but also that we rejected. We rejected smears and race-baiting and Muslim-baiting and desperation. We rejected so much history and so many rules that have bound us to the way things have been and are supposed to be. We rejected fear. Most importantly, we rejected fear. Our better angels prevailed for one critical moment which can and will change forever the moments to follow. We said resoundingly that we are not afraid. We are not afraid of the world out there. We are not afraid of ourselves. In rejecting that fear, we have shed something awful, at least for a time, and in so doing we have liberated ourselves. I am still crying, but they are tears of possibility for all that we are free to do and free to be. Yes, we did.
Full piece here Excerpt:
The polling is clear. Obama has a steady national lead. More importantly, he is leading in the handful of states whose electoral votes actually matter including four states that voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. John McCain had hoped to make California competitive. Instead he finds himself ahead by only two points in his home state of Arizona, forced to commit resources and to start running deceptive automated phone calls in a desperate attempt to prevent an embarrassing loss. Assuming he wins, what can we expect from Barack Obama. Can he unite the country as he's promised? He will have his work cut out. The divisions in America run deep racially and politically, but there can and will be progress, if not total resolution. A friend and fellow comedian who produces a video series called "This Week In Blackness" spoke with me about the oft-repeated concept of a "post-racial" America. The notion is that we will have won the War On Racism by electing Obama and once and for all healed America's racial divide. Claims of employment discrimination, systematic imprisonment and economic segregation could be met with, "But you have a black president." The country could finally move on to more pressing matters, like selecting the next flavour of Coca Cola. This simple resolution will not happen. In fact, Obama's mere candidacy (and the reaction of his opponents to it) have exacerbated that racial divide in small but poignant ways. Obama has tapped into hope, but he has also triggered a backlash of fear from the more ignorant realms of our society.As usual, Bring it for Barack
cross-posted to Jack and Jill Politics Wednesday morning I got a call from the UK asking if I would write an editorial about the significance of Barack Obama's nomination in Black America. I find it hard to resist that crisp British accent and made room to compose my thoughts. The piece has been published in print and online under the title Baratunde Thurston: I used to be cynical about my country. No longer... Not quite the headline I'd have chosen, but pretty accurate. In the piece, I share a story for the first time from my experience with the Obama campaign in Dallas and write about the power and limits of symbolism. Here's an excerpt
Despite our sacrifices – fighting in wars and paying taxes – we are constantly reminded we're not full members of the club. Yet, Barack Obama made me feel American. He has, and this is really quite annoying, made me care enough to get more involved. His early opposition to the war, the grass-roots nature of his campaign, and his habit of speaking in grammatically correct sentences have all helped. His very composition from white Kansan and black African parents tells a story that is authentically American. Beyond him, however, the reaction of the American people best demonstrates Obama's impact. For black America, the defining moment occurred on 3 January, when Obama won in overwhelmingly white Iowa. It was a sign that things in this country were changing. Although Obama is the nominee, the path ahead won't be easy. People still ask, "Is America ready for a black president?" That's the wrong question. America has never been "ready" to extend its ideals to all of its citizens without being pushed. Was America "ready" for emancipation or women's suffrage or Simon Cowell? No, but we've got them now and in two of those three cases, we are much better for it.Check out the full editorial at their fancy British website!