“They’re buying racks and racks
of ammunition. There were spots where there was none left.”
“You better have a security
plan in place.”
These were not words uttered
in a frontier dialect from the lips of NRA members.
Instead, they were the voices
of friends and family. Their voices and phrases sounded in my ears
and played in my mind like a catchy poetic refrain that wouldn’t
go away or a bad song that got stuck in the memory bank from airwave
excess. It was like a scratched album that halted the dance floor
in a freeze frame of twisted hips, raised arms and feet mid-stomp.
This was no party, but the conspiratorially
minded and purveyors of caution were figuratively “pooping” on the
one going on in my mind.
was the lead-up to the 2008 Presidential election. In a time when
we were giving each other virtual high-fives via e-mail for witnessing
history in the making, we were also arming ourselves, psychically
and physically, with trepidation and tactics that embodied just
how far we, perhaps, had really not come as a nation. We were frenetic
and afraid; we sipped on the soup of our checked ambivalence at
This was our kitchen table issue.
While a black (by all historical
American definitions and applications of race) man stood to be the
first viable Presidential nominee, my people were cautiously optimistic
- voting with one eye over their shoulder, putting campaign signs
in their yard with restraint and daring to don Obama logos on their
cars, regularly taking an inventory of their vehicles for paint
scratches or other signs of retaliatory vandalism. We were allegedly
on the cusp of a post-racial age with a president-to-be who “transcended”
race, yet we were constantly assaulted by its prominence in this
race to reclaim something demonstrable, visible and representatively
We were now nearly a decade
into the 21st century but were chained to a past that rewound all
the way back to the 16th century. We were consciously clued in to
the shackles, the Black Codes, the failures of Reconstruction, the
hits and misses of the Civil Rights era and the missteps, landmines
and missed opportunities in the intervening decades. Many of us
had “moved on up” and gotten a sliver of a piece of pie, yet remembrances
of Jim Crow, that time we were passed up for that promotion, that
look our neighbors gave us when we moved into the neighborhood,
and that time we spoke to a white coworker at the grocery store
and they acted as if they didn’t see us, resonated with a post-traumatic
relevance that gave the multi-generational response to black mistreatment
and misery new legitimacy.
On election eve, some of us
camped out in front of the television or tuned into the radio all
day. Others took Election Day off from work, spending hours in prayer,
reflection and meditation. Some took the day after off, in order
to debrief personally and prepare for what the next four years could
bring in America.
I awoke on November 4 feeling
unsteady. The morning began as if I had woken from an anesthesia-induced
sleep. I wavered on my feet; my hands shook; my eyes viewed my surroundings
as through a changing and unpredictable kaleidoscope of mirages.
The world looked holographic to me.
I am the child of parents who
came of age during the 1960s. I am the granddaughter of those who
had firsthand acquaintance with sharecropping and remembrances of
relatives who themselves had been condemned to lifelong servility
and uncompensated labor. I live about 30 miles from where my paternal
ancestors fixed meals and farmed fields on hallowed land - where
a major university, forgotten graves, antebellum homes with secrets
and cookie-cutter subdivisions now stand.
path to progress is not always a straight line; it often intertwines.
And this is why we laugh, hold our breath and cry; our emotions
are a grove of feelings, like vines and creepers that envelop us
when we least expect it. This is why black America
was so invested in the election, the process and the outcomes. We
always knew that end result would help tally how far not we - but
white America - had come. Getting along with, accommodating,
relating to and understanding others who don’t look like us is a
competency involuntarily learned through social conditioning for
many black people. We know about aesthetics, pastimes, histories,
literature, music, cuisines, slang and values that are not natively
ours. We’ve also always known that many among us were capable, worthy,
skilled and well-studied enough to not only serve but lead - if
only opportunity would open her doors without quickly shutting and
changing the locks.
The election didn’t mean that
the curtain on racism would close, that its centuries of performance
would have no more encores. It didn’t signal that affirmative action
is no longer a concern. It didn’t cure AIDS, eliminate health disparities
or reduce economic incongruities. It didn’t erase the facts or phantoms
of slavery. It didn’t make the multitudes of black men become devoted
and involved fathers, nor did it inspire them to finally marry their
The election didn’t do any of
From the time Obama crossed
the line from being some guy from Chicago
to a phenomenon unto himself, I have maintained an unwavering opinion
of what he does for legions of people who look like him. After all,
within my children’s lifetime - by the year 2050 - so-called minorities
will be America’s majority.
Obama offers a new template,
a counter to the rapper, the athlete, the ex-con, the corner vagabond
- images that dominate pop culture, visuals that we have too often
give a pass. Obama shows black boys and girls - young men and young
women - that thug love is a denial and dead, that a man and a woman
can be married, successful and happy beyond TV Land and The Huxtables.
shows that black women can, in fact, be ladies; we are not just
props for product placement or wet dream objects for vicarious intercourse.
One young black man interviewed
by CNN said it simply, that Obama makes him “want to do better.”
If this moment becomes a movement
that makes multitudes of others do the same, that will be more than
enough for me.
to post a comment about the election
and read what others are saying
on the BC Readers' Corner Blog
Columnist, K. Danielle Edwards, a Nashville-based writer, poet and communications
professional, seeks to make the world a better place, one decision
and one action at a time. To her, parenting is a protest against
the odds, and marriage is a living mantra for forward movement.
Her work has appeared in Blue Jean Magazine, Mother
Verse Literary Journal, Mamazine.com, Mamaphonic.com, Parenting
Express, The Black World Today, Africana.com,
The Black World Today, The Tennessean
and other publications. Work from Edwards is forthcoming
in Black Magnolias Literary Journal. She is the author of Stacey Jones: Memoirs of Girl & Woman, Body &
Spirit, Life & Death (2005) and is the founder and creative director of
The Pen: An Exercise in the Cathartic Potential of the Creative
Act, a nonprofit creative writing project designed for incarcerated
and disadvantaged populations. Click here
to contact Ms. Edwards.