I have been thinking a lot about President Obama. I have to admit that I was more surprised and excited than I expected to be at discovering his victory. No, I did not vote for him. I did not vote at all. And yes, I expect him to keep his promises and there are certain things, like his very vocal support of the state of Israel, that I cannot get behind.
That being said, I am still in a pleasant shock that this country elected an African-American man as president. And now that Barack Obama is president it is time not only for him to fulfill his promises, but for his supporters and for everyone in this country to be an ally to him.
Having a black man as president does not negate this country’s past, nor its current state. The truth is that this country would not be here if it were not for the slaves who built it. The truth is that James Byrd was dragged to his death merely for being African-American. The truth is that in Jena, Louisiana a white student was allowed to get away with blatant acts of racism while the six African-American students who defended themselves were accused of violence. The truth is that right now black voters are being held accountable for the passing of Proposition 8. Any person who claims that racism has ended is lying and ignoring the truth.
The election of Barack Obama is an opportunity for all USers to come together as allies and work together to fight racism. We can open communication. We can bring about true change. While some may say this country was founded on freedom and equality, others note that it was also founded on genocide and enslavement. This is a chance for true democracy, for all of us to hold this country and ourselves accountable.
Now, this does not mean that we blindly follow our leader(s), in fact, we never should. After all, this country was also founded on revolution. This does not mean that President Obama should not be held accountable for his decisions either. But this also means that we need to really examine the media, politicians, and ourselves. How do we react to President Obama and his decisions? Perhaps Dave Chapelle’s skit “Black Bush” should be watched a few times by all of us.
When African-American men were given the right to vote they came together in their communities and decided as a community who to vote for. In my own Iranian and Muslim communities I have seen this same method. Voting is not an individual act (as is choosing to not vote) rather something done for a larger community. And so we as a country can learn from this. We can learn from the need that those people in marginalized communities have faced, the need for true democracy.
I expect great things from all of us.