Voting for Obama in 2008 was surprisingly easy in my then home of Houston, TX. No long lines, just in and out. Casting that vote was for me, as for so many Americans of every ethnicity and gender, a highlight of my adult life. For me, like many blacks, casting this vote was not just for me but also for our collective history in this country. Our reparation. I felt the hands of my grandparents and other ancestors on mine as I selected Barack Obama/Joe Biden. In my corner of Bush country, they took home almost 53% of the vote.
The next morning, after a night of celebrating (kind of like when Serena first won the US Open. Kind of) I went to work. At the time I was a development director at the University of Houston Law Center. There were two other black women in my direct office. That morning we went into Carol’s office to have a little celebratory cheer amongst ourselves. That day was filled with knowing nods and smiles amongst the colored folks at UHLC, the way we do with each other (do white people have an equivalent to the head nod? I wonder…). But within the general staff and faculty? Silence. Like, tumbleweed silence.
There was a faculty meeting that day, and my department had a staff meeting. Not one word was mentioned at either. Not that I expected my dean, she of the river baptism while wearing a white trucker hat (I’m serious y’all) to have anything to say about the history that was unfolding, but damn. Fortunately that man I married worked at a museum where the Obama love could be shared.
In the coming weeks and months, it became clear our dear Obama would not have an easy road. In the middle of an alumni board meeting my Deliverance boss asked if anyone was going to the Tea Party rally that night (again, I’m serious). I looked around and could see that at least the board had the wherewithal to be slightly embarrassed. While I’m sure a few were attending, at least they knew this hick was a fucking mess for bringing it up
And there’s a summary of my last 2 years in TexASS. Professionally dealing with people so polar opposite from me it sometimes felt like a twilight zone. So when I got pregnant (by hook or by crook) and the dude got a job in LA I packed immediately. Unlike Obama I could leave the racist time warp I was in. After a few months I realized how much I actually loved Houston but that’s another story for another day.
The election of 2012. Longer lines at L.A. polls, and excitement you could feel for the privilege to reelect Obama. My 2 year old came with us to vote in what felt like a Superbowl between the Patriots and the Jets – sure money Obama would win.
During the time I lived in L.A., Obama Killed Osama Bin Laden, passed the Affordable Care Act, signed the Dodd-Frank Act, ended the war in Iraq, Increased support for vets, tightened sanctions on Iran and pushed to have same-sex marriage legalized. Just to name a few. It was a wonderful time to live in the bubble of La La Land. The world was (relatively) happy, Obama was awesome, my daughter was a little bilingual dancing diva.
I choose jobs like some women choose men – pretty on the outside, a jacked up shitty mess on the inside – so moving to Miami was a welcome change for many reasons (again, another story for another time). In my first year here Obama had two of his most noted accomplishments: Signing the Paris Agreement and reestablishing US-Cuba relations. SCRAAAAAAAAATCH! Wait a minute, I live in Miami now, and this US-Cuba thing is a hot mess. Were we still in our L.A. fantasy island, this would’ve been another celebratory moment for the Cult of Obama. But here….leading us to this year’s election.
So, while I do not receive a salary at the moment, I most certainly have a job. And part of that job is going to countless lunches, dinners and so on, and engaging in conversations without offending (this is actually not so easy for me). I quickly learned that full on, arms flailing liberal conversations about the devil that is Trump were not always so welcomed. I have now had hushed conversations at dinner so as not to offend the host or guests, which always sent me home in search of prayer and a Valium, to cleanse my soul and forget. I see cars with “make America great again” bumper stickers (once I saw a Prius with one. A Prius!) and try to quell my usual aggressive driving for fear they’ll pull out a shotgun and exercise their second amendment. I also rolled on occasion with the “hidden Trump vote” which became clear to me after the election and death of Castro.
Fast forwarding past the election, Russian scandals and current hate mongering and nepotism, last night was Obama’s farewell address. In that address he made us remember why America is already great, what it means to be part of something bigger than yourself, our responsibility to ensure democracy ensues and black love.
And now, I and many others feel a loss and void rarely felt outside of the loss of a family member – and Prince. Our protector and champion is pushing us into the real world at one of its ugliest moments, and asking us to remember all he’s taught us, through example, and to hold on and keep the faith. Thankfully we have eight years of memory and education to hold on to, and now it really is up to us to keep his legacy alive through our actions and involvement. So I, am making a list. Of what’s important to my community, and what I need to address with my local officials. Because as Obama said, change happens when ordinary people come together and demand it. So I will heed his call, and I’ll also heed his advice to pay attention and listen.
Thank you, President Obama. I’m so thankful to have a child who only knows that a black man can rule the world. I won’t cry because it’s over, I’ll smile because it happened.