After the Morning After, After the Night Before . . . [AAP#1]

MOYA BAILEY: I don’t feel victorious. I don’t feel like we won. I do think that these sentiments are particularly interesting after the early press spin that asked whether Barack was black enough and black people were ambivalent about the answer. Now he’s one of us, our hero, our modern day Martin and Malcolm….

LAST WEEK I spoke of featuring some writing by friends in the Afrosphere. This feature [The African American Perspective at UMX, or "AAP"] will run all week, and into the weekend. Mil gracias to all who contributed, and of course (as always) to my amazingly generous and talented amiga and assistant with all things XOLAGRAFIK, M, for organizing this. Stay tuned every day for a fresh post in the series.

—Nezua

art by XOLAGRAFIK

Moya Bailey is a fourth year Fellow in Women’s Studies at Emory University. Her research is focused on health care disparities in marginalized groups. She received her undergraduate degree from Spelman College where she majored in Women’s Studies with a concentration in Health. While at Spelman she was a resident assistant and was active in many campus organizations including AUC Peace, Sisterfire, Afrekete, and served as President of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) during the Nelly Protest. Her organizational and planning activities with the FMLA and the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Rights Conference led her to a life of activism centered on health issues and social constructs affecting women of color. Bailey also serves on the national board of the Davis- Putter Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships for activist students.

After the Morning After, After the Night Before…

I don’t feel victorious. I don’t feel like we won. I do think that these sentiments are particularly interesting after the early press spin that asked whether Barack was black enough and black people were ambivalent about the answer. Now he’s one of us, our hero, our modern day Martin and Malcolm (please people let’s really think about what these men did and who they were i.e. not politicians).

A friend’s brother said that he’s seen more racism on the internet in the last few days than in his whole millennial life, which is interesting in the wake of claims that Obama’s win symbolizes a new epoch in racial relations in this country. What I see is power and hegemony at work. The election of a brown face that keeps the capitalist machine going, (not an uncle tom Nader; they all placate those corporations) albeit it a gentler, greener machine (we’ve been promised) that still does the work of US imperialism.

I wonder how our Indigenous brothers and sisters feel? Is it enthusiasm for the fact that a person of color has reached the white house or is it sadness that a person of color is at the helm of an empire that wrought such pain and destruction among their peoples?

I say person of color deliberately to note that Obama’s African American-ness exist in another space than that of other African American’s who have sought the nation’s highest office (Chisolm, Jackson, McKinney, etc.). He is not marked with the north/south black/white paradigmatic binary we use to understand race in this country. He is not colored by the hallmarks of African American elite society like belonging to a Divine Nine fraternity or growing up in Jack & Jill. His Hawaiian, Midwest upbringing make him an exception to dominate codes of blackness which initially made black people suspicious and ultimately put whites at ease.

It was easier for me when the face of U.S. imperialism didn’t look like mine. Will this stem the radical left’s radicalness? Will we become complacent because Obama is the new president of the fundamentally illegal, stolen, and pilfered United States? I am worried because as bougie black folk celebrate and rejoice, there are still black people hurting. The “tragedy” in Jennifer Hudson’s family captures national attention, even presidential (now) condolences, but how often is that story true for countless other black families living in this country and how often is that story
told as one of tragedy rather than a rationalization of stereotypes long held about the black urban poor? Structural racism depends on the exceptions (Obama, Oprah, etc.) to hide the rule that is inequity.

Am I cynical for feeling ambivalent in this moment? I dare not share these thoughts with too many because the retribution is swift. There is no room for quirky black girls casting aspersions at this watershed moment in black history. But I must insist on raising my dis-ease in this moment, my fear for what this may seemingly absolve in the minds of many. And also what might it incite? “Disempowered racist white people can only actually harm people much less powerful than the president elect.”

So I pledge to stay vigilant, critical and skeptical. I pledge also to be active, visible, and hopeful for the world I wish to see. It will take more than one man’s rise to power to undo centuries old structural oppressions built along the axes of race, gender, sexuality, ability and age. The struggle continues.

Author’s Note: Thanks to Summer M., Alexis P., and Ashon C. for helping me think on this and providing pieces of this analysis.


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9 Comments

  1. [...] Moya’s post is already up. So whatcha waiting for? Get over there, read the goodness, and leave some comments. [...]

  2. nezua says:

    Am I cynical for feeling ambivalent in this moment?

    Maybe. Or maybe just levelheaded and properly skeptical. Whatever we call it, I’m glad we have people thinking this out in this way. The hope is good, the change is good, but you bring many important doubts and realities to the fore.

    Gracias.

  3. Primero, gracias Nez for hooking it up proper as we move from the afterglow of this moment.

    Moya, I was and remain ambivalent from before the election, through it and to now. Obvio from a different perspective and place than you pero I think it’s important to not just accept the election results as a clear win but rather use it as another point of analysis, which may, yes be from a harder place than before.

  4. Malicia says:

    hope that things will improve and change.

    knowledge of how much we still need to work on, what the problems still are.

    They aren’t mutually exclusive. And, in my opinion, they are equally important. I liked what you had to say.

  5. sweetleaf says:

    moya’s piece excellent for starting your aap week, nezua. maegan la mala said it, “Primero, gracias Nez for hooking it up proper as we move from the afterglow of this moment.”

    i believe the like minds understand and agree with you moya. there is hope but reserved. all along the (my) feeling was and is still, that no matter who sits in that office, is working for the factions of us imperialism. without a doubt obama’s camp is of a conservative (and corporate?) nature. his election symbolic of… but what now? we need more than symbolism.

    i must admit i thoroughly enjoyed the glow moments after the elections…the release from a feel of repression, (even if only for the moment), on the faces of so many. the joy expressed, the smiles, all those beautiful smiles. too long overdue.

    i don’t think obama’s election is an answer to anything, but i do believe in the potential for him to be a way to a better means. (ie. the smiles, the greener, the eyes of children seeing a face of color in the role of an intelligent leader – especially in relation to what children have seen in the face of white in the role of a not so intelligent leader). did i say that right?

    the aspect of worse off for many is sad. we have to watch out for each other and look for the flags that can lead to that, then act accordingly. like you said ms bailey, stay vigilant, critical, and skeptical. it is not a time to be less than that for all of us.

    i truly understand, and sad smiled, and nodded my head in agreement with your statement, “Is it enthusiasm for the fact that a person of color has reached the white house or is it sadness that a person of color is at the helm of an empire that wrought such pain and destruction among their peoples?” it is hard to know what to feel, really. is that a paradigm?

    i don’t know why i said so much, as you said it all perfectly ms bailey. i don’t see you as a cynic, as much as i see you as a very intelligent realist. i thank you for your contribution and truly feel your writing, is the way, to start this week of the african american perspective on umx.

    ps i loved this…”Will we become complacent because Obama is the new president of the fundamentally illegal, stolen, and pilfered United States?” an excellent example of all the well said in your writing.

  6. Moya says:

    thanks for the loving comments!

    viva la revolución!

  7. [...] even if a lot of it is compartmentalizing what I know and not thinking about things folks like Moya and so many others are sayin’. So I close my door, download all the free mixtapes people are [...]

  8. sweetleaf says:

    viva la revolucion!

  9. [...] Moya Bailey, an activist academic, points out in a recent blog post: “Structural racism depends on the exceptions (Obama, Oprah, etc.) to hide the rule that is [...]

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