a moment

Anyone who has heard me wax eloquent about politics (and not run away at the first opportunity) knows I’m hardly a huge fan of the democrats, and this especially includes Barack Obama. I’ve listened to and read his actual policies and he strikes me as a center-right politician of above average oratorical skills. I don’t agree with him on much. I obviously think he is vastly preferable to George Bush, but I wish that I didn’t have to compare my political candidates to murderous tyrants who should be impeached.

Last night I forgot about all of that. I tried really really hard to be the grinch that stole christmas. I did. I tried to remember Obama’s stance on Iran, and his weird middle line on gay marriage and the hundred other issues that I care about. But it didn’t matter. I got on the phone with my sister and I cried. My father was born in 1942. He participated in sit-ins in rural, segregated Virginia. He was the defendant in the seminal civil rights case, Johnson vs. Virginia, which went to the supreme court and desegregated the court systems a few years after Brown vs. Board of Education. He told me stories, growing up, of how he had to sit in the balcony of his town’s theater, because the gallery was reserved for whites. He didn’t mind, because the balcony had the better seats anyway. My dad saw a black man get elected president yesterday. My mom walked home from school during the DC riots after MLK was assassinated. She saw a black man get elected president yesterday.

I’ve had none of those experiences, but I saw Jesse Jackson in the audience during Obama’s speech and I thought: my god, none of us really thought this would happen. None of us. So, I’m happy. Inasmuch as Obama represents a moment utterly beyond himself, beyond his actual positions on actual issues, beyond any sort of mundane partisan victory: I’m proud that America managed to get here.


8 thoughts on “a moment

  1. Go Nader!

    No really, this was a great moment for America. I understand where you separate from Obama on his policies, but I believe that he had to align himself with the more centrist aspects of his party to get elected. I generally feel Obama is sincere when he speaks, and the only time I felt a sleight of tongue was in the first debate where he made the comment about gay marriage.

    This all reminds me of a section from the DUNE novel, where the tyrannical ruler of Arrakis is purposefully replaced with a less cruel dictator, who everyone loved because, simply, he was less evil. Of course, I don’t think there’s such Machiavellian hands here, but it remains to be seen whether he can deliver on all his promises. I, for one, am looking forward to a huge change in environmental policies. A true Green revolution.

  2. […] is Alaya Dawn Johnson: Anyone who has heard me wax eloquent about politics (and not run away at the first opportunity) […]

  3. Sam says:

    I had no doubts (even years ago) that an AfAm could be prez.. he just had to cater to the right (white) side of the aisle.

    And that is what Obama did..

    However I’m not sure he accomplished much else. In fact, he may have buried the race question for years. Most whites now think there are no institutional racial barriers anymore.

    I wonder if the great Obama will now take steps to dismantle the Police state and the drug war that has decimated the young black male community?

    Not one mention in the campaign that more that 1 in 10 black males are incarcerated in the prison industrial complex for mostly non violent drug offenses (not to mention a lot of white males as well). I mean his man Biden voted for the crack cocaine sentencing legislation!!!

    MLK and the civil rights heroes (and they were heroes) that fought on the front lines DID NOT do it so a black politician could just change places with a white politician in the same system..

    NO they did not.. MLK and Gandhi and Mandela fought for justice and equality for the whole society. Their ultimate goal was to change the system.. or did I miss something in history class?

    I’m also happy that Bush is gone and a Black dude is in the top spot BUT.. that does not mean justice has triumphed and truth is shining a light for all to see in this land

    Will Obama end the police state? Will he let justice run it’s course by perusing charges against the criminal politicians that broke our nation’s biggest laws and destroyed the constitution..

    I mean that is what the cops say when they bust an “ethnic minority” as they catch him smoking a joint or just loitering on the corner.. “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time..”

    Or will nancy palosi tell obama what his limits are..

    oh and look who just became his chief of staff.. Rahmbo himself..

    it will be all downhill from here, but at least it is a Black family living in the white house so that makes up for everything..

  4. Alaya says:


    I agree with you. I think that Obama’s approach towards race (largely ignoring it, or if not that heaping scorn on black families) is incredibly damaging. I think he has offered a strange sort of “get out of racism free” card to a large number of white people. I don’t expect him to do anything laudable in office. Indeed, I fully expect him to be the sort of murderous war criminal we’ve gotten so used to in our highest national office.

    I don’t think his election makes up for everything, or really much of anything. I didn’t vote for him. But I had a visceral moment on Tuesday night, when I realized that what had been unthinkable to my parents had become a reality and I thought it deserved, well, a moment. A brief acknowledgment of its symbolism before we get back to the slaughterhouse of its reality.

  5. I agree with all you said. I’m not black but I was raised in the South in the 60’s and lived through some ugly times, so I have been very, very moved by Obama’s win. He’s no saint but his election still sends a very powerful message to the world.

  6. Dave R. says:

    He’s Black?

  7. Alex from Seattle says:

    I am an African American from Seattle and what i got from Alaya’s post was to say that despite who Obama is as a man and what his personal views are, this historic election brings light to the reality of a new dawn in US race relations. To vote for Obama 53% of Americas voters had to reject any miseducation or ignorance they might have held and focus on the content of that man’s character. For me, this showed that i do not know how people will react to me, but that if i just have faith in humanity and work hard i can achieve my dreams…even though im black.

  8. Michael Tim says:

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