November 5, 2008

What's Changed Today?

I woke up today to a new president of the United States, an historical president of the United States, what I think will be a good president of the United States, but I didn't wake up as inspired or hopeful as I expected to be. Sure, there was a victory from a democrat. Sure, a person of colour got to where some thought no person of colour could ever be, but the world's problems regarding sexism, racism, classism, homophobia and so much more have yet to be overcome. Was this a one-time thing? Are Americans truly overcoming racial prejudice, or is it only Obama, a bi-racial Ivy-league graduate raised by his white grandmother, who is safely "white" enough to elect? Were the forces that elected Obama merely a perfect storm that can never be repeated? Is there the foundation for lasting change? Ten years from now, could a qualified woman like Hillary Clinton run and win with all that sexist media bullshit Senator Clinton faced everywhere from CNN to the frickin' View? Moreover, could a woman of colour even make it as far as Senator Clinton did? Could such a woman make it past the first primary?

Could a Muslim (A real one, Obama DOESN'T count, Sarah Palin) win? Could a latino/a win? Could an Asian person win? Could a Jew win? Could an aboriginal person win? Could a poor person win? Could a gay person win? Could a transgendered person win? These are some of the questions that have yet to be answered. So, yes, Obama won, but that doesn't make me feel any more like anyone can be anything. It makes me wonder if this will be the only time a person from a traditionally discriminated against group will reach such a high office for a very long time.

Obama's presidency thrills me, but it also makes me worry that Americans will treat him like a token, thinking, "We've elected a black guy, so we don't NEED to change; we already have CHANGED just by ELECTING HIM. It's in our history books, so you other countries totally can't call us racist any more, and the next time a black person loses, it's not because of racism. I mean, come on, we elected Obama, so like, racism clearly no longer exists!" I'm worried they'll (while I am sure not all of them will) start to think the myth of the American meritocracy is real, and not just that Obama got really lucky.

Let's not congratulate ourselves about living in an accepting, promising time of history just yet. I mean, Pakistan elected Benezir Bhutto as president years ago, and then she got assassinated running again next year. The moral of that story is just because you elect a woman or a black guy once does NOT mean you've changed for good....

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