Friday, August 29, 2008

DNC Day 4 - Of Course...

I spent Barack Obama's speech crawling around on the floor of Invesco Field, trying to worm my way close enough to the candidate so I could get a decent picture of him with my cheap digital camera. Unfortunately, the closest I was able to get was right in the middle of the Texas delegation, so I have several dozen photos of a brown blur in a black suit that still has plenty of gravitas.

I enjoyed the speech, although when you are working on taking pictures and talking to delegates or other people crouched and crawling its easy to miss some of the the finer points. Being someone interested in justice for oppressed communities and also an Ethnic Studies scholar, I had hoped for much more though on the glorious anniversary that this speech was taking place on, and in general the struggle for civil rights and racial justice that he represents. Unfortunately, since his "mature" speech on race didn't quite allow Obama to seal the deal on the nomination, or solve his Jeremiah Wright "problem," the Obama campaign seems to have resorted to a conventional strategy on race, meaning never mention it, except to say that your opponent is mentioning it.

Obama is now playing a very dangerous game of hoping that people like me, who see his election as a step forward for non-white groups in the United States, will continue to support him even while speaks in the language of progressive colorblindness and vague inclusive universality. On the other hand, he has to hope that independents or people who are voting for him because he's in the words of famous wordsmith Joseph Biden such a "clean" and "articulate" black man and most of all, not an angry one, will not see all the "angry" and "uppity" people who are pushing for him, and that that two radically different drives animate their support. For the first group, that I am a part of, there is a hope that Obama will mean an opening in the system, in the racial politics and very embedded sorts of ideologies that America is plagued and sustained by. For the second, group there is no doubt a hope that a vote for Obama will close everything up, clamp it down and place a final seal over all discussion about slavery, Jim Crow laws, white privilege, black oppression and black complaints.

For my stake in this then, I am saddened that for all the talk that people made for this coming 45 years after the anniversary of Martin Luther Kings, beautifully but regularly co-opted speech in Washington D.C., Obama chose not to pursue that route further, but instead keeping his speech squarely focused on a vague always universalizing inclusiveness (blacks, women, gays, asians, there were some mistakes, but were always moving forward). I can't say that it is, as people often say, a betrayal of the dreams of Dr. King, because the election of a black president was no doubt a central dream of his and so many others. I can say however that when Obama is elected president, we will not have gone as far as we thought, we will not as achieved as much as the historic hype alludes to, precisely because of the double bind that someone such as Obama represents. Where he is potentially the resolution of a trauma, but can only ascend to that point of potential resolution, by remaining painfully silent about the persistance of that same trauma.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails