In fourth grade, the teacher’s assistant, Mr. Morris, pointed me out in class and said, “That boy is going to be President one day.” I never gave it much thought, honestly. Even at ten, I already had a jaded view of the world and the majority of the people that consumed it. In my mind, I felt I would be lucky enough just to get out of my home with my sanity in tact, so the idea of anyone that looked like me being elected to the White House seemed absurd. I thought he was crazy.
You don’t need me to tell you that we live in a very divided country. Every major city is segregated along racial and class lines. Though women have made grounds, we still live in a culture where patriarchy reigns supreme, leaving women to contend with trite gender roles and stereotypes and the attitudes that produce them. For people who love differently, they face scrutiny, ostracism, and in some cases, violence for simply being who they are. Even factions of minorities are pit against each other, no doubt a tried-and-true divide and conquer tactic intended to prevent those without power to unite and stand against the true culprits of their grief.
Instead of our leaders working towards minimizing these divisions that exists within our melting pot of a nation, they exploit them. “The southern strategy,” “welfare queens,” “gays destroying the sacrament of marriage,” “abortionists murdering children,” radical Islam,” and immigration reform: all ploys by Democrats and Republicans alike to play off on what divides us for self-gain. Even in our nation’s darkest moment, a climate of fear was spread across this country in an effort to thwart the slightest bit of any sign of public discourse — even when we knew that some wars needn’t be fought.
It’s no wonder that because of all of this, people are turned off by our political system and the notion of voting for the “lesser of two evils.” It’s quite easy to see why any politician that speaks of hope, unity, and the common goodness of Americans will be met with skepticism. That was certainly my outlook on July 24, 2004, when a largely unknown Illinois Senatorial candidate gave a speech that said our country was not divided; rather that we were all connected as one people, all longing to fulfill the promise of this country.
I looked at him as the Mariah Carey of politics. Someone that spoke of dandelions, rainbows, unicorns, and other silly ways of coloring a nation that simply didn’t point to reality. It was my cynicism that Barack Obama spoke against, and while the rest of the nation swooned over his words, I yawned stubbornly.
Then I read his first book, Dreams of My Father and came to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, Barack actually believes what he’s been saying to the public. That perhaps this wasn’t just some regurgitated speech from an era in politics where people believed the commonalities of Americans would overshadow their staunch differences. That indeed out of many, one. Not only did I realize that he was a great writer, he was a great man. Someone who comes from a remarkable background, and because of that, really wanted to dedicate his life into making a difference.
I don’t agree with him on every political issue, but do I believe him. As long as I’ve followed politics, I’ve never felt anything for any particular politician. More times than not, I’ve had to force myself to like a presidential contender because I hated the other so much.
That is the not the case with Barack. For the first time in my life, I feel something. I want to believe. I want to creep over that cloud of cynicism and embrace the closet idealist that lives within.
I understand that everyone has a right to their opinion, but I don’t see how anyone can believe any other candidate who speaks of change other than Barack Obama. You don’t get change from looking backwards. You don’t get change by exploiting racial prejudices to get ahead. You don’t get change by molding your political beliefs through focus groups. You don’t get change from perpetuating the status quo.
And while I concede that it does feel good to see a man who looks like me enjoy a legitimate chance at holding the most powerful position in the world, his melanin count was not the deciding factor in my support for him. Like Oprah, I do not vote for Barack Obama because he is Black. I’m voting for him because he’s brilliant. Change won’t come from his race; it will come from his message.
Barack is not the next Messiah, but he is to me what many past great leaders were to my parents. He moves me. He inspires me. He gives me a reason to believe. Though I doubt today will be the end of this nomination process, I do hope that today’s results get Barack Obama one step closer to his goal.
Through Barack Obama, I believe this country can come together. Through Barack Obama, I can see millions of people previously averse to the political process becoming immersed in it. And through Barack Obama, I believe the next jilted Black ten-year-old that’s told he can be president won’t find the idea so crazy.