Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What Obama Running For President Means To Me

TransGriot Note: The post I wrote for 'Trans For Obama' Blog week.

We are less than 33 days from Election Day and I'm cautiously optimistic that I will see a historic event take place on November 4.

But this journey for me has been (and still is) a mind blowing, emotional roller coaster ride as a proud, politically aware transgender African-American. I'm saddened that my grandmother Tama isn't here to witness it, but I'm savoring every delicious historical moment as it unfolds.

Almost 400 years after the first Africans arrived here in North America, a man who is the son of a continental African may be on the verge of becoming the first United States president of African descent. And as Dr. King foresaw it, the African-American vote will play an important, if not decisive role in that happening.

For the first time in my life I have seen someone of my ethnic heritage run and have a legitimate shot at taking the oath of office on January 20.

Yes, Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. have run and paved the way for this moment in time, but this presidential run with Sen. Barack Obama is fundamentally different.

It's one time I will happily say (and will write the post on November 5 if it plays out) I was wrong about an issue. I've always told friends that I believed the United States was too obstinately racist to ever put in my lifetime an African-American man in the Oval Office. I've always believed for that reason the first African-American president would be a woman rather than an African-American man.

Enter a first term senator from Illinois with a funny name who began this race with far more support from white Americans that he had from African-Americans. I myself only made my decision to support him in the Democratic primary on January 1, only a few days before the Iowa caucuses.

I watched Sen. Obama's 2004 Democratic convention speech in Boston and began to do research about him at that time. The more I read and heard about him, the more I liked him. As someone who grew up being represented by great orators with substance like Rep. Barbara Jordan and Gov. Ann Richards, I was hungry for that type of visionary, morally principled leadership once again. I also longed to have a leader that I could unconditionally be proud of. I wanted a leader that represented me in which I didn't have to cringe every time he or she opened their mouths or expressed pride at being anti-intellectual.

Basically, I support Barack Obama not because he shares my ethnic heritage, it's because I was hungry for and wanted someone smarter than me in the Oval Office to handle the serious problems and challenges this country faces. Hell, intelligence is a primary criteria in ANY politician I elect to office.

This race, if it continues to a successful conclusion on November 4, will also fundamentally alter the way that African-Americans look at ourselves and our long tortured relationship with this country. It has already had a positive effect on some African-American men in that they're standing a little taller these days. Black women and girls see in Michelle Obama, the potential First Lady, someone like themselves.

If he pulls this off with the help of the reality-based thinking electorate tired of the last eight years of Bushit, no longer will an African-American kid have to wrestle with the contradiction of being told that you can be anything you want to be in this country, then be told in the same breath you can't be president.

Political junkie that I am, I get excited about but don't get too emotionally invested in many political campaigns. But when I saw this race unfold and realized that this man actually had a legitimate shot at win the Democratic nomination, win this election and move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I got jazzed and excited about a candidate in a way I haven't since Jesse Jackson's 1984 presidential run and Lee Brown's 1997 run for Houston mayor.

I cried tears of joy the night I watched Sen. Obama's nomination acceptance speech in Denver and if the positive trends continue, my tear ducts are in for an additional workout between now and January 20.

This race has already helped foster frank cross cultural discussion that we have long needed to have in the States about various issues including race.

It has helped begin to tear down some of the centuries old stereotypes that are being disproven every time Barack stands there at a podium giving a stump speech, is thoughtfully giving an interview or holding his own in a debate. It's also cool that he has by his side in Michelle a strong, proud, educated, statuesque African-American woman from Chicago's south side with two adorable kids. That's blowing away stereotypes about Black women and the Black family as well

I believe that Barack Obama has that rare combination of skills, abilities and life experiences that give him a chance to be an outstanding president at a time when our nation sorely needs one. This is a man who not only graduated from Columbia and cum laude from Harvard Law, he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. His time as a community organizer and growing up with a single mother gives him an insight and sensitivity to the issues that ordinary working class Americans face. Being biracial also gives him insights into both sides of the racial divide in this country as well.

As a trailblazer who was the first Black president of the Harvard Law Review, and now the first African-American to win a major party presidential nomination, he understands the unique pressures and attention that being a 'First Black' can bestow upon you and the magnified expectations they bring.

And most importantly to me as a transgender African-American, he wants an ENDA that is fully inclusive. It was the decisive factor in why I chose to support him over Sen. Hillary Clinton.

It's also been quite a while since we've had an American leader who has captivated and caught the world's attention. It makes me exceedingly proud when I read the accounts from all over the globe that various world leaders like him and that citizens of other countries (and our own) are hoping and praying this man, one who shares my ethnic heritage, becomes the 44th president of the United States.

It's not only African descendants here in the States who are standing a little taller these days, but our pride in how well he's doing also extends across the African diaspora to Kenya and across the African continent

A presidential campaign is a marathon, and to borrow a metaphor from the Boston Marathon, we're now approaching Heartbreak Hill. We have two more presidential debates and the vice presidential one left to go along with 30 plus days of hard fought campaigning. While I'm nervous about how the rest of this month will unfold, I'm cautiously optimistic as well. I'm beginning to have the audacity of hope that he will be standing on the Capitol steps on January 20 taking the oath of office as president.

It's been a long time in the African-American community since we've produced this type of leader. I and other African-Americans are hoping and praying that we'll happily get to share President Obama with America and the rest of the world for the next four years and beyond.


VĂ©ronique said...

If Canadians could vote, Barack Obama would be a shoo-in. Fortunately, I am still a US citizen, and there's no way my vote is going anywhere but for Obama. I only wish that my last state of residence was a swing state.

I'm glad Obama is African-American. I think it's about friggin' time that stupid barrier was broken. But like you, I support Obama for who and what he is, not because of his skin colour. I think presidents can be effective in pushing through specific legislation, but I think the greatest presidents are those who inspired the nation. I think that's what Obama can do. I think he can make a start, at least, at cutting through the cynicism and hopelessness that pervade American society.

Monica Roberts said...

If it were up to the world, it would be a no brainer.

But this will ultimately be decided by the peeps who are US citizens inside and outside US borders

helen_boyd said...

As ever, you rock.

I posted what I think is a very interesting appeal to working-class / union voters in PA about race - from the current CIO head - that might interest you. (It's right under the post about you on my blog.)


Francis L. Holland Blog said...

Thanks for all that you do, and for sharing your thoughts and reflections to build community.

Do you support Barack Obama's push for universal health care?

Do you agree that if we could get the insurance companies out of the mix (they might just become bankrupt like Wall Street, with everyone's money, and then need a bailout), then getting insurance companies out of the mix and providing care directly would be more efficient and much more cost-effective?

After all, does having "insurance" really "ensure" or "assure" you of very much of anything, except bureaucracy, aggravation and arguments, when it comes to health care? And a mailbox full of letter about what was covered and what was not, and how much you owe in spite of already having paid this "insurance company" ten thousand dollars that was deducted from your paycheck?

If you support universal health care then please post the Afrosphere Action Coalition "National Health Care Now!" widget, which informs and leads your readers to a petition in support of universal health care.

It also shows the insurance companies the "high esteem" we have for them, by proposing a system in which they have no role at all, and never once using the word "insurance" in the entire text. In my opinion, Americans don't want "insurance". They want the assurance that they can access quality medical care when they need it, and they've been told that paying for "insurance" is the only way they can be "assured" of seeing a doctor and getting medicine when the need it.

I would be a rich man if I could find a way to earn thirty cents for every dollar that is spent at American supermarkets. How about "supermarket insurance"? You pay me to "cover you" when you are hungry, and then, if I believe you are hungry enough, I will give you permission to go to the supermarket? And for this you pay me thirty cents of every dollar that you otherwise would have spent on food!

Of course it requires an enormous (and enormously expensive) bureaucracy to review each American's decision to go to the supermarket, but that's what I'm here for! That's why you pay me thirty cents on the dollar for all of the money that could have been spent on food in America!

If that doesn't make any sense to you at all, then please adopt the Afrosphere Action Coalition's National Health Care Now! EasyWidget that takes you and your readers to the Petition demanding National Health Care Now!

Unfortunately, some very few "progressive" whites may be reluctant to support this effort because it is led by Black people whom they don't like. Those "progressives" don't realize that, unless everybody works together, we are never going to get universal health care in this nation. And so, we progressives, Black and white, will be compelled to break the color line, if only on this issue, whether we like it or not.

When you show your support for national health care right before the election, you are reminding people of why it is so important that Barack Obama and not John McCain be elected president. Like the "economy", health care is about 20% of the American economy and it' s really in just as much of a "crisis" as Wall Street.

But because the crises in your wallet and in your child's aching tooth don't have any lobbyists in Washington, Wall Street gets a bailout long before your high blood pressure or mammogram do.

But, isn't it too early to start worrying about national health care, before Obama is even elected? Well, aren't the lobbyists already paying our representatives in Washington to assure that universal health care never happens?

The news media keeps telling us that this election is about whom we most trust to bail out Wall Street. Is that REALLY going to motivate minority and working class voters to go to the polls in November, or shouldn't we also remind them of something that is going to help THEM?

If we want universal health insurance, we'll have to work for it as early and as diligently as the insurance companies and lobbyists who are already rallying to oppose it (or sharpening their knives and pens to carve out an even bigger piece of our economy for their greedy and callous selves.)

Please post a widget leading to the petition.