Afraid To Believe In Obama

As a self-professed lapsed black Catholic, I should have made an effort to at least take a cursory glance at the extensive coverage of the Pope’s recent visit to the U.S.

I didn’t. I was distracted by something bigger and with more serious implications. He’s just a man, a symbol of so many things that I no longer agree with.

Besides, lately I’ve been thinking about images.

As I get older, I realize with much more clarity how powerful images can be. The lasting effects of internalizing and accepting what we have traditionally accepted as fact is truly amazing.

For centuries, every imaginable depiction of God (and any holy figure for that matter) in art, film, and every other medium is an old white man. All of us were taught if not verbally, then certainly subliminally that God (and Santa) are old, white and all powerful.

Every single president of the United States and damn near every true position of power in this country has been held by an old white man. That is pretty striking. Even though science has proven that Africa is the cradle of civilization, and that all people originated from colored folk, it hasn’t changed our general perception of ourselves.

If Liz Taylor is burned in celluloid for all time as the great Cleopatra, and Charlton Heston is revered for playing Moses (and the history books don’t tell us any different), something ain’t right.

If the truth isn’t told loudly and without compromise, how are black folks supposed to truly see who they are? I mean, it’s God! The ultimate symbol. The ultimate beginning and end. Alpha and Omega. “Shaka Zulu” and “Roots” TV specials notwithstanding, where were our young supposed to look and see their ancient selves?

This may seem like a change of subject, but it isn’t. I’ve come to a hard truth. As hard as it is to say, I know that 100% of black folks will not rally behind Barack Obama because they can’t. As a people, we are too fractured, too divided and too deluded to come together as one unified, connected organism.

We cannot believe this is real. Barely one generation ago, people died and bled and lost everything so that this moment would come.

And we can’t believe it.

Skeptics abound. Yes, we can cloud our opposition to his candidacy with barbershop and blog pronouncements about fundamental disagreements with his policies, experience or anything else we want. But honestly, that’s not it. Expert after expert has said ad nauseum that you could separate Clinton and Obama’s differences with a fingernail. It’s minuscule. They are essentially running on the same platform.

Yet, black Senator Clinton supporters flock to her because of their fondness for the fake first black president, Bill. Somehow, memories of him are better than the real thing standing before us.

Comedian Jackie Mason told an interesting joke recently: “If your doctor cannot perform your surgery, do you say ‘Oh, get his wife?” Hell no. All this talk of her experience is laughable. We’re in love with the past when a new, more attractive suitor is at our doorstep.

So, my earlier reference to the power of images gets to the marrow of this thing. The bone beneath the bone. We can’t believe it.

I believe that Senator Clinton loves America and has some great skills to bring to the big table. But deep down, the woman is working out her humiliation issues on a world stage. She’s on a quest for blood to prove that she is unsinkable, and that her husband’s failings shouldn’t rub off on her. That is more than admirable. However, it’s not enough.

That isn’t enough reason for black folks to turn away from history and deny the facts before us. A black man is on the precipice of something my grandmother could never fathom. My mother was drinking out of a ‘blacks only’ fountain in Alabama a scant 45 years ago.

So tell me, what do we really have to lose by believing? The worst case scenario is that we stay right where we are. We’ve already been through it all. The Middle Passage. Chattel slavery. Rape. Being sold and branded. Four little girls in Birmingham. Separated from our true home and children. We’ve been on the law books as three fifths of a human being. We have had justice and humanity ripped from our grasp time and again. Our history, land and even our music has been raided and stolen. Through our old friend Jim Crow, we suffered years of domestic terrorism.

It goes on and on and on.

Please don’t get me wrong. Obama is not perfect. He has plenty of flaws. I’m not saying he’s the answer to every dilemma we face as a nation. The wounds are deep. We are in financial ruin and a senseless war is raging on. There are more issues to fix than any of us can count. But what is the harm in trying? What’s the harm of getting behind the man and forgetting about the fear of people thinking we’re on his team just cuz we’re black. Who cares?

As the late great Ralph Wiley once said, this is why black folks tend to shout.

I’m hopping on the train and hoping for the best. That’s all I can do. I’m not afraid to hope. I just wish more people would join me. I hate traveling alone.

Ellene Miles has worked as an entertainment publicist for more than 6 years. Her collection of rants will be featured exclusively on UTC for the good of the people.

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April 23rd, 2008 at 2:31 am missme says:


April 23rd, 2008 at 2:45 am 1GOODMAN says:

Well said, sister.

April 23rd, 2008 at 3:11 am chica22 says:

There are many who are scared to believe you are right but I think that may be the older generation more. I do have a couple of friends who are not down, but most of the people I know are giving Obama a go. I wish some more of us lived in Philly is all.

April 23rd, 2008 at 3:16 am chica22 says:

I forgot to say that I feel the same way about the Pope. It is kind of sad actually.

April 23rd, 2008 at 11:42 am Tina says:


April 23rd, 2008 at 12:43 pm ElsaHarkins says:

this is a very true statement. too many of us are brainwashed and we dont even realize it. i hope we wake up as a people before it is too late. he needs our votes and voices right now.

April 23rd, 2008 at 12:46 pm thelma says:

maybe he could have won in pennslyvania last night if we would have united! dang

April 23rd, 2008 at 1:23 pm hisherness says:

Obama aside (and I agree with the general intent in that regard), let’s talk about these images. Cleopatra was a Ptolemaic pharaoh. she was most likely Greek. there are so many figures of authority and power to grasp, and the one we want to identify with black empowerment is Greek and of questionable dignity. power in Egypt, as anywhere, shifted; sometimes Nubians were in power, sometimes not. when the Nubians were in power, who do you suppose they enslaved? Africa wasn’t a fairy wonderland; the cradle of civilization is, necessarily, the cradle of cruelty. the distance of time does not confer innocence on the peoples of Africa any more than it does on those of Europe or anywhere else. if you want people to see their ancient selves, show them the ugly truths that accompany the pretty ones … to do otherwise is really no better than the force-fed, stubbornly white images of divinity.

April 23rd, 2008 at 1:28 pm Ginger says:

I’ve been sitting on the Obama train and my seat is nice and warm. I’m not going anywhere.

April 23rd, 2008 at 2:43 pm dmaye says:

Never knew that Chaks had just heavy profound thoughts. I enjoyed reading and taking them all in very much.

April 23rd, 2008 at 8:51 pm superj says:

Too bad my vote doesn’t count in MIA.

April 23rd, 2008 at 9:10 pm ratty says:






April 24th, 2008 at 4:23 pm Erik says:

It would probably help if Obama supporters (and I’m one of them) stopped making assumptions about why people choose Clinton and tried actually talking to them instead. In my experience, they tend to be operating under a lot of false assumptions but nobody likes having their personal decisions categorically stripped of validity.