I Feel His Pain: Hurting Vicariously for Obama

I’m trying not to take it personally. But…

But when an ad appears on the TV screen, and a picture of Barack Obama is juxtaposed with images of two blonde bimbos (sorry for the disrespect Britney and Paris), it makes my eyes see red.

I know my reaction isn’t reasonable. After all, It’s not like Obama is my brother, and so “if you start a fight with him, you’d better be ready to fight all of us.” An attack on Obama is not an attack on my family’s honor. I know this.

But darn it, I am pissed off at the McCain campaign’s personal and scurrilous attacks on Obama.

Because it feels like an attack on me. I’m trying to get over that, but it’s been hard.

I’m living vicariously through Obama in the worst kind of way.

Here’s the funny thing about it. I don’t feel that Obama’s success is my success. I don’t believe that an Obama presidency will somehow “make things better” for black people, as some folks think/hope. I don’t think it will necessarily uplift or inspire the downtrodden portions of the black community that could use it most. In fact, just the opposite could happen. There is a real possibility that black Americans will go through a period of despair and even anger when they see the reality that there is very little that Obama can or will do to help the lives of the average person on the street.

And it’s not like I see myself in Obama. His atypical African American experience-raised by a white family from Kansas in the “exotic” state of Hawaii-doesn’t resonate with me at a personal level.

It’s not like the prospect of Obama being elected is moving the needle on my Black Pride Meter.

So no, I’m not “feeling” Obama, to use a recent slang term.

But I am feeling his pain. A lot.

But pain, after all, is a part of the black experience, a universal part of the black experience: whether you live in a mansion in Baldwin Hills or a shack outside of Indianola, Mississippi, you will cringe at the sight of a lynching photo. We can all “relate” to that.

Of course, the circumstances for black folks today are much much less dire and dismal than they were in the days of slavery and Jim Crow. The pain we feel today as a result of being African African is much less profound and overwhelming.

But the things that cause us pain have not gone away. Perhaps, if you’re black, you’ve been pulled over by the police for no other reason than you fit a racial profile (aka “driving while black”); or perhaps you’ve seen the evening news lead a broadcast with several stories about black on black crime, but fail to include a single story about black on black love; or perhaps you’ve read about the latest six-figure jury award from a discrimination lawsuit; or perhaps you’ve read the story about an unarmed black woman who was killed while holding her 13 month old son during a police raid. Whatever the case: you see it all, you hear it all, you feel it all, and it just weighs on you. It hurts.

And then the attack ads against Obama come along, looking like they’re straight out of The Handbook of Subliminal Attacks on Negroes. But this is no handbook for dummies. Every tried and true tactic is being employed: “associate Barack Obama with oversexed and/or promiscuous young white women”; portray him as a slick talking black politician who uses seductive speech to gain something he doesn’t deserve; depict him as “uppity”; and lately, imply that he is something unholy.

And that does resonate in the black community: these attacks on Obama could just as easily be attacks on us personally, our friends, our children. And it disturbs us all.

Indeed, some of us may be feeling more pain than Obama himself. The senator has handled all of this with a coolness that I find enviable. But then, he has no choice: the more he brings up race, the more people will talk about race, and that doesn’t work to his political advantage.

So, no matter what his emotions, he has to keep a tight lid on them. He has to wear the mask. And in that sense, in that universal sense, he is feeling our pain too.

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