My first day of work since my trip to Barack Obamas' Inauguration in Washington D.C. and I'm already expecting the exitable questions.
One in particular was from my friend of over 10 years. As I sat at a computer he immediately turned to me and started talking,
"Didn't it feel wonderful to be in the midst of Washington D.C. as history was being made with...." I cut him off fast. "It wasn't good, nor bad, it just was. I went to the Inauguration not to celebrate for I knew Barack would be elected and I knew there could be a Black president of the U.S. decades ago. None of this had an effect on me. I went to Washington D.C to do the people's business, I went there to conduct MY business."
I thought maybe that was rude espcially when I said it without even looking at my brother. When I finally did glance at him the look on his face was something I had better get used to, it was a look of being stunned. Mouth open, eyes vacant, hands frozen in the upright praise position. Just frozen in place in reaction to the fact that there was a Black person who did not have the same overly emotional celebratory reaction to Barack Obama's presidency as he and everyone else did.
I am NOT an Obamamaniac.
My more favorable thoughts on Barack Obama not-with-standing, my desire for the advancement of Afrikan people is first and foremost in my mind. This is the politics that I stand on when witnessing the historic election and inauguration of Barack Obama, through asking the question: "What does this mean for Afrika and Afrikans in the Diaspora?". This is definately not to say that I do not love Barack, I do, I love him and his entire family. And this is not to say that I do not have the greatest desire for sucess for Barack, for his health and well being because I do. But I am clear on the political situation that we as Afrikan people in the diaspora are now facing, the reality of imperialism, exploitation and repression. This is reality that Black people and other people of color face. My question is, what does Barack Obama's presidency mean to the Afrikan diaspora? I have my ideas.
The bus I rode into D.C. on was late so I got to the hotel just as Barack Obama took the stage for his swearing in. I broke out the video camera and started recording right when the crowd of African Americans in the City View Hotel erupted in cheers as Supreme Court Judge John Roberts told Barack "Congratulations". People hugged, clapped and raised their arms as if Barack kicked a winning field goal. I have to admit, the sight caught me mesmerized for a few seconds as the energy released into the atmosphere went through me. Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America. Then I caught myself and returned to my senses. I put my bookbag and other bag down in plain sight in a chair in the viewing room. Packed my gloves, hat and my new video camera. I also packed a special item, an American flag done up in Red Black Green colors instead of the usual red white and blue. The American RBG flag, for me is a symbol of the Afrikan presence in America.... So to carry this flag of MINE into the heart of Washington D.C. was definetely audacity in and of itself.
The last time I was in Washington D.C. was 13 years ago during the Million Man March. I kept the significance of that in mind as I walked the streets waving the flag while figuring out the streets to the historic mall.
The looks that turned my way were ones of confusion, blank stares, the occasional secretive admirable smirk and those of anger. The most surprising response was from a tall, older caucasian gentleman in glasses. I was helping an elder sister who became disoriented while walking and as he passed by he stated "I like that flag, it's more honest than the other one." The "other one" meaning the red, white and blue Ameican flag we are used to seeing. As he stated that he walked away, the back of his jacket revealing his membership in a union. A conclusion I made was that this dude is one of very few honest caucasians with the type of political and social consciousness that looks upon this day with both hope and suspicion. I can respect that.
After being reassured that the Elder sister will be ok by her family I ventured onward to the mass of people in the distance. Once I immersed myself into the mix of the moving crowd I started my video interviews. This footage shot will be made available for viewing on Youtube and Chicago television.
As I finished up my video work I witnessed the procession of armed forces dressed in uniforms from America's colonial times. The rich history of this country is showcased in almost every word, every exposition every feeling. The overall meaning that undergirds the entire ceremony is one of violence and conquest.
Everything from the parade of colonial forces bearing arms to Barack's oath are inundated with history of violence and war. It is here that the core of the mesmerizing Obamamania is evident and rather disturbing. The adulation, the frozen smiles, the crying, the hugs, the celebratory atmosphere sobers me. It shakes me to my core to see the emotion that people and Black people in particular are throwing to Barack almost seemingly absent any rational thinking, as if we have collectively forgotten the deeper context of the moment.
Maybe they never truly understood the moment. This is especially evident during Barack's speech where he states to people in foreign lands, "....we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.", a comment that for some reason I found troubling. One sister stated that the comment was "humane" and "very 'Black' of him" to say that. However I can't help but wonder if this is merely a "Black" version of stating what the foreign policy of the U.S. has always been. Whether it is the first Bush administration telling the Taliban "we will give you a carpet of gold or a carpet of bombs..." or Barack's unclinched fist statement the sentiment is the same. Arrogant hubris is the same whether it's expressed by an Afrikan or a Texan.
Maybe it's the people's belief that Barack will actually give his hand to foreign political leaders. I for one wonder if those leaders will include embattled leaders like Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. We only have to wait and see. Such is the case with every aspect of a Barack Obama presidency. But something tells me that Barack will get a pass on many negatives in his future administration.
Appointing a non-educator like Arne Duncan as education secretary, signing off on the bombing of Pakistan and killing civilians just a few days after his inauguration are rather disturbing actions already a week into his presidency. My question to the masses of people and mostly to African Americans is how will we hold Barack Obama accountable to the needs of the people? We cannot merely assume Barack Obama will automatically keep the people's will at heart in an office such as the presidency, especially the particular situations that face Black people. If we constantly give Barack a smile, glowing admiration and no criticism then not only would we waste our opportunity to improve our communities but we would have a hand in burying Barack Obama's legacy in the mire of mediocrity. Granted, based on George W. Bush, Obama only has to be mediocre to seem great, but that's not enough, and as Afrikan people we cannot do that to ourselves nor Barack.
It is imcumbant upon us African Americans to snap out of the cult of personality that is Barack Obama and connect with Barack Obama as our brother as one who is in a very sensitive position. The position to actually help the people or to be continually co-opted by those individuals and organizations that have marched the world into the throes of the new world order.
This is the challenge African Americans face, a challenge that must be faced with rational thought, critical analysis and diligent work minus the teary eyed assimilationist fantasies.