Change We Can Believe In

i’ve been stewing.

i didn’t start off this way. at first i was panicked. turning on my television last tuesday morning i caught the blue ticker tape running under a video of obama. “obama talks about race today”.

i cringed and immediately my finger pressed the off button. it was instinct. i was mortified, certain that the sneaky treacherous but oh so cunning clinton camp had manipulated him into a “black” corner. i was certain that the only thing missing was a large neon sign blinking “black man running for president, black man running for president” (and then i realized the sign was there in blue ticker tape underneath his image).

it was the beginning of the end.

later, my dad called to tell me how amazing it was. i groaned. my sister blogged about how moved she was. i wondered. finally i followed her link to a transcript and read what he had to say. and i was ashamed.

how could i lack audacity when he is so bold as to demand it even as he stood before america trying to explain what we have been unable to collectively understand since “we held these truths to be self-evident”?

i read and was moved. i saw myself and my own experiences mirrored there. i heard someone who looked like me acknowledge the nuances of fear and ignorance. i read a challenge – not a plea – for change not in the vocabularies we use in public, but the conversations we have in private.

and i didn’t think he should do it.

all these months and he’s managed not to be the “black” candidate, just a candidate who happened to be black. but there he was, plastered all over televisions, pundits pontificating if this was his political death knell.

only they missed the point. like i missed the point. people keep asking if this will be enough to save his political career – his aspirations to become president…only it wasn’t about that. i don’t believe he gave that speech to to save his bid. if that was his aim it could have been safer and riddled with lines for people to applaud.

instead he stood sober and alone, finally revealing to those who questioned, that he never once forgot who he is, what he looks like, or what his name is. he always knew he was a black man, even if america was content to pretend it didn’t notice for a while.

he gave that speech because it was truth, and he is an earnest man. he gave that speech because relationships are complex and sound bites don’t tell the whole story. he gave that speech because when all is said and done, he will still have to look his two daughters in the face and show them the type of person they should aspire to be.

that said…i’ve been stewing. stewing since tuesday because after challenging america to think and respond differently than we have always responded to issues of race, people declined …they declined to stop a moment and ruminate on what he said. instead i read comments to articles that mangled and misinterpreted his meaning. instead i read vitriol where there was the chance for deep breaths and attempts to wade through decades of discomfort in an effort to move beyond it.

so i stew…conflicted that i hoped for more, disgusted that that hope wanes.

i’ve heard people reduce obama supporters to swooning masses praying at an alter to obama. i do not believe him saint. he is flesh and blood man, strength and beauty and of foibles and weaknesses – like the rest of us. but he appears to strive to be more tomorrow than what he is today, to know more tomorrow than what he knows today, to expect more of us than we expect of ourselves.

so for now, in honor of a man who strives to be what i strive to be…better…i will continue my internal struggle – encouraged me against exasperated me, trusting me against jaded me, hopeful me against everything else…and who knows, maybe tomorrow will get the “better” of me.

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1 Comment on ears wide shut

  1. TY says:

    well said. I too, read his speech and was moved. I could totally relate to most of his experiences and his examples. I have to question…at the end of the day…will he be more than a man running for president who happens to be black…or will he be the black man running for president. Either way society loves to label.

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