Friday, February 12, 2016

The Darnkess Before Dawn: "Post-Racism," Hope, and The Obama Presidency

Ok, so I will be the first to say that race relations in the U.S. have a lot of room for improvement before I would remotely say they're "great" or "dandy" or "fanfuckingtastic." As you've probably figured out about me by now, I'm kind of sensitive to issues about racial discrimination and oppression. Treyvon Martin; Michael Brown; Oscar Grant; the shootings of these young black men, and others, led to what the media calls "race riots," which were often actually peaceful protests turned violent by overly-militarized police forces practicing unnecessary roughness and police brutality. Ironically, the events sparking those protests were usually also connected to some sort of police brutality to begin with; all have occurred since President Obama took the oath of office.

Some conservative media (example) report on them in mockery of the President. Pundits (usually white, and even more usually male) disparage his presidency, saying the "post-racial" society he promised was a farce, and that the problems that have developed are his fault, as if he personally incited the rioting, as if he was there throwing molotov cocktails  at the police on the front lines of the standoffs. They say he's divisive and race-baiting, that fighting and killing and guns are all things he wanted.

First off, President Obama never said he was going to foster a "post-racial society" when he ran in 2008. That was something  that the (white) conservative pundits claimed he was claiming. The media machine, which is predominantly white, brought it up. First it was to mock him, with the, "What does he expect, a post-racial society, here?" as he was running, then to question him with, "Now that we have a black president, do we live in a post-racial society?" and now to completely disregard him with the, "So much for the post-racial society he promised you!" I can't begin to count the number of ridiculous "studies" I saw in grad school that had "post-racism" and "Obama" in the title. And this REEEEEALLY  makes my blood boil, when people act like he promised he would fix all race relation problems in our country, and then, GASP! didn't deliver. That was something projected onto him by conservatives that didn't want him elected and  liberals that did- which is part of why it's so hard to get around and forget who actually said it in the beginning. People that hated him said it would never happen, and people that loved him were expressing their deepest hopes as speculation and sometimes even assertion, rather than as what they were, and what he campaigned on: hope. But. He never promised that specific change, though, people. 
He did not say he was some wizard that was going to leviosa the racism away. He said race relations were on the top of his list of priorities- as damn well they should be, for any commander-in-chief we have had since before I was born, regardless of their ethnicity. 

Second, look at the Congress he's had to deal with. If you Google search "congress least productive" (here, I did it for you), you'll see that, hey, look! Some of the least productive Congresses in our nation's history have been during his presidency. Huh. Funny. Conservatives whine over the number of Executive Orders he's signed in office, but he wouldn't have had to sign them if Congress had enacted any kind of meaningful legislation. In other words, he's doing more in his job because Congress hasn't been doing it's job. And here's the real hum-dinger: HE HAS STILL USED FEWER EXECUTIVE ORDERS THAN THE TWO PRESIDENTS BEFORE HIM AS OF JAN 20TH, LESS THAN A MONTH BEFORE WRITING THIS POST. AND FEWER THAN REAGAN, OR NIXON. Oh my GOD does it show how many conservatives are just drinking the Kool-Aid instead of doing their Goddamned homework! They claim he's power hungry, but that's not it- he's trying to get shit done, while they sit on their asses and adjourn early. Don't blame him. Blame the whiny-ass Republicans that sit with their thumbs in their mouths, screaming that the president is overstepping his power and blah blah, rather than using the power they have so he wouldn't have to, for Pete's sake! There's a reason every single budget has been held hostage for at least a few weeks since he took office. Which leads into my next point, which is the lead into the main argument.

I lived in Bellflower, California when the Rodney King riots occurred. It's a little municipality right next to Compton. So I've seen this stuff. Rioting in response to white cops using unnecessary force on a black man? This shit isn't new, people, and didn't just magically start happening after President Obama was elected. Don't forget your goddamned U.S. history- there's a long list of ethnically charged rioting in our country's past. There have been a lot of publicized events since he took office, but they were happening well before that. The reason for the proported upswing, aside from the rise of social media, is this.

Having a Black president has brought to surface the underlying racism a lot of people have been bottling up and hiding inside. The old, angry, white men in Congress are pissed that a Black man got into office, so they do everything they can to oppose what he presents, even if it means backpedalling on previous positions they've had; racist douchebags in the general public are just as bitter, and taking it out on people around them. People with racist opinions are being less quiet about them. It started during the campaign. I can't tell you how many times I actually heard, in person, to my face, let alone read somewhere online, someone say almost word-for-word, "I refuse to vote for a black man."  And all that birther bullshit? Trump was sooooo Goddamned adamant that the President wasn't from the U.S., he said it at every stop he could at one point; but he isn't saying it about Ted Cruz (yes,  his people are, but he's not railing on Cruz for not being a legit American citizen at every venue the way he did President Obama). And I think, more than any presidency I can remember, President Obama gets blamed for shit that has nothing to do with him. Shit that has more to do with Congress and the Supreme Court, or even local governments. 

Sidenote: I saw an elegant plea for voters to vote out representatives during the next mid-term election so that "Bernie's message can happen." It says very correctly that he won't get shit done, or at least won't get nearly as much shit done, if Congress doesn't support him. So it's acknowledging the whole "checks and balances" thing and passively reminding everyone that Congress is the Legislative branch, and that the ideas coming from the Executive depend almost entirely on that. I wish people had been that smart during President Obama's terms. And I don't think it's a coincidence it wasn't being said while the Black man was in office, either. THINK about that, though. If people are so urgent about that before Bernie Sanders even gets nominated, imagine how things could have been under President Obama if they had been like that before his first term was over. It makes me genuinely sad. Like, I'm actually tearing up as I type this part. 

Fortunately, through it all,  he's remained in good humor, so we get stuff like this:

And this, one that I think really shows what a good person he is:

I say they prove he's a good person because, they show he can laugh at himself, despite having people so publicly despise and disparage him. Don't get me wrong, what he's dealt with and the responsibilities of being in office have taken their tole on him. But I think he still believes in what he campaigned on in 2008, Hope, Change, and moving Forward:

And I sincerely believe that it's getting worse now because it's about to get better. Angry white people being more open about their angry whiteness is giving other people the opportunity to be more open about oppression. It's giving people the courage to fight back against it. We're getting more anti-racism movements because the racists aren't hiding as much anymore. It gave rise to young people of color starting global tours against hate, like a young woman I went to college with, Aisha Fukushima and her Raptivism. It helped enable one of the most powerful women of color in our country take over the halftime show of a predominantly white-ruled institution, the Super Bowl, and present Black Power in all its fierceness and beauty and glory.  

I think Barack Obama knew this had to happen, too. Big change doesn't come about without enough social unrest- think about any big movement for equality. It took a war to end slavery, massive, country-wide protests to end segregation, etc. And he's smart enough to have known that going into the job. And I admire him for it. I think, if he could tell us what was on his mind, he would say something like what Harvey Dent said in The Dark Knight:

Because I don't think he's given up on the American people. He's resigned to his fate to be hated and blamed for a lot of shit he didn't do (much like Batman at the end of the same film), but he's taking it for the greater good. I still don't think it's going to happen soon, but I think having a Black president has given the people that are tired of the racism in this country the oomph they needed to start making meaningful headway, and I have hope that before I die, things will improve even more. Will it be a "post-racial society" at that point? I doubt it. I don't know if I believe in humanity enough to assume race won't matter anymore by the time I croak. But I can hope. I believed in Obama, and I believe in him still, and I believe in the dream that he had for this country's future as much now as I did the first time I voted for him. And a lot of change has happened under his presidency, despite people saying he has been "ineffective," and I believe more is yet to come, thanks to the start he gave us.