Home > media, politics, race relations > The Price of Integration

The Price of Integration

I’m a hard core supporter of Barack Obama, since before that February 2007  announcement speech. I have followed his campaign and thought about it intelligently, discussed it, internalized the meaning.

But it wasn’t until I saw Barack’s biographical video during the convention that I finally burst into tears. I allowed myself to feel the gravity of this historic nomination, and it was overwhelming.

Finally, I connected Obama’s candidacy with all the crap I deal with on a daily basis; the daily beat-down of going to work with racists every day, with every single “n” word utterance I’ve had to endure, every time someone has refused me service or refused to hire me, the teachers that didn’t want me in their class. With all the horrible stories my mom has shared, my grandmother and even further back. With all of us.

Other blacks — mostly ones at least a generation older (I’m nearly 30) — had publicly acknowledged this connection months and months ago. What on earth took me so long?

Before Obama was officially nominated, I think there was an implicit pressure for blacks to deny voting for Barack simply because of his race. We didn’t want him branded as the “black” candidate, we didn’t want our Patriotism questioned. It’s a dance he still has to do; he can’t get to angry lest he be labeled an “angry black man.” He can’t be too humorous; don’t want any “shuckin’ & jivin'” comparisons. He must be absolutely perfect, because as many of us are painfully aware, blacks must be 10 times better than whites to be considered equal.

It’s quite possible, however, that there’s a deeper societal message at work here. As a member of the first “integration generation,” I grew up thrust into academic, social, and professional competition with the “mainstream.” In order to be seen as a success, we must be black enough to appease our families but not black enough to alienate whites. In these environments, we spend so much time proving that we can be “one of them” that we must get dangerously close to the “sell-out” line.

Endorsing a black candidate for more obvious reasons upsets this delicate balance. Unlike blacks of previous generations, who spent so much time fighting for civil rights that they could not hope to blend in much, blacks of my generation equate success with a degree of assimilation. Reminding whites that you are black; that your values, history, and viewpoints can be so uncomfortably different than theirs; feels like a threat to everything your parents have worked for.

I certainly didn’t choose Barack over Hilary only because he is black. He shares my views and opinions, he’s obviously qualified and incomparably brilliant, and in a strange bit of trivia, he & I have the same personality type (NFP). There is a reason Jesse Jackson didn’t get as far as Obama has.

But–did you see what just happened? Here is the obvious testament to the mind-fuck of racism — why should I have to justify my support for a candidate who represents me better than any presidential candidate in history? On my own blog, in my own mind? How deeply ingrained are these screwed-up American values?

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: