The ‘hood was electrified the night the official word came down. I was in the car, driving home from my mama’s house in Philly, where I’d stayed as late as possible so we could watch the results from the 2008 presidential race together, but I had to peel myself away and head back to D.C. I was about three blocks away from my apartment when the radio cut to the breaking news: Barack Obama won the election. Just like that, car horns started blowing, people on the sidewalks started cheering and folks ran out into the street, hugging one another and jumping up and down, their shouts coming out in visible puffs against the bitter cold.
It was a beautiful, victorious moment in the southeast part of the city that had been previously so ostracized from and disinterested in the goings-on in the White House, even though it’s barely 15 minutes away.
Even after three years, sometimes I have to stop and really let it sink in all over again: we have a Black president. It’s not the first opportunity that we’ve ever had to have a Commander in Chief that looks like us—Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, and even ol’ Al Sharpton have all thrown their hats in the ring at some point—but Obama was certainly the first serious contender and the first to get our widespread support, even though some sisters were surprisingly pro-Hillary for quite a stretch.
Sometimes I think about my grandfather and especially my grandmother, who passed on just a few months before Obama became the official Democratic candidate, and can only imagine her excitement. Her legs were crippled by osteoarthritis, but I know for a fact she would’ve fired up her little walker and hobbled to the polls to put in her vote. It was emotional for a lot of our elders who never thought they’d see the day a Black man would consistently do anything in the Oval Office except, perhaps, repairs. It’s been a special time, even as the majesty of sentimentality and hype wore down over the years.
But my support of President Obama isn’t based on nostalgia. I was determined from the giddy up not to vote for him based solely on the strength that he’s a Black man. I checked his voting record. I listened to his comments—that was the first time I ever, ever sat through a political debate of any kind, and sure enough the first time I didn’t break out a DVD to escape the State of the Union address. I felt informed about who he was as a politician and not just as familiar-looking face.
And now, as we gear up for another election year, and more ensuing melodrama because of it, I’ll be doing the same attentive listening. But barring an earth-shaking scandal or an ass-backwards mistake, Barack Obama will have my full support in 2012. It’s not like anybody on the Republican front is even beginning to give me a candidate to take seriously.
It was no surprise that Obama was going to have a hard way to go. If expectations are high on Black quarterbacks and Black CEOs, the ones on the first Black president were going to be off the charts. Fault-finding has been in full swing, and his failures and missteps are part of the active reasoning not to re-elect him, according to everyone from snarky white analysts to Black intellectuals. The Jobs Act. The end of the war. The foreign policy. Everything under scrutiny; nothing making anyone completely happy. And that’s the way that politics go.
But what baffles me is folks’ vehement criticism of him when the President before him was certainly a hot mess and the one before that instituted policies that actually worked against Black folks as a majority. But he was re-elected to another term, no questions asked. It’s a head scratcher. There have been disappointments, true. Most recently, I gave the President the side eye when he managed to comment on Kanye’s buffoonish interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech, but was disappointingly tight-lipped about Troy Davis’ execution. He walks a fine line in fear of being too aligned with Black issues, I know. But that was neither a Black nor a white issue. It was a matter of justice and his refusal to say anything about it actually spoke volumes about it.
All that aside, I’ll be right out there campaigning and working on his behalf come next year. I don’t even need to know the official candidate from the other camp. I’m already sure President Obama’s going to be the best man for the job. Again.
Will you be voting for President Obama in 2012? Why or why not?