This article is part of a series in celebration of a new, dynamic voice in Black America: the NUBIANO Exchange. Brace yourself for the NUBIANO experience.
This past year, the political ambitions of Barack Obama have been under constant attack. Although the number of Obama critics has steadily declined, due in part to his caucus victories in Iowa and South Carolina, the use of race rhetoric has soared to ridiculous heights — fueling voter reservations about the viability of his campaign. While the criticisms launched against Obama are expected and purely a part of the political process, they have unearthed, without intention, a host of issues that America has struggled to resolve, yet still uses to define her national politics. Unsurprisingly, the issue of race stands front and center.
From the stockpile of political missiles launched against Barack Obama’s campaign, five have been deemed as “silly reasons” to vote against him. One reason addresses concerns about Obama’s limited “Washington experience,” while another critiques his “blind optimism.” The remaining three revolve around the issue of race, with the final two addressing reservations held by members of the African-American community.
No matter your background or political affiliation, if voting against Barack Obama, let not your decision be based on one (or more) of the following “silly reasons”:
1. Barack Obama lacks sufficient political experience.
Since it is quite clear that Barack Obama has adequate political experience, when looking at his background as a community organizer, civil rights lawyer, and representative in the Illinois Senate, it is quite clear that this statement only calls into question Obama’s “Washington experience,” as an elected official, which would only reference his time in the Senate. At what point did a politician’s proximity to (and experience in) Washington guarantee their viability and credibility in being a presidential candidate?
If one were to judge the past ten presidents, using the same measure for success, former Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan would not fit the bill. That being said, there is no denying that each of their respective political experiences, while limited to the contexts of their states, helped to shape their national platforms and amass their political fortunes.
When comparing the political experience of Barack Obama against that of President George W. Bush, is it plausible to say that Obama does not match or exceed his level of experience? By default, this statement concludes that current President Bush is more “experienced” than Obama, despite the fact that Bush became president primarily because of George H. W. Bush’s proximity to Washington and the conservative support his father garnered during the Nixon years. Time has shown, especially with this recent administration, what a vote based solely on “Washington experience” stands for: sustaining the status quo.
2. Barack Obama only talks about change and does not have a clear agenda.
Precedents are often made in times of uncertainty, and time has shown that trailblazers can achieve success without a “blueprint of action” in hand. Mahatma Gandhi didn’t know, in 1930, that thousands of Indians would join him in the Salt Satyagraha, a non-violent protest to Britain’s salt tax, just like Martin Luther King did not know his advocacy of racial and economic equality would lead him to the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. These men simply acted on their convictions, although they crafted their methods of attack, against the status quo, as social and political events unfolded over hours, days, months, and years. What matters most is that these men’s values, morals and convictions were built upon a solid foundation. Who can argue against Barack Obama’s audacity to hope, the power of a dream or the need to be the change one wants to see in the world?
History has shown that political inspiration is the fuel for American aspiration. In the 1840s, Jacksonian Democrats, like journalist John L. O'Sullivan, advocated for “manifest destiny,” which eventually led to the California Gold Rush; in 1961, President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech urged all Americans to “ask what they can do for their country,” a declaration that led to the development of the Peace Corps and served as inspiration for organizations like Teach for America; and in 1963, Martin Luther King’s dream for racial equality encouraged the drafting of a legally-binding Civil Rights Act. Quite fittingly, these examples show that a proper vision for a better America should not be confined to the limits of time, for lasting change never comes quickly or easily.
3. White America is not ready for a black president.
Such a statement assumes that White America is inherently racist and will always have a box and “glass ceiling” in place for all of Black American citizens. Not only is the generalization unkind, it is also untrue. History has shown, again and again, that racial discrimination and opponents of equality can be beaten down, especially when facing the proper “agent(s) of change.” W.E.B. Du Bois broke down the racial barrier at Harvard University in 1890 by becoming the school’s first African-American Ph.D. recipient; Jackie Robinson broke down the racial barrier in major league baseball in 1947 by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers and erasing its “color line”; and Shirley Chisholm broke down the racial barrier at the 1972 Democratic National Convention by becoming the first major party African-American candidate for President of the United States. Although race, at times, is a barrier that individuals fight to overcome, there is no denying the historical proof that it can be overcome. Moreover, it is important to note that in all of the aforementioned examples, White America helped to open the door, in spite of the nation’s social and political climate at the time.
4. Barack Obama is not “black” enough.
African-Americans of all backgrounds should find this statement insulting, since it infers that one’s skin tone, education level and genuinely friendly association with whites somehow strips someone of being “black.” In addition, such thinking is the root of America’s long-standing problem with (and irresolute handling of) the issue of race. From a historical standpoint, if basing such logic on the “one-drop rule,” Barack Obama, by all measures, is a black man. If the children of former President Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, his slave, are “black” and Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the illegitimate daughter of Senator Strom Thurmond, is “black,” then how is Barack Obama, a man with a Kenyan father and American mother any different? The sentiment underlying this comment, then, is not a matter of race, but some of Black America’s “resentment” that Barack Obama has not played the “race card” and vocally pushed the “Black agenda,” like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have done in the past and, quite frankly, still continue to do.
While racial politics have played a role in American politics, the focus, policies and administration of the President of the United States should never benefit (or focus squarely on) only one segment of the American population. Americans of all stripes take issue with (and have concerns about) the state of education, as the current generation falls behind their international counterparts; the limited economic opportunities of lower- and middle-class Americans, due to globalization and rising costs for higher education; and wholesale discrimination and hate-based crimes, no matter one’s race, gender, sexuality or religious preference. Without doubt, the issue of race has yet to be resolved in America. Nevertheless, it most certainly is not (and should not) be the center of American politics.
5. If Barack Obama fails, then future black aspirations are doomed.
Of all the pessimistic things African-Americans could say, this one surely takes the cake. Everyone standing behind this statement should be reminded of the life of American patriot Nathan Hale, whose political aspiration led to his hanging after the Battle of Long Island. His parting words of "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country" gave rise to liberty in the years to come. Similarly, during the Civil Rights Movement, much of its ultimate success stemmed from the “failures” of struggles that took place in the years, decades and centuries preceding the 1950s.
Before the well-known Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, there were other similar, “failed” demonstrations in the protest against discrimination, and long before Rosa Parks became “the Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement,” many other women, like Claudette Colvin, Irene Morgan and Mary Louise Smith, stood up for equality, by sitting down for their rights. While the demonstrations of Colvin, Morgan and Smith are not spotlighted as frequently as Parks’, it is foolish to think that their actions did not serve as inspiration for Rosa Parks or fuel the success obtained in the Montgomery campaign.Powered by Sidelines