have been paying in influence. We have been paying in political capital. We have been paying in blood. The charge is clear, and White America finds us guilty. We elected a Black president and for that we must die.
Let me start with a few disclaimers. This isn’t an endorsement. I’m a seminarian and studying to be clergy. I think the Church should never under any circumstances support a candidate. Whom I vote for is my own business now. Some of the stories I will share will be when I worked for a Democratic candidate in ‘08 locally. I will attempt to not identify that person. But I will share he was a local candidate running for state office. He was a young Black male.
This is not a treatise on the state of Black America. This is a stray thought that occurred to me. This is the observation of one person who is living his own black experience. Some will state that I have too myopic a view. They could be right.
But we are locked in a prison. Black America is on death row and we are slowly being killed. Our crime was electing a Black President. We finally reached the highest office in the land and white America is going to make us pay for it for the next few decades.
I spent ‘08 as a paid campaigner for a local race. It was a heady time. We spent many days watching the primaries. We were elated at the victories but we were also cautious. I never thought the united states would allow a Black man to win. But at times I dared to hope. I watched from the inside the democratic machine, as they call it in Philly, mobilize for Hillary Clinton.
My guy won. The primary. He ran unopposed in the general. I dared to believe that democracy worked. I wasn’t asked to be on his staff and I don’t blame him. I was newly sober and a hot mess in many ways. I could organize canvassers like a champ, but to go to Harrisburg? Not with a litany of felonies. I moved on.
But something else happened that same night my guy won. Something amazing. As the news came in and my mother, a white woman who had raised me through the late 70’s and 80’s in West Philly, in an interracial family called me. We were crying. She was in North Philly dancing in the streets. I was doing the same thing. The streets in black neighborhoods were packed. Jubilation. Rejoicing. Strangers hugging strangers.
My phone started buzzing again. A white friend thought it would be funny to add me to a group text. The first text read. “Obama wins, rose garden is now a watermelon patch.” The next was “The new national bird is fried chicken.” The rest are not worth repeating.
As I watched Obama step on stage or go to a public event over the next few months, I waited for a shot to ring out. I waited for his death. As the years rolled on I started to realize that it wasn’t him white America wasn’t going to kill. It was us.
From Trayvon to Philandro we have paid in blood.
We are experiencing the death rattle of the baby boomers and the cookie cutter mid-1950’s homogenized dream. It is the last grip of white supremacy and they have decided to burn the house down, even if they are still in it. They are willing to sacrifice black and brown bodies on the altar of systemic racism. There is a red, white and blue colored dagger poised above our very hearts and it is held in the trembling hand of White America.
The 2008 election was a pin prick to the heart of the edifice that America has built on the foundation of its original sin, the eradication and genocide of the original peoples of this country. The mortar was mixed with African blood poured out of the holds of countless ships. Finally shored up by an incredibly confident belief in manifest destiny and the resulting arrogance.
Racism is dead. There is a Black president. Now get against the wall nigger and shut your mouth.
The voting rights act?!? You don’t need that; we have a black president.
Can’t find a job after college? Well that’s your fault boy, you could be president.
What’s that? #blacklivesmatter? Stop being a thug and you won’t be killed.
You want guns out of your neighborhood?! Write “your” President.
American history is a pendulum that swings slowly from one extreme to another. For every action there has been an equally horrific reaction. This blood soaked pendulum had no choice but to go from the perceived point of ultimate equity, to white supremacy. The Church’s history mirrors this and is often out of sync with this cycle. That’s actually a good thing.
That’s why someone like Elizabeth Eaton ,the presiding Bishop of the ELCA, was at a march and vigil for #Philadro. Because the Church is the counter culture, at it’s best, that pushes back on the excess and oppression of the day. We have often not been on the right side of history.
We are being hunted by those meant to protect us. Vilified by the media. Our neighbor is openly hostile. Jesus wept.
All this because Barack Obama won the presidency. He has been called socialist Muslim. Accused of being a Kenyan terrorist.
I haven’t agreed with everything he has done. As a pacifist his policy on signature strikes alone is frightening. But he was the first beacon of hope Black America had in a long time.
They killed our prophets. They gunned them down in the 60’s. Our radicals they exiled or imprisoned. They indoctrinated everyone else.
I am convinced that everything we have seen is White America’s response to Barack Obama. Because it was the first sign they may be losing control. I remember the jubilation the night he was elected. I remember thinking he would be dead soon.
I now keep my wallet in my car on the dash. So I don’t get killed. I’m on death row. The price of victory in ’08.
( Image credit Vicar Louis Tillman)