I’m relatively young, of legal voting age for only the three elections before this one (I’m 30 – you can stop multiplying and subtracting now). I’ll be honest; I wasn’t so concerned about voting in the past years, so I didn’t. Furthermore, I wasn’t overwhelmingly thrilled with the candidates, especially not in the ’04 election. I’ve always followed the races and examined the candidates’ platforms. I’ve been interested in the presidential elections as a chronological marker of a shift in America’s history, but not so moved that I’ve been motivated to fulfill my civic duty and vote. But this year, I’ve been affected by the same seismic charge that has rumbled other casual observers like myself into political action. These days are kinetic, and the results of tomorrow’s voting will be an electrifying shock to the American system one way or the other.
What isn’t shocking, though, is that there is a very real possibility that we may have an African-American as president. President. It would have been shocking back in ’62, which was the year that my mother, with the whole class watching, was called a nigger by her second grade teacher in the newly-integrated elementary school.
It would have been doubly-shocking in ’72 when Shirley Chisholm became the first major-party African-American candidate for the presidency.
It would have been moderately shocking in the ’84 and ’88 races of Jesse Jackson. Not ever really expected to win, what successes he did achieve were still considered “surprising” for “a Black man”.
But now, Obama is just this close away from the presidency. What I find the most remarkable about this election is that Obama is esteemed for being a man. Just a man. The fact that he is African-American is almost secondary, which speaks as much of America as it does of Obama. America surely has plenty of room for left for growth in the non-discrimination department, but I think that this election is a wide stretch of proof that we are slowly but surely headed in the right direction.
All of that said, HOLY SHIT – an African-American might be president! In one generation’s time we’ve moved from segregated classrooms to a Black man currently in the election lead. We are on the brink of a monumental event in the chain of Black History. My great-grandmother, who passed away when I was pregnant with the twins, saw days when an African-American couldn’t be president. My children are living days when an African-American is leading a presidential race and hopefully will be president.
On a somewhat related, but lighter note, ever since Obama won the Democratic ticket I’ve had a segment of Eddie Murphy’s 1983 stand-up show Delirious stuck in my mind. This has always been one of my favorite comedy acts. In our separate childhoods*, Frank and I both managed to memorize practically the entire show, and many of the funniest lines are now part of my family’s inner dialogue.
This isn’t the kid-friendly, Donkey of Shrek Eddie. This is the classic Eddie from two decades ago – rude, lewd, and inappropriately and offensively addressing many of the hot-button topics of the early ’80s – AIDS, homosexuality, and Jesse Jackson’s run for the presidency (every other word is the f-bomb, so do not watch this in the company of little ones or priests):
I wonder how many, if anyone did the same thing and in a few days’ time will also incredulously, rhetorically ask, “He fucking won?”
*I wasn’t allowed to watch the show in its entirety until I was 13. Before then, Mom would let me watch the snippets that were stories from Eddie’s childhood. Though liberally peppered with curse words, the parts about chasing down the ice cream truck, playing the fart game in the bathtub, and his shoe-throwing mother (of which I couldn’t find a clip) are freakin’ hilarious.