I know I’m a little late on this, but thought I should weigh in on some post-election thoughts now that I’ve had some time to digest.
On the one hand, I was very fortunate to be able to celebrate Obama’s victory at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s church, Ebenezer Baptist, on Auburn Ave in Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward on election night, and the joyous, celebratory mood was amazing. There were literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of people outside, dancing in the street. The traffic on Auburn Ave was stopped and people were just parking their cars in the middle of the street and getting out to dance, hug, and celebrate with all the other people there. I have never seen such excitement around an American political election in my life, and could not deny the historical significance of the moment, especially since I’m now living in the South, in one of the hearts of the Civil Rights Movement no less.
And to top it off…hundreds of people started doing the Cupid Shuffle on the corner we stood on:
Cupid shuffling for Obama? Pretty dope.
It is no small thing that we in 2008 America have progressed to the point where we can collectively elect a Black man to the office of President, in a country where those in power have and continue to demonstrate a clear hatred towards the African American community. It is no small thing that, even if on a completely superficial level, Obama’s image symbolizes to children of color that they have the ability to pursue many different paths in life (as opposed to narrowing them down to say, being entertainers or pro athletes). It is no small thing that we have a President who demonstrates an image of masculinity that includes being a loving, respectful, supportive husband/partner/father.
However, after the joyous celebrating in reaching this step on the path to progress, I was then very sad and disappointed to find out that in my home state of California, voters passed Proposition 8, effectively amending the state constitution to define the state-recognized version of marriage as that between a man and a woman. Now I know the issue of sexuality is a controversial one in our society, but I’m staunchly against any laws that take away freedoms from a group of people based on criteria like race, gender, class and yes, sexuality/sexual preference. And seeing as how a lot of California’s fucked up policies get spread to other states (Three Strikes laws, anyone? How about private prison development?), I couldn’t help but feel like we as a people had taken some very small steps forward, but many steps back as well.
Which leaves us where? Right here:
Right back in the streets, demanding justice. Proposition 8’s passing has fired up opponents to be out protesting in the streets, particularly targeting Mormon Churches, many of whom which, along with Catholic congregations, contributed millions of dollars and countless hours of work to get the initiative passed. The
media has also pointed to the high percentage of African American voters who supported Prop. 8 as a factor contributing to its success, but I would caution against falling into that divisive trap. To pin the outcome of an election on another group of oppressed people who make up a tiny portion of the total electorate (Blacks make up 6.2% of CA’s population, and an even smaller percentage of it’s eligible voting population) is ridiculous, and seems more like a classic strategy by the powers that be to divide different oppressed groups against each other. That’s not to say that homophobia in communities of color does not exist, or excuse it, I’m just trying to keep everything in perspective.
Interesting times we find ourselves in. A Black President, although a definite sign of progress, is not going to solve all of our societal problems, and Obama in particular has clearly demonstrated he is a moderate Democrat at best, or at least very willing to move to the center, no matter where his true beliefs may be situated.
Still, I am inspired by him to continue to fight for the world I would like to see, in any way that I am able to. Change only comes with struggle, and no one understands that lesson more than the people out in the streets demanding equal justice. I draw inspiration from my GLBTQ brothers and sisters out there fighting for equality. As much as we’d like to think so, a courtroom or policy change alone oftentimes doesn’t bring about the real changes we want to see in our communities, in our culture, in our society. When the institutional avenues available to us do not work, you have to take it to the streets. I have hope that we will make sure that our communities are well informed and organized to take action and demand that the government recognize that it is created by us, the people, and it will be held accountable to a progressive vision for the world.
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”