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There is only one America

For the first time in American history, a black man will be the major resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

He will not have to enter from a side door, or bend his back to those that do not believe he is their equal. He will not be shining silverware, or serving meals he will never taste.

On January 20th, a black man will be president of the United States.

For some, this is the culmination of dreams that they dared not dream, and for others it is the beginning of a four-year nightmare in which the hegemonic rule of whiteness will be disturbed by an uppity nigger. Yes, a nigger, because for some people, head of state, graduating Magna Cum Laude, first black president of the Harvard Law Review, former senator still equals nigger when your skin is brown.

With fifty-two percent of the popular vote he has been declared the great unifier. Even his bi-racial body is meant to stand as a testament to the convergence of the white and black binary that has for so long divided the great red, white and blue. Each word that falls from his lips in the cadence of a Baptist minister is meant to speak to us of a culture and a country that is beginning to deal with dissonance. “… No white, America and No Black America” – oh, the lies that are told on the path to power.

Look at what Obama had to accomplish to have a seat in the oval office:

The man before him was a C-student and the man he ran against graduated second last in his class, still yet it was the black man that was deemed unqualified. Remember, there is no such thing as a “black America or a white America.”

Little Caylee was recently found dead. For months now, the press has been obsessively discussing her disappearance. We have been shown pictures of her sweet innocence, and as it pulls on our heart strings, we ignore the tiny thought in the back of our mind: In a country that is as large as the United States, why is it that we have not heard about any missing children of color?

Are brown, red, and yellow children so lucky that they are never abducted, abused or neglected? Does evil only attach itself to whiteness, or has it simply been decided that since our bodies are worth so little to begin with, our children are worth even less? Remember, there is “no Black America and no White America.”

On January 20th two black girls will have a brand new home. For the first time in history, black children will be able to lay hands on the nations’ treasures. One would never be aware that even as they run through the west wing, little black girls just like them are being subject to corporal punishment at twice the rate of their white peers in the 13 states that still allow this form of abuse. Things will be different for Sasha and Malia, no teacher would dream of tying them up and forcing them to lie under a desk to teach them about the Middle Passage. Sasha and Malia will have privilege to protect them. They will never be forced to feel the humiliation of their history in front of their white peers because they come from a family of power.

Sasha and Malia will never know what it is like to be accused of prostitution for having the nerve to be born black and female in this world. They will not spend nights in terror, dreaming of being assaulted by police officers. Class and power will give them the privilege that their skin color denies them. All of this bounty exists because there is “no Black America and no White America.”

On January 20th, for the first time in its history, the United States will have a black first lady. There was a time when black women once stood nude on auction blocks, and now a dress worn by one will hang forever in the Smithsonian. This is to be our elevation. Our days of being located on the bottom of the race and class hierarchy are “over.”

Of course, to believe that you must dismiss women like Tarika Wilson, Lavena Johnson, Ramona Moore, and the countless other black women that have either been killed or gone missing – women that the white-run media has ignored. The media is far too busy trying to erase Michelles blackness, by continually comparing her favourably to Jackie Kennedy. Now that they are stuck with “Baracks baby mama” for a first lady, they are certainly doing their best to encourage her to leave her “angry black woman” ways behind. Thank goodness we have the comfort of knowing that there “is no Black America and no White America.”

Barack is a post-racial theorist’s dream. Though he is bi-racial he identifies openly as a black man and his denial of the racial binary allows those that seek to profit from white privilege the ability to maintain the imbalance, while pointing to Obama as the false sign of racial harmony. It seems the closer we move to inauguration day, the more we are reminded of exactly how large the gulf between black and white really is. The election that was supposed to heal the pain of the past has only ripped the scab off of the wound. No matter what fantasy world Barack is projecting with his centrist policies, the country is just as divided as it always was.

One man, no matter how great, cannot undo the legacy of slavery, or heal the rift that continues to widen generation after generation. Announcing to the world that a black man, who by the way is not a descendant of slaves, is president, does not erase the fact that the first twelve American presidents owned slaves, or that the place he will call home was built by slaves.

This is the legacy that Obama cannot represent, as it is not a part of his personal history. Obama’s connections to blackness are based in his African heritage. I am not inferring that Obama is somehow not black enough; I am simply stating that he does not have the same personal investment as someone whose family bore the lash. Obama knows what his true name is, he has no need to have an X as a surname. That which has been stolen from African Americans was Obama’s birthright.

It’s quite ironic, that the first black president would not have slave roots and would identify as black despite being bi-racial. Even now the media has begun to stress his bi-racial identity, constantly reminding us that he was raised by his white grandparents as though his connections with whiteness throughout his formative years were solely responsible for his remarkable achievements. Perhaps they feel if we keep focusing on the white part of his DNA, the American people will be able to deal with the reality of what they have done. No, it didn’t happen in a movie, or a television show – a black man is president of the United States.

With this one mission accomplished we can ignore the systemic inequalities, which ensure that whiteness lives in privilege while African Americans suffer. Barack Obama can serve as a social placebo of peace. All that is necessary to make this lie a reality is to forget the dreams of past African American leaders – that every single man woman and child be recognized, and instead find solace in a single representative of black power as symbolic gesture of social emancipation.

If at times the burden becomes too hard to bear and the dream seems like a tarnished memory, just repeat to yourself that there “is no black America and no white America”.

6 thoughts on “There is only one America

  1. I agree — those who want to jump on symbolism to pretend there’s no more problem are either very ignorant or (more likely) in denial.

    Kudos for raising the controversial issue wrt Obama being biracial and not being descended from slaves. While I think it’s important to respect his self-identification, I wonder if America would have been “ready for” someone without that fact pattern.

    I think in an understandable effort not to take anything away from Obama’s great accomplishment, the media may be avoiding discussion of the hurles remaining.

  2. I’m sympathetic to the plight of African-Americans…but I must ask, how often do we talk about how badly the Native Americans were treated? How they STILL live separated from white people to this day? I believe injustice, racism, etc. should be talked about over all, not just for one race.

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  4. Sarah:

    First of all, not all Native Americans live on a reservation. Secondly, if you truly were interested then a quick Google search (or trip to the library, for that matter) would show that there are many Native Americans who speak out openly against the racism suffered by their people. As do Asians, Chican@s, etc.

  5. All-or-nothing thinking is a great way to advance your agenda without people noticing. People who agree that the election of Obama is a great step in the right direction are almost forced into agreeing that we’re now in a post-racial world, which is a ridiculous claim of course. So instead you have to go around agreeing that the election results are great, but denying the post-racial claim. Then people think you’re being nitpicky or “overly sensitive.” Please.

    And maybe the focus on Obama’s whiteness could be used in a positive way. Interpreting it as privilege could be a way to temper people’s view of the significance of this election and remind them that we’re not living in a post-racial world. Because in a post-racial world it wouldn’t matter whether you were raised black or white…

  6. Having agreed with much of what you have said, the importance of symbolism must not be underestimated. It does have the potential to alter imageries and constructs that feed prejudice and tolerate oppression. One sincerely hopes that a black man in the white house will engender respect for the ordinary black citizen. To a prejudiced mind all blacks are the same,so everytime he glares at one, he might just see the president!

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