Part I: The Beauty of Barack
I’ve never been a political activist. I’ve never even registered with a political party. Over my twenty-four year voting life, I’ve cast ballots for both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, and once for an Independent (yep, I checked a box for Ross Perot way back when). Although you might consider me a classic swing voter, I consider myself a conscience voter. I vote my values, and I make my choices based on the issues. I evaluate candidates on the merit of their past actions or inactions, and their ability (or lack thereof) to demonstrate sound judgment not only in their decision making, but in who they chose to align and surround themselves with and their lives in general. Perhaps that’s the unique lesson swing voters or independents—call us what you like—bring to the country, assess each round anew rather than declare blind loyalty and you’ll ensure a clearer view.
This election, something is different in me. This year, something moved me to go above and beyond watching, witnessing and analyzing into taking action. That which jarred me loose from my white upper middle class couch is the grass roots galvanizing juggernaut that has propelled Barack Obama to the forefront of the Democratic Party. More than the man himself, that “something” is the energy that has catapulted him—experienced or not—to the current position he is in.
This article is not about Barack Obama per se, and it is not about trying to convince you who to vote for. It is about America, a broken America, and an America that for the first time in my forty-something-years has not only seriously begun to crumble, worse, it has broken my heart. It is a look under the thin veil of wishful thinking that is about to be blown off this nation only to fully reveal the angst and suffering that has slowly and long festered beneath. This article, the first in a multi-part series, is an up-close, first-hand look into one of the cracks of our broken America and the story of a remarkable woman I found there. Let me tell you how.
Like I said, this election cycle something is different in me. I took a keen interest in all the candidates from the early stages of their campaigns and paid close attention during primary season, signing up for their emails and registering on their Web sites. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a marketing coach, consultant and email marketing specialist by profession. I’ve been teaching email marketing seminars for nearly a decade, and have carved out a niche as an expert in the field of how to use it legally, ethically, and responsibly. So I couldn’t resist seeing what the candidates would deliver to my inbox.
From early on it was clear the Obama campaign led the pack in using the Internet, email and social media to galvanize grass roots support. Certainly because of this, I received many email invitations to join various Obama support groups. Like I told you, I’ve never been an activist, but I thought heck, what harm could it do to join a group email list? I could at least see what others were doing. In the spirit of further experimentation I signed up for the Florida Women for Obama email list managed by Barack Obama’s campaign.
The list was particularly active during the Democratic National Convention (DNC), reaching peak buzz the morning of the final day at the DNC. In the midst of reading women’s stories from across my state I felt inspired to write as well, so I did, sending the list a short essay about identity (racial and otherwise) in America, which I titled “The Beauty of Barack”. Here’s an excerpt to provide context for understanding the responses you’re about to read.
“(Written 8/26/08) … I notice as I’ve been reading many of the posts that several of you have identified as being of mixed race or as African American. This is interesting to me for several reasons which I’ll get into in a moment. First, I don’t mind sharing my outer identity by letting you know I am about as white, upper middle-class, college educated and vanilla a product of post-50’s American suburbanism as you can get. I’m a mom, married for over a decade, basically living the typical American dream (house, dog, two cars, etc.).
I’ve thought a lot about Barack’s background and marvel at how easily people classify him as ‘black’ instead of white or any other race/ethnicity in his heritage. He is as much white as he is black, so how can he be one or the other? To me, he is the face of America. He is the living manifestation of the Great American Melting Pot. He is all of us, wrapped up in one person, for a reason. So that we will see it is not our different skin colors or cultures or religions that matter, it is our HUMANITY!
A primary reason I’ve thought so much about Barack and the issue of race is that my husband is Mexican. Not Mexican-American, but first generation Mexican, born and raised there. So our daughter is both Mexican and American. Trying to label her one or another is, to me, ridiculous. She is our daughter. She is an amalgamation of two cultures, two languages, two ‘races’ (and if you go back far enough, more than two) the combination of which creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Just like Barack, she is the future of America.
The ethnic, racial, and cultural lines longstanding in this country are being blurred, blurred to the point (I hope in my lifetime) where we won’t even be able to classify anyone anymore. We will each identify racially, ethnically, or religiously as we chose, or not at all. And at that point, I believe, we will have made a monumental leap forward not only as a country, but as members of the human race.
Not only is there hope for change, Barack Obama IS CHANGE. Like Ghandi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” How refreshing to see a presidential candidate who is not afraid to try. I hope all of us in this group will help undecided voters to see this, to think in this framework about Barack Obama and this election, and not to buy into shallow stereotypes or surface level information about him or any candidate. The time for preserving the status quo is past, because it doesn’t exist anymore, yet some will try to cling dearly to it for fear of change. One thing we can all do is help people get comfortable rather than feel threatened by change.”
Here are the responses I received:
(Please continue to Part II of this story to read the responses I received and how I met Debbie, the remarkable woman I mentioned, and her story.)