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The Deep Significance of Obama's Election for African Americans

Politics aside, I was affected by Eugene Robinson's op-ed column entitled Morning in America in the Washington Post. He writes:

It's safe to say that I've never had such a deeply emotional reaction to a presidential election. I've found it hard to describe, though, just what it is that I'm feeling so strongly.

It's obvious that the power of this moment isn't something that only African Americans feel. When President Bush spoke about the election yesterday, he mentioned the important message that Americans will send to the world, and to themselves, when the Obama family moves into the White House.

For African Americans, though, this is personal.

I can't help but experience Obama's election as a gesture of recognition and acceptance -- which is patently absurd, if you think about it. The labor of black people made this great nation possible. Black people planted and tended the tobacco, indigo and cotton on which America's first great fortunes were built. Black people fought and died in every one of the nation's wars. Black people fought and died to secure our fundamental rights under the Constitution. We don't have to ask for anything from anybody.

Yet something changed on Tuesday when Americans -- white, black, Latino, Asian -- entrusted a black man with the power and responsibility of the presidency. I always meant it when I said the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I always meant it when I sang the national anthem at ball games and shot off fireworks on the Fourth of July. But now there's more meaning in my expressions of patriotism, because there's more meaning in the stirring ideals that the pledge and the anthem and the fireworks represent.

It's not that I would have felt less love of country if voters had chosen John McCain. And this reaction I'm trying to describe isn't really about Obama's policies. I'll disagree with some of his decisions, I'll consider some of his public statements mere double talk and I'll criticize his questionable appointments. My job will be to hold him accountable, just like any president, and I intend to do my job.

For me, the emotion of this moment has less to do with Obama than with the nation. Now I know how some people must have felt when they heard Ronald Reagan say "it's morning again in America." The new sunshine feels warm on my face.

Comments (7)

Josh you nailed it for me. I have met you but it has been a long long time ago. I am a Black female, love the Lord Jesus Christ, conservative on social issues, a little left on economic issues, I didn't vote for him nor McCain yet when I found out Obama won I couldn't help but cry. It was an overwhelming feeling that has been very difficult to express. My first thought was that I wish my father was alive so he could have witnessed this. It really is an incredible moment in our history as a nation and I thank God for the opportunity to witness it. I will be joining all Christians in prayer for his heart to change about abortion and a list of other things but I just can't help but be thankful to have witnessed this.

Thanks for your post Josh!

Trillia

These are some great thoughts from Robinson. His words kind of resonate with me and the mixed feelings I have about the election outcome.

The strange thing to me is that the reason we should be excited about a Black man being elected president is that it would show that our country is moving toward seeing -- and treating -- all human beings as equal. It's not the skin color itself that should thrill us -- for unjust acts have come against every color under the sun -- it's the principle of what it has the possibility to represent due to our history. Yet it represents none of this to me. We are farther from the blessed Dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. than ever -- we are so far, friends. The victims of ill treatment are smaller and more helpless -- just imagine if racists began specifically targeting Black or Hispanic children! Oh wait... they are. I say, never before have we had a president, and a population to vote a president into office, so ignorant of... no, AGAINST -- many literally and adamantly against -- the equality, the value, the precious rights of each individual.

It is not a victory for civil rights. It is the most blind defeat ever. The most ignorant decision ever made against equality for all men and women -- every brother and sister of our race, of this uniquely beloved creation of God's own Hands and Breath and Love.

I weep that we look at color to claim any sort of victory. I wish we could see the heart of Obama and of those in this nation who voted him into office just as God does. That we might know how He feels about this election. I really wish we could. For righteous principle found no victory this November 4th. No repentant slave driver brought Obama to power. Abortionists and pro-choice advocates did. Those who do not value life enough to put it before their self-interests did. Hearts that would not fully surrender to God's Will and seek God's truth asked for this man to be their "hope."

Josh,

I need some help here. Why is everyone who "didn't vote for Obama" so excited? I thought we based our vote on the substance of a man's character, not the color of his skin?

If a white man had been elected, there would be no "buzz" about it. Why now? Are we not just proving that there really IS something to a man's skin-color?

Let me illustrate:

If a black man and a white man were competing for a job at a firehouse, and the black man got the job (though drastically less experienced and competent), I would not cry at this great moment in that fire house's history. I would weep that the other fireman's lives now at risk having to work with this unqualified co-worker.

And I would not celebrate the "progressiveness" of the committee who hired him. Rather, I would question their judgment.

So why are we celebrating our "progressive" nation who just voted into the office of Commander and Chief quite possibly the most under-qualified man in the history of our nation? (132 days in the senate? Good heavens, we require longer training/qualifications of someone who wants to be a nurse, let alone who wants to run the entire hospital).

I have been really surprised (and a little frustrated) at all of the Christian blogs I've read this morning celebrating the fact that a "man of mixed color" has made it to the white-house, despite the fact that they think he is grossly under-qualified.

This is not the vision of MLK jr. His vision was substance-of-character over color-of-skin. And with this thinking, I find no reason for excitement in the thought of Obama in the Oval Office.

I will admit...I have tried. I wanted to sit there, listening to his acceptance speech, and have "tears run down my cheeks". But I couldn't get the pit out of my stomach, because I was not looking at the color of his skin but the man behind it. And I found very little to cheer for.

So I simply can not join the band of merry believers who "did not vote for him" and have "strong differences" with him, and yet who "wept" at the great moment in history.

I would have been happy with a man/women in office who stood for a culture of life and promoted policy that align more with biblical values and didn't believe that the answer to our nation's problems is more and bigger government.

Socialism is not a pretty thing, no matter the smoothness of talk or color of skin of the one promoting it.

I do not intend to sound harsh. I understand Christians wanting to respond graciously and biblically, but I must admit, this seems a bit much.

jr

Ryan and Nicole,

I'm not sure that "excited" would best describe what I feel. "Mixed emotions" would be more accurate.

I'm deeply grieved over much of what Obama believes--especially on the abortion issue.

At the same time, his election says something about the progress we've made in terms of racial issues.

I think it is a mistake to interpret this post (and the linked article) as unbridled joy over what has happened in the election.

I am a white American woman living in Asia. I voted for Obama because I think he will be a great statesman and I must admit I never gave much thought to the race factor. However, after reading about the reactions of African-Americans I am feeling joy and elation. I am a child of the South, and I grew up hearing a lot of stories about life in the pre civil rights movement deep south. When I think about little African-American kids in Louisiana seeing Obama on TV, and thinking that a black president is perfectly normal, and not even questioning it, I am filled with a hope for a future that I have never had before. I cannot express my joy at knowing that America is a country where children can now grow up and take the idea of a black man for president for granted.
I am just so happy!

Thank you for this post! It expresses what I am feeling - mixed emotions. I would also like to add a few words. I have heard alot of people saying that Obama is the anti-christ and the enemy. No friends, Obama is not our enemy. There is a battle going on for this man just like there is for every other soul including yours and mine. Satan is our enemy, not Barack Obama. View this man as a fellow human being whom God deeply loves and cherishes. Please pray for this man and his family rather than condemn or judge him. He is a child of our King!

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