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.
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.