Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Obama Lessons

Lets just say that I have been following the Presidential Race with close interest. As a person of color I have been 'peturbed' at the constant attempt to position Barack Obama as the 'other' due to his Moslem name as well as his Step Father's Moslem religion but more than that, I have seen a calculated attempt to play into white Americas basest instincts around race with Moslem often serving as proxy for black. But I have also seen how '2 can play at this game'.

For sure, many black folks think they dont have any cards to play in such a situation, that essentially race is 'game over'! I think Obama has highlighted that it is not as clear cut as that.

I read somewhere that one of the key people on Obama's campaign team, 'specialises' in electing black officials to public office. How true this is, is for others to decide, but one thing i am sure of is that black women can learn a few lessons on how to win amidst having all the cards heavily stacked against them (as many are so throughly convinced). As black women many of us do feel we have drawn all the bad cards (this is despite protestations of how wonderful we feel and how we love ourselves like nothing else!). Many of us display our true feelings by eliminating ourselves from the runnings, because we do our calculations on the face of things. Yet I watched as Obama, despite knowing how race is such a sticking point in American, still 'roll the dice' because in the game of life, you can never predict how matters will play out.

This is the first lesson.

Do not do yourself out of a chance no matter how ridiculously low you might rate your chances. I will admit that when Obama announced he would be running for the democratic ticket, I just turned the channel. It is a commentary against myself that I not only didnt give him a chance (as many white seemed willing to for whatever reason), I started to have the 'here we go again, another half backed black person trying to make a name' thoughts.

In truth, those you deem as folks with the best advantage can end up by the wayside. For one, they can end up cancelling each other out. Lets face it, we are left with an Obama Biden ticket largely in part because a few strong contenders got cancelled out at some point in the race, and left Obama and Biden 'last men standing'. Increasingly in America, we are seeing race become just one of a number of things that can count against you (alongside gender, being a smoker, eating meat, and a whole heap of endless reasons)not the only probable thing!

In the area of relationships and taking up their wider options, I often see black women give up the center stage for those they feel will get the man because they are better credentialled. Many refuse to compete in the free relationship market for instance, and I hear them talk about how Asian women are the interracial woman of choice and if a white man is 'open' he most definitely is not looking at black women. Yes, even on public forums I see black women demolish themselves, reciting for everyone, all the reasons they feel they wont be looked on favourably (in other words putting in men's minds ideas about black woman's unattractiveness), sometimes coming up with new ones that no one has ever thought about. But winning often times means just showing up, being you, working in your unique gifts and strengths and that which you often underate, is essentially what is desired and required. I have written blog posts in the past about attraction to opposites and how many white men are not necessarily stuck on the BEBH standard but the self-doubt lingers I am afraid.

Does race hinder? I can assure you it does but Obama's race has both hindered and enabled him. Many white liberals are clinging to him as a symbol of change, of a new America, of resolving the past and indeed, what better symbol of all that than a mixed race black man (one of the people excluded from mainstream) becoming president of the united states. You could ask for no better symbol of America turning over a new leaf than that!

Obama has actually played a whole lot of racist folks at their own game. You see the thing about racism (the liberal one at least), is that it requires 'oxygen' for sustainance meaning it needs stereotypes. Obama has worked at starving the latent racists of the stereotypes they need to activate their racism, so the aggressive black man or any reaction that could feed this view has been thoroughly expunged. Obama has bent over backwards to play the generous, gentleman even at points it made him look a little like a dormat.

Second lesson. Always keep your eye on the goal. The goal will determine how you play the game. Once you get yourself off this focus, you are in deep trouble. This is because you will react to everything and everyone instead of choosing your battles carefully and strategically to move you towards your goal, responding or not responding as your goal dictates, just like Obama has done with his 'no comments' remarks recently. Obama I feel has been well instructed in this regard; small victories rather than opponent crushing, generosity and gentlemanliness as opposed to justified retaliation, these have enabled him to avoid scaring white folk away from voting for him because he is an 'angry black man'. Sooner or later, life will require that you play a chess game, that you not show your hand so freely, or 'loose your rag' even if you would be justified to do so.

I know many black women feel they have a right to 'throw down' and 'throw out punches' when provoked. Sadly this derails many from achieveing their goals and dreams, with many folks toying with them since their psychology in this regard is known all too well.

Study your situation, understand how you are positioned in the general mind, not so you can be discouraged but so you can laugh because you are aware of what is arrayed against you and how you can effectively nuetralise these. When you know other peoples mindsets, you are always one step ahead. I often have reason to say that black women have a critical lack of insight into their social positioning and a grasp of the general perspectives out there on black womanhood, and I means both within black circles as well as wider. That's why anyone can play black women like a banjo, anyone can come along and spin us a long yarn and we fall for it so easily. Folks have no problem mobilising us against our very own interests and we are always the last to know how we are being played. We are betrayed by what I feel is a general refusal on black women's part to come to grips with the social reality of black women so we can play to win! We would rather believe that certain folks love and support us, even in the midst of getting some serious 'kicking' by same people.

Yes, I have seen people turn black women into the attack dogs who get the blame and the bad name while they get the results. At a meeting recently I watched a black woman, 'throw down'. The woman ended up with her image dented by taking on a 'brothas' cause, yet the brother in question knew at what point he needed to back down, to avoid looking bitter and angry. She didnt and went all out obviously to 'support' a brotha as a good black woman should, with the result that she ended up 'the one to avoid'. Damaging our reputation and our chances for romance, by declaring loudly and publicly (and in ways that puts down other men) how sold out we are for 'the brotha's' when even the brotha themselves are employing diplomacy and deciding against such 'bridge burning', is one clear example of how black women are so painfully oblivious to their situation in society and they continue to pay a price they can hardly afford!

Who will win the presidential race? I have no idea but there are lessons being taught, and wise women are taking note!

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