So I know this is probably a late post, but better late than never:
It’s really a privilege for me to know that for both presidential elections that I’ve been able to vote in, I’ve been able to put my vote towards making history. My very first time eligible to vote in a presidential election, I was in a swing state (Ohio) and I helped elect the first Black president in the “free” world. I think I was in the perfect place to watch that first election–in Afrikan Heritage House on my college campus, surrounded by many other first time black and latin@ voters. I remember then that it all happened so quickly. We all were a bit in disbelief that this country would allow a black man to be elected president; we just knew that some shady shit would happen to prevent its occurring and that we’d be in for a long night. Not so, literally as soon as the west coast closed the polls, Obama’s face flashed across the screen. Everyone in the room burst into tears, and I found myself weeping pretty uncontrollably. Some of the older folks in the room held back wanting to be 100% sure that they weren’t making a mistake, but after another 5 minutes, everyone–men and women–were crying, like UGLY crying, and screaming knowing what a momentous occasion it was.
So many people in that room were realizing that our baby brothers/sisters/nieces/nephews/etc. would never have to grow up being cynical about the possibility of having a black face in office. And it really reduced our own cynicism of one day seeing women, Latin@s, Asian-Americans, LGBTQ, people of other religions, or any intersection of these one day hold office. It was empowering. Especially when day after day you’re bombarded with the statistics about black men overrepresented in the prison industrial complex, welfare queens, underperformance, fatherless households, and having to hear we educated black women will never be able to find husbands and are destined to live a single life. Here was the quintessential first family, the ultimate role models for black youth who are daily engaged in that struggle to keep that momentum going when there is so much discouragement–which buries itself in your psyche. Everyday I get to look at a beautiful family with two educated parents, who defied the odds–or really the stereotypes– in their personal lives, in their educational attainment, in having two beautiful children, in having a solid marriage, and in becoming the leaders of a nation wrought with a violent history.
Four years later, the race question has without a doubt reared its ugly head. The debate, the atmosphere, the rhetoric, the commercials, and so on, have become so disgusting. It’s been a nerve wracking election cycle. Tuesday morning I woke up dumb early and voted in a state where it was definitely going to Romney because I thoughtlessly changed my registration to Louisiana from Ohio. And I was kicking myself in the ass about it all the way to the polls. I could not concentrate to do school work for my life. But we went to Kermit’s Speakeasy to watch the election, and it couldn’t have been a better choice. The room was so full of hope that Americans would make the right decision this time–that rationality would circumvent racism. Every democratic victory was met with cheers and every republican victory, including our own state of Louisiana, was met with resounding boos. But just like last election, the call to victory for President Obama once again completely caught me off guard. They were playing Signed, Sealed, Delivered for the like the 3rd time of the night right after the west coast polls closed, and they had just announced that Oregon was called for Obama. Everyone was dancing and cheering for that state. Then the news went back to a shot of Chicago’s headquarters. Suddenly Obama’s number was 274–it was just in small print at the top of the screen, and I think it took everyone a minute to register what that number was saying, but within seconds everyone was on their feet screaming and jumping–arms raised–gasping for air. I mean I was screaming like I’ve never screamed before–no voice at all the next day. We didn’t even know which state it was that put him over the edge until 5-10 minutes later because they didn’t flash Ohio over the screen like they had every other state. I am so proud of Ohio and glad I didn’t have to continue to berate myself for not keeping my vote there! Kermit’s place was a full out party for awhile–you can see for yourself here.
Anyway, this was not meant to be such a long post, but this just makes me so emotional. I’m more than elated about the outcome of this election given how incredibly fearful I was about the possibilities. I don’t even want to think about what could’ve happened and what that would’ve meant for policy in America–but it doesn’t even matter anymore because enough people voted on the right side of history to negate that frightening alternative.
Thank you for maintaining my faith in this country. And here’s to another four years! GOBAMA!!