Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Southern Reconstruction

I was overjoyed last night and even this morning about the election of Barack Obama. So much has happened in eight years, and for it all to culminate in this defining moment, was well worth the wait. I felt a since of pride and happiness, that is, until I went to school. The campus seemed to haved had an eerily melancholy mood. There were so many sad and long faces, apparently disappointed in the loss for John McCain. That is fine, and loyal Republicans are entitled to feel that sentiment. However, there is a stark difference between disappointment for your candidate's loss and exhibiting utter disgust for the prospect that a black person will be your president. And what was I to expect? The nastiness coming from the McCain campaign and Fox News more or less tried to label Obama a terrorist, a socialist, a Muslim, a radical, a "scary" and "risky." So, sure, I can understand why those who believed all the lies and never bothered to research would be a little upset today.

Then, I entered the law school, and there was tension in the "air." People congregated in their separate corners to complain and then would awkwardly change conversation topic once an African American student would enter their vicinity. I thought we have dealt with this? Didn't this campaign make it okay to talk about race outloud? Adding to all this, numerous people have chosen to use Facebook to voice very hateful opinions. It is, as I told a friend, as would imagine many felt the day after the Civil War. It is like there has been a huge front to Southern heritage and culture that an African American has assumed the presidency. Now, clearly, this is not the feeling of ALL Southerners, but if you are honest with yourself and consider all of your southern associates and southern families, you will have to concede that somebody is burning in the gut today that their country's new leader is a black man. Mississippi's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. They cling to their strong heritage and cultural past with such a endearing white-knuckled grasp that it makes it very difficult for them to easily progress into a new future.

Obama's election is not a personal victory for African Americans. It is a notable triumph in African American history. But there is no way it could have happened if people of all races, ages, and backgrounds did not back this candidate. President Obama is our president in the truest sense. He is both black and white, and isn't that symbolic of the resolution it was going to take to bring us together. He represents Americans, each and every one of us.

African American students at Ole Miss should not have to hide their respective and understandable joy that a black person is president. Obama will be an inspiration to millions of black kids around the world as an example of what anyone can achieve. Moreover, white students who supported Obama should also be able to be excited about their candidate winning. Again, this is not a personal victory for individual African Americans, but it is a historic moment in American history. McCain supporters should rightfully feel some frustration. But no one should be affraid of having a black president.


Brant said...

It is a shame that any student should feel as if they should contain their happiness about the historic election that they were a part of. I, too, felt that I should not "speak out" or be proud of my country today while walking through the somber, melancholic faces.

But at the same time, it is an even greater shame that such narrow-minded ignorance and just plan hate prevents people from realizing how special this moment is. And not just for African Americans, but for ALL Americans. It makes it difficult to conceive that race relations will ever fully heal. I do find some solace in the fact that we are in MISSISSIPPI, which after 21 years of residency I am fully convinced that this state is the slowest and least progressive state in the union, and perhaps may NEVER be "caught up to the times."

None of this, however, should take away from the fact that we did it! We helped spur on a movement that will forever change the face of American politics. And yes, it is only fitting that the man that would tear down the institutional boundaries in place for centuries would be just as black as he is white. In the words of the great Oprah, "Hope won!"

lyrAKAlivy5 said...

It has taken America over 43 years to finally elect the first African-American president-elect of the United States of America. This simple fact speaks measures to the issue raised in your blog post.

I was not surprised to read that the mood on campus today was somber, and that the weight of disappointment and malice could be felt in the air. The old, traditional ways and mentalities of the people of the south, along with some people in other regions of the country, continue to hold firm and strong in our society today. I was moved to mere disappointment by the response that John McCain's supporters gave when he made his concession speech last night and spoke of Barack Obama. How very low of his supporters to boo Obama, and, according to one media outlet, call for him to show proof of his birth certificate, as well as hiss at the mere mention of McCain saying that he would work with Obama to make this country strong once again? This disrespectful, negative behavoir has impacted the campaign from day one and a lot of it has nothing to do with politics as we know it, but race.

It's a sad day when an African-American or any person of another race has to feel as though they can't show joy and express verbally their excitement for a man who is not just an African-American, but a president purposed to serve ALL PEOPLE. My own close family member expressed that there was tension in the air at work because of the outcome of last night. No one person should have to be subjected to an atmosphere such as this. How outrageous! Given that I am in a different region now, and have experienced the opposite of what you went through today, I feel a sense of pain at the reality that you and your peers now face at Ole Miss. I only pray that God will deal gently with the hearts of so many that walk around campus sulking because an African-American is president... Not just a Democrat, but an African American male. This country is changing, and change is happenig at a rapid speed. Those who continue to let the old ways of the past live through and for them, will surely get left behind as "WE" move into the new.

The CPA Doc said...

I am not surprised by anything that has gone on. I remember vividly when Nic Lott and Clarence Webster won the Student Body Predidential races, back-to-back, at Ole Miss. To a lesser degree, the sentiment was the same. I also remember when the institution of the "Miss University" pageant was all shook up because Carissa Wells won. The sentiment, much the same. In fact, she won after a recount of the votes!!!

The memories of those moments still disappoint me to this day. However, I did expect a little better of a reaction. I mean really, this is America, right? How much longer did people expect us to not have a black President? Granted, I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime, but it did.

Mississippi stays on the bottom for a reason. Looking at folks like Mrs. Ann Nixon Cooper (the 106 year old lady in the news) and remembering my grandfathers stories of race relations, I just wish things would be different and America would celebrate, as the rest of the world is, change. Mississippi doesn't want change, I think I've accepted that. But geez, I really don't know how I would react if I could see these people's faces. What a shame....