Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Silver Lining

So Obama has won. It will be some time before I've sorted through all of my thoughts about this, but a few comments are in order.

Congratulations to Obama on his victory. He was a masterful politician, and he is to be congratulated. But there are even more important issues I mean to discuss.

First, the election itself is inspiring. We have elected a black man to the highest office in the land. Race is not, by itself, a reason to elect someone to office, but, having done so, we should celebrate the inspirational story it represents. On January 21st, 2009, the most powerful man in the world will be black, and it has happened in the United States.

Conservatives and certain others like Bill Cosby have been fighting a kind of cultural war related to race for quite a long time. The conservative line in this cultural war says that the darkest days of racism are behind us, and now it is up to black people themselves to craft their own success. It has implored black people, particularly in poor, inner city locations, to shape up. Pull up your pants. Learn to speak proper English. Speak it. Value education. Clean up your streets. Invest in your homes. Stay married. Keep your job.

To a certain extent, these exhortations have fallen on deaf ears. OK, says the inner city black man, I could do all of those things, but to what end? Where have I gotten myself? I do all of those things, and then I am still just a poor black man in the inner city with his pants pulled up and a low paying job. My drug dealer friend down the street is driving an $80,000 Mercedes! It doesn't make sense!

The logic is understandable. But the black man, in this case, is constrained by his own perceptions about the limitations of his success. So he never actually pulls up his pants and strives to learn proper English. It's a vicious cycle, and he stays poor.

But, guess what. Now, there's nothing that a black man cannot do. A black man has ascended to the very pinnacle of human achievement. Barack Obama was born to a man whose father was a Kenyan goatherder. He was raised by a single mother. He faced every possible roadblock put in the way of a young man, and he beat back every single one of them, and now he is poised to lead the greatest nation on earth.

Every myth, every lie, every roadblock to the black man's success has now been demolished. And so now that poor black man in the inner city can have faith that his efforts will be rewarded. That the investments he makes will bear fruit. That the education he gives himself will not be a waste of time. Because success is possible. And that is a thing to be celebrated, because the black man's belief in himself is the only thing which will ultimately rid us of racial economic inequality.

A second major benefit of last night's election is that Obama's success will deflate the insidious philosophy of entitlements which animates people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakan and others. That philosophy of entitlements for black people rests on the convenient fiction that racism is rampant in this country, and that we need special dispensations to make up for it.

But, if America is nothing but a boiling pot of racist enmity, then how is it possible that we just elected a black man (and a liberal one, to boot) to the highest office in the nation? Al Sharpton will have nowhere to turn. Whatever he says or does, will sound utterly fake, when the man occupying the White House is black. And he knows it.

Well, I've gotten myself all enthused here, but don't be misled. I have grave concerns about an Obama presidency. It is unclear to me which Obama will show up to work on January 21st: the most liberal senator one with radical past associations and beliefs; or the more moderate one which was presented to the American public during the election process. I am hopeful that the latter will be more prevalent in Obama's future dealings, but still scared that the former might pop up his head from time to time and wreak havoc with freedom and the American economy.

But in the meantime, since he will be our new President whatever I do, good luck and Godspeed to President-elect Obama.

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