20 February 2008

For The First Time In My Adult Lifetime...

I guess I'm "fired up" and "ready to go" - and I'm not talking about what's happening on the campaign trail either.

I could knock Jeffrey Toobin's smarmy, over paid ass all the way back to the kibbutz he crawled out of - his disingenuousness about Michelle Obama's recent comments makes Hillary's crocodile tears seem sincere.

How does he and his ilk sit there on national TV, as well educated and connected as he and his brethren appear to be, and say with a straight face that Michelle Obama's line "“For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country" is an aggrieved pronouncement that strikes a "discordant note" in an otherwise well orchestrated campaign by her husband?

Because if you are black, or brown, or yellow (although Asians in America have a propensity to self identify themselves as equal to being white) the thing you are feeling right now, that thing that threatens to tear through your chest, is the same thing she's feeling, because it looks like some of the diversity rhetoric we have been hearing for years is about to be matched for the first time by actual deed.

When Ed Rendell, the governor of a major state, can stand in front of a microphone and say with a straight face that "I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate", he is stating a fact - there are still many parts of the country where my brownness is only tolerated.

The thing that is in some ways more disgusting than Hillary's attempts to set the agenda, in her efforts to frame her arguments as if she is still the front runner in this race is the attempts by the gaggle of reporters from the major news venues covering this phenomenal political drama to marginalize the success of the superior campaign run by Senator Obama.

I almost feel like I am watching the scene from the 60's movie "In The Heat Of The Night" where Rod Steiger, who plays a southern police chief has learned that Sidney Poitier, who plays a detective from Philadelphia, makes more money than Steiger's character does, and has a better education - Steiger's only answer is to belittle Poitier, to remind Poitier of his limitations as a black man in the south.

The tension in that scene isn't much different than some of the tensions I see fifty years later as black people become better educated and more affluent. I can understand the discomfort if I look like a gang banger, or a rap star, but when I wear the same clothes, display an advanced mastery of the King's English, possess at least one post secondary degree, and have an equal if not greater understanding of the way our laws work and how our economy functions, I have no choice but to blame the white man's discomfort with me squarely on him.

In essence, Michelle Obama is saying that this election is a referendum on me and those who look like me, because it is posing a question that America as a nation has to answer. Given that everything else is pretty much equal - well connected, well versed, well funded Ivy League trained lawyer versus well connected well versed well funded Ivy League trained lawyer - can the country accept the idea of having a brown man as their next commander in chief? If leadership depends in part on a certain level of submission by those who are being led, can our country submit to the leadership of a brown man, even one as well educated and accomplished as Obama?

Ken Chenault is the CEO of American Express. Stanley O'Neal was the head of Merrill Lynch until a few months ago. Colin Powell has been Secretary of State. But no one is on TV more than the president of the United States. If it is Barack Obama's brown hand that ends up waving to the world from behind the podium at White House press conferences, he will represent all of America to the world. I cannot begin to tell you how much that moment will mean to me and those who look like me, who have waiting too, too long to be fully accepted into the fabric of American life in its totality.

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