Maya Angelou is going to give the keynote address for the UNC Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week. An accomplished writer, she has written twelve best-selling books and has been nominated for three Grammy Awards for her spoken word albums. She is also black. And so, the oh-so-colorblind media called her in for a response to the election of Barack Obama. She gushed:
“I realized, almost within the minute, I don’t have to apologize for my country when I’m abroad. I can say: ‘I belong to a great country.’ And the Europeans who say: aren’t you glad to be here in France where we don’t have the racism you live under? Aren’t you glad you’re here in Britain, where we don’t have — I mean, I’ve been on the defensive so long. This time I can say: ‘I am an American: look at us, look at what we’ve just achieved.’”
But what have we achieved? The DTH did a story Friday about MLK Day that sent mixed signals. A former president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP explained, “This is what the organization has been working toward for years.” And, echoing his optimism, the chairman of the NC MLK Commission is quoted as saying, “America has come of age in its ability to judge people based on their ability and not on their skin color.” But the assistant provost for diversity and multiculturalism here at UNC (of all people) “admitted,” “It’s a journey, and we haven’t reached that final destination.” Question: what is the final destination? And when will we know that we have achieved it? Is the election of Obama the turning point at which we can now be proud of our country and put the issue of racism behind us? I offer the following as criteria: do we or do we not now judge by character as Martin Luther King Jr. prophesied.
Consider the following when attempting to answer the question: 96% of all blacks supported Obama. They were joined by 43% of whites. Therefore, less than 4% of blacks and a little over half of whites supported McCain. The implications are obvious. Of course, it’s true that not everyone who voted for Obama did so due to the historic nature of his candidacy. But, is it conceivable that, when 96% of blacks voted the same way, race didn’t play a role in his election? Nay! It is probable that Obama’s skin color aided and abetted his win.
Speaking of which, there’s always the matter of that infamous “race card.” Was it ever played? Si se puede! At an event down in Florida, back in June, Obama warned (referring to Republicans), “‘They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?’” Sigh. Yeah, the Republicans were so obsessed with Obama’s race that McCain refused to run even a single add in reference to the Jeremiah Wright controversy.
As to his character, I find Obama’s presidency to be a symbolic measure of America’s loss of it’s identity as an individualist nation. Obama’s demagoguery (“spread the wealth” and all that) during his campaign was rampant and obvious. For more than half the nation to be taken by such vague banalities as “change” and “hope” and “yes, we can!” is quite embarrassing to me, as an American that is.
In summary, after the election of Barack Obama I realized, almost within the minute and for the first time, I was ashamed of my country. God save America.