I published a piece in for the American Prospect, detailing “Five Ways We Talked About Race and Identity This Election:”
Can we talk about race for a minute? I know — we’ve been talking about race since 2007, when Barack Obama formally entered the primary. The 2008 election has galvanized discussions of race (as well as class and gender) in America. Since Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech challenged Americans to take the discussion of race relations into their homes and communities, all forms of media have found themselves searching for trends, meaning, and analysis all along racial lines.
So what were the major themes that emerged from this national conversation on race?
The headline on the NY Times site screams “Racial Barriers Fall as Voters Embrace Calls for Change.” (This title is flipped around a bit in the actual article.) There is also an article about the efforts of the civil rights movement coming to fruition:
For those like Miss Harris who withstood jailings and beatings and threats to their livelihoods, all because they wanted to vote, the short drive to the polls on Tuesday culminated a lifelong journey from a time that is at once unrecognizable and eerily familiar here in southwest Georgia. As they exited the voting booths, some in wheelchairs, others with canes, these foot soldiers of the civil rights movement could not suppress either their jubilation or their astonishment at having voted for an African-American for president of the United States.
The NY Times also reports the “Election Unleashes a Flood of Hope Around the World:
“The United States is choosing a black man as its president. Maybe we can share a bit in this happiness,” Mr. Cisneros said in Caracas. Conversely, some, like the Afghan president, Mr. Karzai, said the election had shown the American people overcoming distinctions “of race and color while electing their president” and thereby helping to bring “the same values to the rest of the world sooner or later.”
Jeff Chang blogs for Vibe about the new day dawning:
One of them was a 19-year old named Loric Frye. Frye was a Pennsylvanian, and because of that, he was a key voter in the presidential election. Senator John McCain had staked his strategy on winning the state, hoping to steal it from Senator Barack Obama in his comeback bid.
But Frye was far from the kind of clean-scrubbed, neatly partisan first-time voter Republicans would ever think to appeal to or CNN would ever bother to interview.
Frye was a young brother in oversized pants. His young son was at home and his girlfriend was pregnant with their daughter. He had no high-school diploma. He had no fancy title. Frye was, no, still is in the process of putting it all together.
If you went strictly by the stats, he wasn’t even supposed to have found his way into the voting booth yesterday. And truth be told, he almost didn’t.
He admits that up until this year, politics didn’t interest him. Barack got his attention. But the person who really turned him around was a man named Paradise Gray, a legendary hip-hop promoter and activist, who got Frye work as a community organizer doing voter outreach.
Frye spent the year canvassing, registering and door-knocking with Khari Mosley and the League of Young Voters. He started to feel deeply invested in the election and the political process. He spent the last few weeks doing get-out-the-vote work. All politics remains local. All transformations begin with the personal.
The Mojo blog asks “So who’s a real American now?”:
Put it all together and the message was clear: there are two types of Americans. Those who are true Americans–who love their nation and cherish freedom–and those who are not. The other Americans do not put their country first; they blame it first. The other Americans do not believe in opportunity; they want to take what you have and give it to someone else. The other Americans do not care about Joe the Plumber; they are out-of-touch elitists who look down on (and laugh at) hard-working, church-going folks. The other Americans do not get the idea of America. They are not patriots. And it just so happens that the other America is full of blacks, Latinos, gays, lesbians, and non-Christians.
Racewire sheds an important light on “The Party Not Everyone is Invited To“:
Most of today’s elections coverage has been focused on the inadequacies of the polling system to handle the actual number of eligible voters who turned out and the various glitches and flaws in mechanical and electronic voting systems. It’s likely that many voters across the spectrum today, especially in battleground states, got their first taste of what happens when a system supposed to empower you fails to do its job. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow likened these long lines to a new poll tax, where people who simply can’t afford to wait in line for 2, 5 or even 8 hours simply don’t vote.
These are important topics, but they only tell half a story. The other half is about the people who won’t be able to vote at all, regardless of how long the lines are.
Voting enfranchisement is such an old issue that it has lost some of its appeal on the Left and a lot of visibility in the mainstream. It’s hard to break into a mainstream consciousness that dictates “if I don’t break the law, I don’t need to worry,” especially when discussing felony voting re-enfranchisement. But the truth is that many people whose votes are suppressed haven’t broken any laws, but rather have tried to break in to a system that wasn’t designed to accommodate them.
Loving Thomas L. Friedman’s Op-Ed in the New York Times:
Since the last debate, John McCain and Barack Obama have unveiled broad ideas about how to restore the nation’s financial health. But they continue to suggest that this will be largely pain-free. McCain says giving everyone a tax cut will save the day; Obama tells us only the rich will have to pay to help us out of this hole. Neither is true.
We are all going to have to pay, because this meltdown comes in the context of what has been “perhaps the greatest wealth transfer since the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917,” says Michael Mandelbaum, author of “Democracy’s Good Name.” “It is not a wealth transfer from rich to poor that the Bush administration will be remembered for. It is a wealth transfer from the future to the present.”
Never has one generation spent so much of its children’s wealth in such a short period of time with so little to show for it as in the Bush years. Under George W. Bush, America has foisted onto future generations a huge financial burden to finance our current tax cuts, wars and now bailouts. Just paying off those debts will require significant sacrifices. But when you add the destruction of wealth that has taken place in the last two months in the markets, and the need for more bailouts, you understand why this is not going to be a painless recovery.
And finally, an article from the Washington Post called “America’s History Gives Way to Its Future“:
After a day of runaway lines that circled blocks, of ladies hobbling on canes and drummers rollicking on street corners, the enormous significance of Barack Obama’s election finally began to sink into the landscape. The magnitude of his win suggested that the country itself might be in a gravitational pull toward a rebirth that some were slow to recognize.
Tears flowed, not only for Obama’s historic achievement, but because many were happily discovering that perhaps they had underestimated possibility in America.
When the novelist Kim McLarin watched her vote being recorded at her polling station in Milton, Mass., she stood still for a moment with her 8-year-old son, Isaac. “My heart was full. I could scarcely breathe,” she said. “What I’ve been forced to acknowledge is there has been a shift — it’s not a sea change. But there’s been a decided shift in the meaning of race. It’s not an ending. It’s a beginning.”