Saturday, November 29, 2008

Proud of Obama … For Now

For now? That seems a little tough, to say the least. The man has not even taken office.

I am proud Obama’s team mounted an innovative 21st century campaign that left many of us scratching our heads in 20th century bemusement.

Yes, he ran an innovative, focused, tech-savvy campaign.

To put it simply: black America is not doing well.

After asserting that we are in a post-civil rights era, he quotes Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage. In The American Scholar magazine, Johnson argues in a recent cover story that “a new century calls for new stories grounded in the present, leaving behind the painful history of slavery and its consequences.”

And he seems to be in agreement with Johnson. Yet, there are doubts in his mind.

Even as Obama reached new voters, anti-affirmative action referenda passed in Nebraska and barely lost in Colorado. Similar measures have passed in four other states.

Affirmative action remains of importance to black Americans, he asserts, even as Obama's election proves we are in a new age. So, which is it?

Our peculiar political calculus prevented candidate Obama from candidly addressing issues of racial justice during the campaign. Any hint of racial grievance coming from a black candidate could have provoked a white electoral backlash, and the Obama team assiduously avoided that possibility.


But Obama is no longer just a symbol of black America’s racial aspirations. The African-American candidate may not have been free to speak about the incarceration epidemic among black youth, or the enormous collateral damage of the war on drugs, but President Obama must be held accountable for policies that exacerbate those problems.

Well, he'll be accountable for everything; that's the nature of the Presidency, always, all the more in these times.

The sheer novelty of his status as the first black president probably will give him a long political honeymoon in the African-American community. However, when those first arguments inevitably begin, this period of tear-stained joy will gain a glow of  nostalgia.

I fail to see the point, other than expecting Obama to be perfect. Tall order.

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